Pulse of Oriental Medicine: Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks
Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks


Chronic Fatigue & Fibromyalgia Treatment

by Brian Carter, MS, LAc

Brian is the founder of the Pulse of Oriental Medicine. He teaches at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine and maintains a private acupuncture and herbal practice in San Diego, California, and is the author of Powerful Body, Peaceful Mind: How to Heal Yourself with Foods, Herbs, and Acupressure.

Question: I have been suffering with Fibromyalgia for the past 5 years. I have tried many different treatments with little to no improvement. I have recently been going to an acupuncturist. It is very costly, and I am not seeing much if any improvement. The acupuncturist says it will take at least 6 months for noticeable improvement. Does this sound right to you?

Thank you very much,


Jump To:

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

Hi Pat!

I can tell you that sometimes, in treating chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia symptoms with acupuncture and chinese herbs, it does take a while before there is improvement, and some symptoms and signs improve before others.

This is a difficult issue for patients and Chinese medical practitioners alike and you've raised a very good question. Unfortunately, there is no black and white answer; some conditions do take more time to improve with acupuncture and herbal remedies while others may change rapidly with only a few treatments. Determining whether your practitioner's forecast of six months is appropriate requires looking at things from several angles. Let's walk through them together.

Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Treatment

I've spoken with a fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue sufferer who is also an acupuncturist of 15 years- she's treated hundreds of chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia patients. What she tells me is that when they combined these modalities:

  • Acupuncture
  • Chinese Herbal Medicine
  • Biofeedback
  • Counseling
  • Spiritual growth, AND
  • Changing whatever is stressing you (some patients got divorced or changed careers),

80% of patients experienced marked improvement (decreased chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia symptoms), and 50% said they had been completely cured. This is not an instantaneous process.. but more of the patients had experience significant improvement within 3-4 months.


I have to express my skepticism about your acupuncturist's prognosis... if they mean there will be little or no change at all for 6 months, that's too long. Let's give the practitioner a break though; prognosis is possibly the most difficult part of practice.

Prognosis literally means "knowing ahead of time." It sometimes seems like M.D.'s take great pride in being able to predict just how long you have left with this or that terminal disease. If you've read Bernie Siegel's Love, Medicine & Miracles, you know that the M.D.'s don't really know. Another part of prognosis is knowing the future course (what will change when, and how) of the disease. Nobody really knows how a disease will progress or improve with or without treatment in each specific person... everyone is different. Some patients are more dedicated to recovering than others. Some diseases are more stubborn than others. No well-researched or time-proven drug or herb works 100% of the time. We can only make good or bad guesses (and you don't know if it's a bad guess til later!).

Prognosis literally means "knowing ahead of time." In medicine, prognosis is knowing the future course of the disease, what will change, when and how. We make estimates based on studies, statistics and experience, but nobody really knows how a disease will progress in each specific person; everyone is different. Some patients are more resilient than others, some diseases are more stubborn than others. I must admit I'm skeptical about your acupuncturist's prognosis.

How can you determine if your practitioner's estimate is reasonable? Let's look at some guiding questions that may help you:

1. How many Chronic Fatigue / Fibromyalgia patients has the practitioner worked with?

This will help you figure out if the practitioner has good experience with CF/FM cases, and if those patients really have taken that long to show improvement. Also, what does the practitioner consider to be "noticeable improvement?" For example, digestion and sleep may get better before the pain goes away. That's a noticeable improvement, but not in the pain.

2. How much improvement have their patients experienced overall?

  • Slight temporary reduction of discomfort,
  • Slight permanent improvement,
  • Significant improvement/near, or
  • Total cure?

3. What types of Acupuncture treatment systems & strategies is your Acupuncturist using?

Some approaches work differently than others.
  • Zang-fu acupuncture (an "herbalization" of acupuncture treatment based on point functions) may take much longer than
  • Meridian-style acupuncture like Tendinomuscular Meridians, 8 Extraordinary Meridians, Luo-source, etc.
  • Pre-Cultural Revolution (pre-TCM) acupuncture styles often can produce dramatic and quick results; see Master Tong's family style (popularized by Dr. Richard Tan and Miriam Lee), and George Soulie De Morant's "Chinese Acupuncture."

4. What other Modalities (treatment techniques) are used and what other Lifestyle and Diet changes are suggested?

These could include:

  • Cupping
  • Gwa-sha
  • Moxabustion
  • Spirituality
  • Chinese Medical Nutrition
  • Exercise, yoga, tai chi, qi gong

These questions should help you figure out how experienced your practitioner is with chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia... and get them thinking, too! Keep in mind that there are very few health care practitioners anywhere who've had success treating this complex illness.

Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine are well-suited to treat it, though, so keep at it!

All the Best!


All information herein provided is for educational use only and not meant to substitute for the advice of appropriate local experts and authorities.
Copyright 1999-2074, Pulse Media International