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  • Writer's pictureSimon Coghlan MSc, BSc Physio, DipMedAc

The Role of Acupuncture in Fibromyalgia Management: A Closer Look

Fibromyalgia (FM) is a perplexing condition that challenges both sufferers and the medical community. 


Chronic, widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and many other symptoms like 'brain fog' characterise FM, which lacks visible inflammation or other detectable abnormalities in conventional tests (Clauw, 2014). 


The theory that FM might stem from an issue with pain regulation, precisely a condition known as central sensitisation related to a problem with pain signal processing in the brain and immune function, has gained traction in recent years. This suggests the problem lies not in the tissues but in how the brain interprets pain signals.



acupuncture in fibromyalgia


Against this background, medical acupuncture has emerged as a significant option in FM treatment, with a growing body of research supporting its efficacy. Medical acupuncture's benefits range from short-term symptom relief to long-lasting improvements in pain management and an improvement in overall quality of life. 


A recent patient of mine responded exceptionally well to a course of physiotherapy that included medical acupuncture and gently dry needling. Her journey from debilitating pain to improved functionality and quality of life is an example of the transformative power of acupuncture in FM care.


Studies like those by Casanueva et al. (2014) and Vas et al. (2016) have highlighted the effectiveness of medical acupuncture and dry needling in providing relief for FM sufferers.

Furthermore, the potential physiological mechanisms behind acupuncture's success in treating FM have been a subject of interest. For instance, Karatay et al. (2018) found that medical acupuncture might influence FM symptoms through changes in serum serotonin and substance P levels, offering some insight into the complex interplay between acupuncture and the body's pain regulation mechanisms.


The evidence base for acupuncture in FM treatment is robust, including a range of studies from randomised controlled trials (RCTs) to systematic reviews and meta-analyses. For example, a systematic review by Salazar et al. (2017) and a network meta-analysis by Almutairi et al. (2022) highlight acupuncture's significant impact on FM symptoms. Such studies confirm acupuncture's role in pain relief and improving sleep quality, fatigue, and overall well-being.


Despite the compelling evidence, medical acupuncture remains underutilised in FM management. This oversight is notable, given the profound difference it can make in patients' lives, helping them to manage pain, enhance their well-being, and maintain their daily activities. 


Medical acupuncture presents a promising option for FM treatment, backed by considerable clinical evidence. Its ability to provide relief from the multifaceted symptoms of FM, combined with its safety profile, positions medical acupuncture as a valuable tool in the management of this challenging condition. 


As the medical community continues to unravel the complexities of FM, acupuncture stands out as a treatment modality that offers hope and tangible benefits to those affected by this perplexing syndrome.


By Simon


References


  1. Almutairi NM, Hilal FM, Bashawyah A, et al. "Efficacy of Acupuncture, Intravenous Lidocaine, and Diet in the Management of Patients with Fibromyalgia: A Systematic Review and Network Meta-Analysis." Healthcare (Basel). 2022;10:1176.

  2. Casanueva B, Rivas P, Rodero B, et al. "Short-term improvement following dry needle stimulation of tender points in fibromyalgia." Rheumatol Int. 2014;34:861–6.

  3. Clauw DJ. "Fibromyalgia: A Clinical Review." JAMA. 2014;311:1547–55.

  4. Karatay S, Okur SC, Uzkeser H, et al. "Effects of Acupuncture Treatment on Fibromyalgia Symptoms, Serotonin, and Substance P Levels: A Randomised Sham and Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial." Pain Med. 2018;19:615–28.

  5. Salazar AP de S, Stein C, Marchese RR, et al. "Electric Stimulation for Pain Relief in Patients with Fibromyalgia: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials." Pain Physician. 2017;20:15–25.

  6. Vas J, Santos-Rey K, Navarro-Pablo R, et al. "Acupuncture for fibromyalgia in primary care: a randomised controlled trial." Acupunct Med. 2016;34:257–66.


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