How an Acupuncturist can Help Fibromyalgia


If you’re familiar with my writing on fibromyalgia and related health issues, then you know I’m a big fan of Eastern medicine. That doesn’t mean I completely dismiss traditional Western medicine. They both have pros and cons. But there are two things that stand out to me regarding Eastern medicine in particular: 1.) it has been around, tried and true, for thousands of years; whereas the concept of Western medicine is still pretty young by comparison. 2.) It looks at the body systems and energetic functions as a whole, rather than segmented areas in which symptoms can be reduced to specialized treatment.

For example, the American Association of Medical Colleges proudly boasts over 120 specialties and subspecialties. That means they have basically taken apart the human body in every possible way to treat very specific conditions. So, you might go to a dermatologist for a mole, an otolaryngologist (ENT) for chronic sinus infections, and a rheumatologist for your rheumatoid arthritis.

Fundamental Difference

This all sounds normal, right? That’s because we’re used to that system of things. However, Eastern medicine is holistic. Meaning that it views all of those symptoms as connected and often linked to a bigger problem, usually related to a major organ or two. By the way, the phrase “Eastern medicine” is somewhat of a blanket term for Indian and Chinese medicine. These can include Ayurvedic, Siddha, and Classical Chinese Medicine to name a few. And it can also include various practices like acupuncture, herbal medicine, tai chi, and qi gong.

One practitioner summed up the fundamental difference between Eastern and Western medicine well: “For years, I dissected the practice of Chinese medicine, rationalizing and translating it to fit a Western paradigm. Instead of understanding the practice as a living whole, I tried to break it into pieces, and, in the process, lost something vitally important (This is why Western doctors(MDs) usually stink at acupuncture).”

To learn more about the concepts behind this philosophy, I highly recommend The Web That Has No Weaver. Do not attempt to remember and understand it all. Practitioners require years of study and often apprenticeship because of the very complex systems that are also directly connected to the environment. Just use it as a guide to get a grasp of the concepts. In the meantime, let’s take a look at using acupuncture to treat fibromyalgia.

Needles for Fibromyalgia? Seriously?!

Yeah, but it’s not what you think. And yes, I am speaking from experience. Not only as someone who uses acupuncture, but also as someone with no threshold for pain. I am a highly sensitive person which means that my central nervous system is much more heightened than about 80% of the population. Practically speaking, the wind can literally hurt me. No exaggeration. So, you need to give me some credit when I tell you that using acupuncture to treat fibromyalgia is not counter-intuitive like you assume.

Sometimes I don’t feel the needles at all. Other times I feel them mildly and still others feel awful. But it’s a temporary pain. Sometimes the pain isn’t from the needle itself. In fact, the needles are so thin that they bend easily, similar to a strand of hair. But what the needle is treating can cause pain. For example, once I felt the initial prick, but that quickly left and I felt a throbbing ache going all the way up my arm. Conversely, other people feel absolutely nothing and yet, the treatment sill works. Also, do not look at those acupuncture images with dozens of needles on someone’s back and think that will be you. Tell your acupuncturist that you have fibromyalgia and/or a low threshold for pain. They will work with you. Sometimes my treatment has consisted of two needles for 10 minutes and then I was done.

How Does it Work?

Frankly, that’s a wildly complicated question that I can’t begin to answer. If you’d like to get a brief overview, this center has a decent layperson’s explanation. I can tell you that when you visit a well-trained acupuncturist, they will want to know many intimate details about your body and its fluids. That’s because the treatment takes into account a much bigger picture than you’re accustomed to looking at. Including your entire physical and medical history. Even the Mayo Clinic acknowledges the efficacy and benefits of using acupuncture to control your fibromyalgia symptoms.

However, I absolutely disagree with their recommendation to move on from this option if you don’t see improvement within a few weeks. Think of it this way: with acupuncture, you are getting treatment for your whole system. You didn’t suddenly pop up with fibromyalgia overnight. Rather, it was part of a process, including seemingly random symptoms that developed over time. But what you will learn with acupuncture is that all of those symptoms are actually connected to each other in specific ways.

And treating them is a process. Look at acupuncture as something you just do now. Add it to your lifestyle and see how it changes your symptoms over time. That’s what I have been doing for the past year.

Have you tried Acupunture? How’s it work for you?