Can Acupuncture Help My Fibromyalgia?

If you're looking for another way to manage your fibromyalgia pain, you may be able to get some relief from acupuncture. But doctors say you shouldn't try it before you give traditional methods, like medicine, a chance first. And keep in mind that acupuncture probably works best when you combine it with other treatments.

When you get acupuncture, a practitioner puts thin needles into the skin on different parts of your body. No one is sure exactly how it works, but experts think it leads you to release endorphins, your body's natural "feel good" chemicals, which relieve pain.

Not all studies show that acupuncture helps fibromyalgia, but there is some research that suggests it may be able to ease pain, stiffness, and anxiety and also help you sleep better.

What Should You Expect?

You can get private acupuncture treatments in a medical office or group treatment with other people in a clinic. Clinic sessions are often cheaper.

Sessions usually last at least 20 minutes. The number of treatments you need to feel any results can vary.

The first session will last longer than the others because your practitioner will ask you a lot of questions. He'll typically want to know how long you've had your symptoms, how severe they are, and what your general health is like.

Your acupuncturist will also do a quick medical exam, take your pulse, and check for any sore or tender spots.

Most acupuncture treatments use between five and 15 needles. They're hollow and so slender that you may not even feel them when the practitioner puts them into your skin.

The most common type of acupuncture is called manual acupuncture, when the needles pierce your skin.

Another kind is electroacupuncture, which is when an electric current passes through the needle. Studies show that this type may work better for fibromyalgia than the manual version.

How Safe Is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture has fewer side effects than most medications you might take for fibromyalgia, including steroids and pain relievers.

The side effects that do happen are minor. Needles can hurt when they go in your skin, but if this does happen, it won't last long. You may also bleed a little bit. Rarely, people have nausea and vomiting as well as headaches, but the problems usually don't last more than a day.

Acupuncture is safe. The FDA regulates the equipment and requires that practitioners use each needle only once. You should be able to see your acupuncturist take each individual needle out of a sterile packet. Clean needles make sure that more serious side effects like infection with HIV or hepatitis B won't happen.

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How Can You Find an Acupuncturist?

Look for a practitioner who is certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

Most states also require that acupuncturists get certified. Check with your state medical board for local requirements.

Some doctors are qualified to do acupuncture. The American Academy of Medical Acupuncture has a list of acupuncturists who are also medical doctors.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on August 29, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services: "Acupuncture for Fibromyalgia."

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: "Mind and Body Practices for Fibromyalgia: What the Science Says."

BioMed Central: Systematic Reviews: "An overview of systematic reviews of complementary and alternative therapies for fibromyalgia using both AMSTAR and ROBIS as quality assessment tools."

Chinese Medicine: "Effects of acupuncture to treat fibromyalgia: A preliminary randomised controlled trial."

Mayo Clinic Proceedings: "Improvement in Fibromyalgia Symptoms With Acupuncture: Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial."

The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: "Acupuncture for treating fibromyalgia."

Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine: "Utilization of Group-Based, Community Acupuncture Clinics: A Comparative Study with a Nationally Representative Sample of Acupuncture User."

National Health Service (UK): "Acupuncture."

Acupuncture in Medicine: "Acupuncture for fibromyalgia in primary care: a randomised controlled trial."

British Acupuncture Council: "What to expect from a treatment."

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: "Fibromyalgia: In Depth."

FDA: "CFR - Code of Federal Regulations Title 21."

National Certification Commission for Acupuncture: "Find a Practitioner Directory,"

American Academy of Medical Acupuncture: "Welcome."

Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: Plain Language Summaries: "Acupuncture for fibromyalgia."

American Academy of Medical Acupuncture: "Patient Referral Directory."

Mayo Clinic: "Acupuncture."

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