Acupuncture and Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is one of the most common rheumatic conditions of unknown etiology. Treatment is generally unsatisfactory. It is a chronic condition characterized by fatigue and widespread pain in the fibrous tissues of the muscles, ligaments and tendons. Symptoms can vary, depending on weather, stress, physical activity or just the time of day. Common signs and symptoms include
Widespread pain – Pain may occur in specific areas of the body when pressure is applied, such as the back of the head, the upper back and neck, the elbows, hips and knees. The pain generally persists for months and is often accompanied by stiffness.
Fatigue and sleep disturbances – People with fibromyalgia often wake up tired and unrefreshed, even though they seem to get plenty of sleep.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – About 40-70 percent of people with fibromyalgia experience the constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain and bloating associated with IBS.
Chronic headaches and facial pain – Half of the people who have fibromyalgia also have recurrent migraine or tension-type headaches. Up to 90 percent experience jaw and facial pain.
Heightened sensitivity – About 50 percent of people with fibromyalgia report being sensitive to odors, noises, bright lights, various foods and changes in weather.
Other symptoms include numbness or tingling sensations in the hands and feet; difficulty concentrating and mood changes; chest or pelvic pain; irritable bladder; dry eyes and mouth; dizziness; and sensation of swollen hands and feet.
Identifying and treating fibro-
myalgia can be challenging and confusing for both patients and physicians. An official fibromyalgia diagnosis is typically based solely on reported symptoms, medical exams and the patients history, since no current lab test or X-ray can effectively screen for the disorder.
A brief regimen of acupuncture appears to offer more than a month of relief from some of the most debilitating symptoms of moderate-to-severe fibromyalgia. Mayo Clinic researchers found that acupuncture helps with the symptoms, and might be particularly attractive to patients that might not be able to take a range of medications because of side effects. The Mayo team tested the benefit of acupuncture on 50 fibromyalgia patients who were described as “moderately debilitated.” The Mayo team found that symptoms particularly in terms of pain, fatigue and anxiety improved significantly and in larger measure among real acupuncture patients compared with the simulated acupuncture patients. The most dramatic symptom improvements were noted at one month after acupuncture. The Mayo team suggested that offering acupuncture to patients on an ongoing basis may provide more sustained benefit. And, they would recommend acupuncture to fibromyalgia patients who are open to the notion.