Acupuncture and Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is estimated to affect two per cent of the population. It is a chronic condition causing pain, stiffness and tenderness
of the muscles, tendons, and joints. Fibromyalgia is also associated with sleep disturbances, fatigue, anxiety, depression and disturbances in bowel function.

With the development of improved imaging techniques, fibromyalgia is thought to be due to an over-sensitivity of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system ‘CNS’), leading to chemical imbalances within. The exact cause of this is not fully understood, however links have been associated with infection, stress and genetic predisposition. The brain and spinal cord are constantly
carrying excitory and inhibitory signals regulating sensory (touch) information from the outside world. When this becomes out of balance the perception of pain can become distorted. In fibromyalgia sufferers, imaging techniques have illustrated over-activity in brain areas correlating to pain perception. Also, higher levels of excitory neurotransmitters glutamate and substance P have been found in the spinal fluid.

Acupuncture is theorised to have a dampening effect on these brain areas relating to pain and through inducing inhibitory neurotransmitters in the spinal canal by the stimulation of pain fibres at the acupuncture points. Current treatment includes cognitive therapy to help identify emotions that contribute to excitation in brain areas dealing with pain, and medication
to help regulate neurotransmitters within the CNS.

Although more research is needed there are numerous studies investigating how acupuncture may help in the treatment of fibromyalgia. A random controlled trial by Martin et al (2006) from the Mayo clinic found that acupuncture significantly improved symptoms of fibromyalgia. Symptomatic improvement was not restricted to pain relief and was most significant for fatigue
and anxiety. This study was based on six sessions of acupuncture.



Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2010 Apr;30(4):265-9.[Combination of acupuncture, cupping and medicine for treatment of fibromyalgia syndrome: a multi-central randomized controlled trial].
[Article in Chinese]

Jang ZY, Li CD, Qiu L, Guo JH, He LN, Yue Y, Li FZ, Qin WY.

The therapeutic effect of combination of acupuncture, cupping and medicine on fibromyalgia syndrome is superior to that of the simple acupuncture combined with cupping or the simple medicine.
 SYSTEMATIC REVIEWJ Altern Complement Med. 2010 Apr;16(4):397-409.

Traditional Chinese Medicine for treatment of fibromyalgia: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials.
Cao H, Liu J, Lewith GT.

 TCM therapies appear to be effective for treating FM. However, further large, rigorously designed trials are warranted because of insufficient methodological rigor in the included trials.
 Chin Med. 2010 Mar 23;5:11.Effects of acupuncture to treat fibromyalgia: a preliminary randomised controlled trial.

Itoh K, Kitakoji H.

 The present study suggests that acupuncture treatment is effective to relieve pain for FM patients in terms of QoL and FIQ.