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Can Acupuncture Treat Fibromyalgia

In the clinic we find medical acupuncture, when given at the correct dose, to be very effective in helping certain Fibromyalgia patients manage their pain better as well as help them move and exercise more comfortably. Unfortunately, treating Fibromyalgia is not a quick fix and requires a course of treatment of at least 6-8 weekly sessions, possibly followed by maintenance or top up sessions if it has been helpful.

There is no known cure for Fibromyalgia, but it is a condition that can be managed and medical research evidence has shown that medical acupuncture has a role to play (Berman et al, 1999, Martin et al, 2006, Harris, 2005).

Also referred to as dry needling, acupuncture is a technique of inserting very fine, solid, metallic needles into the body through the skin. The needles stimulate the nerves of the skin and muscle and increases the body's release of endorphin and serotonin (natural painkillers) in the pain pathways of the spinal cord and the brain.

There are different schools of thought about the efficacy and concept of how acupuncture works. The traditional Chinese method (TCM) is widely acknowledged by the general public which is based on an 'energy' system of the body. Our Medical Acupuncture approach has evolved using modern knowledge of anatomy and pathology and evidence based research. Medical Acupuncture is provided by an ever-increasing number of medical professionals in private and hospital clinics as part of conventional treatment.

You can read more here about the evolution of Medical Acupuncture.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition driven by a phenomenon known as ‘central sensitisation’. In a nutshell central sensitisation means that the brain and the central nervous system has developed, to use an IT analogy, a ‘central processing’ problem. The end result is that the pain signals coming from the muscles and joints are being amplified, and unfortunately signals which should not normally be painful such as pressure and touch, are being ‘misinterpreted’ by the brain and central nervous system as being painful. This explains why those with Fibromyalgia can be so sensitive throughout the body and find movement and exercise uncomfortable as well.

The reason for this is complex from a physiological point of view, and to some extent is likely to involve a de-regulation of the brains central control unit, namely the hypothalamus and related structures.

This is where medical acupuncture may be useful as this technique has been shown in lab studies to have, broadly speaking, a ‘central regulatory’ effect. As such it may assist in regulating hypothalamic function, the autonomic nervous system,the limbic system (emotional centre of the brain) as well as firing up what are referred to as the descending pain inhibitory system which may help suppress pain signals coming from the body. So overall, medical acupuncture may help restore a degree of ‘normal’ function’ within the nervous system.

For those suffering from Fibromyalgia, acupuncture treatment may be worth considering as a way of taking an active step towards better management of your condition.

by Simon Coghlan.

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