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  • Northwoods Health Centre

Acupuncture can help fibromyalgia

The term fibromyalgia refers to muscle-skeletal symptoms (pain or discomfort) with a specific zone of discomfort or pain (trigger points) within the muscle. The trigger points refer pain away from the trigger area to an adjoining area. This ailment affects between three to six million Americans and is most common in women aged 30 to 50.

When the doctor examines the patient, palpation will show a taut band, or trigger area, causing pain to be radiated to another area. Trigger points may be characterized as either latent or active. The active points cause spontaneous pain without movement or with motion that stretches the muscle involved latent trigger points result primarily in muscle tightness with associated pain upon examination (palpation).

Fibromyalgia syndrome is a chronic pain disorder characterized by diffuse muscle soreness and stiffness associated with specific, reproducible tender points (trigger points), many times accompanied by sleep disturbances (non-refreshing sleep). When X-rays and laboratory tests are performed, they come back normal.

What are the causes of fibromyalgia?

While the underlying cause of fibromyalgia syndrome are not fully known, there are many triggering events that cause FMS, and there are many optional fibromyalgia treatment protocols for fibromyalgia pain.

Some causes may include infections (bacterial or viral), pregnancy, a motor vehicle accident (resulting in post-traumatic fibromyalgia syndrome) or the development of other conditions such as lupus erythematosus, irritable bowel syndrome, hypothyroidism or rheumatoid arthritis. These

triggering events probably do not directly cause the symptoms of fibromyalgia syndrome but rather may awaken an underlying physiological abnormality that is already present.

Acupuncture treatment techniques

Acupuncture can play a major role in the treatment of fibromyalgia. An acupuncturist can treat the pain and the underlying condition at the same time. The treatments are aimed at balancing the energy in the body to reduce pain and promote overall health.

According to traditional Chinese medical theory, pain is caused by blockages in the energy pathways of the body or “meridians”. Acupuncture helps to unblock these pathways to allow the energy to flow freely in the meridians, nourishing the muscles, tendons, joints and other soft tissues.

Clinical studies indicate that acupuncture can be a safe and effective form of treatment for fibromyalgia with few if any side effects.

Scientific studies indicate that acupuncture releases endorphins that bind to opiate receptors, decreasing pain and inflammation. Studies also show that acupuncture affects numerous neurotransmitters, increases circulation, regulates hormones, boosts the immune system and promotes healing. This ancient form of medicine has been practiced for thousands of years in the treatment of pain and other various health concerns.

Lifestyle adjustments are also important for those suffering from fibromyalgia. Moderate exercise and stretching, along with proper diet, nutrition and stress reduction can ease the pains of fibromyalgia. Proper posture helps facilitate the free flow of energy throughout the body.

Supplements of vitamins and herbs can also be helpful. Be sure to avoid things that can worsen this condition such as smoking, caffeine, sugar and inadequate sleep. Take charge of your health, and rid yourself of the hassles of pain.

What you should know before seeking treatment for fibromyalgia.

Here are some guidelines to follow before going for an acupuncture treatment:

· Do not eat an extremely heavy meal or drink alcohol right before or after the treatment.

· Do not overexert before or after the treatment.

· Try to arrange your schedule to get some rest after the treatment, especially early on in the treatment process, the body may feel very relaxed or even tired after the session.

· Wear comfortable clothing.

· Continue taking medications as directed by the physician, but make sure the acupuncturist knows what they are.

· Do not ask the advice of the acupuncturist regarding medications, it is physician’s professional duty to oversee the intake of medications.

· Do not take non-prescription drugs. Drugs, including alcohol, will seriously interfere with the effectiveness of the treatment.

The average session may last from 20 minutes to an hour; and the first treatment may take a bit longer. The number of treatments depends, of course, on your condition and how well the body responds. For chronic or complex problems like fibromyalgia, two or three sessions a week for several months may be required. Some conditions require maintenance therapy, just as they do in Western medicine.

The needles may feel something like a mosquito bite, or perhaps a dull ache, numbness, a tingling or a warm feeling. Once the needles are in place, they are usually left for a period of several minutes to 45 minutes.

Typically, the needles, which are much thinner than hypodermic needles, are inserted less than an inch in depth. However, the patient needs to stay relatively still and relaxed, since some spots may feel achy or tight, especially if there is sudden movement and the muscles tighten.

Acupuncture, practiced correctly, has almost no side effects. The original symptoms may seem to be aggravated after the first treatment, and there may be changes in appetite, sleep, bowel or urination patterns. There may also be slight bleeding and bruising where the needles were inserted.

Article by Dr. Kaveh

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