What would you do if you found out that there was a “new” treatment that might help your ongoing fibromyalgia symptoms? Ironically, this treatment is actually substantially older than traditional Western medicine and appears to be effective in treating a disease that is considered to be relatively new.

The good news is that there is such a treatment and it’s likely available in your corner of the world; it's acupuncture. The art/science of acupuncture is thousands of years old and has provided relief for millions of people who suffer from a myriad of illnesses and disorders. While acupuncture isn’t guaranteed to cure or help relieve pain and symptoms, there is growing evidence that it is an effective and reliable treatment for many.

Acupuncture and its less fearsome cousin, acupressure, rely on pressure points throughout your body to help restore body energy, called qi. In Chinese medicine, it is believe that qi flows through the body freely and if it becomes disturbed or blocked, pain and discomfort results.

Fibromyalgia is considered somewhat of a medical mystery. The fatigue and general pain that are the hallmark symptoms can cause other problems, such as depression and a feeling of isolation. Western medicine is still working on recognizing fibromyalgia as a real medical disorder and doctors are often at a loss as to how to treat it. As such, they often treat the symptoms with medications that may or may not be effective.

Using an alternative or complementary treatment like acupuncture doesn’t mean you have to give up on traditional medicine. In fact, an increasing number of healthcare practitioners are encouraging the use of both, sort of covering all the bases, if you will.

But how does acupuncture help with fibromyalgia? In 2005, a study from the Mayo Clinic investigated the effects of acupuncture on 50 patients with severe fibromyalgia that had not responded to traditional symptom-relief treatments. After receiving acupuncture in six sessions over two to three weeks, there was a significant improvement in symptoms of pain, fatigue, and anxiety, with the greatest improvement being one month after the treatment. By seven months, the symptoms were returning to pre-treatment levels. The researchers said that they expected some results with pain relief, but the effects of acupuncture treatment on reducing fatigue and anxiety surprised them.  Because anxiety and fatigue can exacerbate painful symptoms, it only stands to reason that if they can be relieve or minimized, then pain may also be reduced.

Acupuncture isn’t a miracle cure, but as the researchers of the Mayo Clinic study say, if it could help people with treatment-unresponsive fibromyalgia, it may just be a good route for others who live with the disease.

By Marijke Vroomen-Durning

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