Fibromyalgia

Tucson cactusFibromyalgia is characterized by chronic, widespread musculoskeletal pain, especially at certain tender points on the body. Other symptoms often associated with fibromyalgia may include fatigue, joint pain, insomnia, depression, headaches, digestive disturbances, painful menstruation, difficulty concentrating, and chest pain. The cause is unknown, but the pain often becomes worse with stress, weather changes, illness, or physical activity.

Fibromyalgia is not detected by laboratory tests. Often it is diagnosed by ruling out other conditions which have similar symptoms. The American College of Rheumatology has set guidelines to help in assessing fibromyalgia. The guidelines state that an individual must have widespread aching pain for at lease three months. Also, at least 11 out of 18 specific points on the body must be abnormally tender under mild but firm pressure for a positive diagnosis.

An estimated one in 50 people suffer from fibromylagia. A large majority of these are women. Symptoms often start in middle age, but may occur at any age. Symptoms may range from mild to severe.  Some individuals may be unable to maintain employment.

Acupuncture can help alleviate many of the symptoms related to fibromyagia, and is especially effective for pain. A 2006 Mayo Clinic study found acupuncture to significantly improve symptoms of fibromyalgia. (www.mayoclinic.com/health/fibromyalgia)

The following modalities may be included in your treatment:
acupuncture for fibromyalgia

Acupuncture- thin, sterile needles are inserted near the painful muscles and joints as well as other areas on the body. The needles signal the body to release its own natural endorphins and other pain killers. In addition, acupuncture may help the body relax for improved sleep. Acupuncture is also used to help alleviate depression and anxiety and to improve digestion. Many individuals find acupuncture to be relaxing, yet energizing.

Electroacupuncture- incorporates an instrument powered by a 9V battery. Tiny clips are attached to the acupuncture needles. A tingling or tapping sensation may be felt at the area around the needle. This technique is especially effective in reducing muscle pain often associated with fibromyalgia.

Scalp Acupuncture- a specialized form of acupuncture in which special, tiny needles are inserted into the area of the exterior scalp just beneath the skin. This technique, which is accompanied by movement of the region of the body that is painful, often results in quick relief of pain. The scalp needles, unlike the traditional acupuncture needles used in this clinic, may be left in place for up to 72 hours for continued pain relief.

Tui Na- a type of Asian bodywork similar to massage is frequently included in the treatment. Often, with fibromyalgia, the first 2 or 3 treatments may cause an increase in muscle soreness for a couple of days similar to beginning a new exercise. With each treatment, there should be less discomfort as the body starts to heal.

Chinese Herbs- Chinese herbs are a very important aspect of treatment.  Herbal medicines can reduce pain, increase circulation, improve mood, and help obtain an overall balance of the body. Herbs are available in easy-to-take tablet form or as specially combined loose herbs, which are cooked to make an herbal tea.

Dietary suggestions- a balanced, varied diet is recommended. Often a change in diet can help to alleviate some of the pain associated with fibromyalgia. Eliminating sugar, coffee, and alcohol often helps. Some individuals with sensitivities to certain foods such as wheat or dairy products may benefit by eliminating these from their diet.

Exercise is strongly encouraged and will increase circulation and flexibility of the joints and muscles. Exercise may cause an increase in muscle soreness for a couple of days, but this should improve. Walking, tai chi, qi gong, yoga, and other types of low-impact exercises are helpful to those with fibromyalgia. Exercise has also been shown to reduce depression and help with sleep.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will my pain be relieved right away?

Your pain may be reduced after the first treatment. Occasionally with fibromyalgia, there may be an increase in the pain after the first couple treatments and then the pain will gradually be reduced. More commonly, there is some reduction in pain for about three days following the first couple of acupuncture treatments. With each additional treatment, the relief should be longer-lasting and the pain should continue to be reduced.

Will my fibromyalgia be cured?

Acupuncturists do not diagnose diseases as do physicians in western medicine. Therefore, Chinese medicine does not focus on “curing” any disease.  Chinese medicine determines imbalances in the body and works towards bringing the body back into a more balanced, healthy state.

How many treatments will I need?

The number of treatments will vary with each individual. Typically, you will require one or two treatments a week at first and then can gradually reduce the number as you improve. Often it is stated in acupuncture that you will need one month of treatment for every year that you have had a condition. Often a minimum of ten treatments are needed initially followed by monthly maintenance treatments. Since stress, changes of weather, and other situations can lead to an exacerbation, you may want additional treatments during those times.

If Fibromyalgia is a concern of yours, alternative medicine at Desert Sands may benefit you. Working as a team, we can form a treatment plan that best meets your health needs. To begin your return to a healthier lifestyle, you may contact me at (520) 780-1230.

Jill Darban, L.Ac., Dipl.OM, MT, SH
Desert Sands Acupuncture- Tucson, AZ