Acupuncture and Fibromyalgia
Updated April 1, 2004

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

[Also, click here to see if you have a Fibromyalgia Symptom]

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 me.

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.

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