Acupuncture for Fibromyalgia: Part 2 of the Generations Talk Recap

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This is the second part of a four-part recap of a roundtable discussion on fibromyalgia. You can read a background post here and part one here.

As I wrote in part one, treating fibromyalgia requires an individualized approach for each patient. For the purposes of this blog post, I will need to vastly over-simplify and generalize about Chinese medicine, but I still hope that fibromyalgia sufferers will find the information useful. Please feel free to leave a comment or contact us if you want clarification or have any further questions.

In traditional Chinese medical theory, pain is caused by the blockage of energy, or Qi in the body. Everyone has Qi; when you are in health, the Qi flows regularly and smoothly. But many things can cause the Qi to get stuck. In fibromyalgia, the person often has an illness (or sometimes a series of illnesses close together) or a trauma preceding the fibromyalgia symptoms. Chronic stress, emotional upset, and lifestyle issues (diet and exercise) can also play a role in causing stagnant Qi.

Acupuncture needles help to unblock the flow of Qi and, as a result, improve pain levels. Chronic conditions like fibromyalgia usually require a prolonged treatment regimen of one or two times a week for several months; some patients find that they need to come indefinitely to maintain good results.

Again, this timeline varies by the individual. Some people begin to see results from the treatment—reduction in pain, increased energy, better sleep, etc.—almost immediately. Some may see improvement in one symptom, but not another.

Other patients with fibromyalgia may be very slow to see improvements. For example, I have one patient who had four treatments before she got even 20 minutes of relief from her pain (thankfully, she is continuing to improve). A small percentage of people with fibromyalgia respond negatively to acupuncture treatments, temporarily having more pain after acupuncture (in my experience, maybe 10%). Although this response may go away with further treatments, acupuncture may not be right for these people.

The next blog post in this series will be about other therapies for fibromyalgia.

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