Can Acupuncture Treat Fibromyalgia?
by Kath Bartlett, LAc
Kath Bartlett, LAc practices
at the Asheville Center for Chinese Medicine, located in
downtown Asheville. Kath is a nationally certified Diplomate
of Acupuncture and Herbology. She received a Master's of
Science in Traditional Oriental Medicine from the prestigious,
Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. She has completed
advanced studies in the classic Chinese medical texts of
Herbology and Oriental medical theory with Dr. Min Fan,
formally of Beijing University. Kath can be contacted for
acupuncture treatments or herbal and dietary consultations
at Asheville Center for Chinese Medicine at 828/258-2777
I get asked this question a lot, as many people either
suffer themselves from fibromyalgia, or have a friend or
relative suffering from this difficult to treat condition.
Fibromyalgia is a western term for a syndrome of chronic
pain, wide spread over the entire body, including joint
or back pain.
These patients generally suffer from other symptoms, including
depression, fatigue and poor sleep. Unfortunately, standard western
care does not have an effective treatment for this disease. Acupuncture
and herbal therapy has much to offer fibromyalgia patients, including
both symptom relief and in many cases, a resolution for this condition.
I would like to share with you an excellent example of a typical
fibromyalgia patient who responded extremely well to acupuncture
and herbal therapy.
I was lecturing at Wofford College in Spartanburg. After class,
one of the students came up to me to inquire about his girlfriend,
who suffered with chronic pain, extreme fatigue and severe anxiety.
She was not getting much relief using standard western medicine.
Understandably, this young man was very concerned for his girlfriend
and asked if I could help her. I suggested that she come to see
When this patient (I'll call her Rebecca) came in, she brought
a ½" stack of medical reports from previous doctors
she had seen over the past two and a half years. Although many
doctors had tried to help, her condition continued to deteriorate,
and she was having great difficulty performing normal daily functions.
Her symptoms included fatigue, poor memory and concentration,
low back pain that radiated to her toes, causing numbness and
tingling. The back pain was due to a herniated disc. She also
had severe headaches, menstrual cramping, irritability, anxiety,
poor sleep and poor bowel function. I suggested Rebecca begin
with weekly acupuncture treatments and prescribed an herbal tea
that she drank twice a day.
After the first treatment, Rebecca noticed that her energy had
increased, and she had less back and leg pain. After the second
treatment, Rebecca's energy was pretty good, she had much less
anxiety, the bowels were improving, headaches were mild, her sleep
was much better, and she had no pain in her legs. By week five
her sleep was normal and her concentration had improved. At treatment
six Rebecca had only one slight headache, mild back pain with
stiffness and her concentration and memory had greatly improved.
At this point I decreased acupuncture visits to every other week,
and continued herbal therapy.
Two months later at visit nine; Rebecca only experienced back
pain when driving long distances. Her bowels were much improved
and she no longer experienced anxiety. Her energy was much better.
She continued coming twice a month. Three and a half months after
beginning acupuncture treatment her symptoms had disappeared.
Her back had improved so much that she was now rock climbing!
This case is a good example of a typical symptom and response
scenario that we see in acupuncture offices. Although fibromyalgia
patients generally respond well in the short term, it usually
takes a while to see symptoms disappear. One reason Rebecca responded
so quickly was due to her young age (22), and this was a fairly
new condition. Some patients who come in for treatment for fibromyalgia
have had the condition for ten or more years. These cases usually
take longer to treat; however, we do get very good results in
treating chronic conditions with acupuncture over the long term.
If you have a question you would like answered about acupuncture
or Chinese herbal medicine, please e-mail Kath Bartlett, L. Ac.
at kath at UCLAlumni dot net, or call Asheville Center of Chinese
Medicine (828) 258-2777.