Researchers take a page from ancient TCM practices for treating fibromyalgia
12/29/2019 // Evangelyn Rodriguez // Views

Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes widespread pain in the muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments and nerves. It is usually caused by an infection, physical trauma, psychological stress or surgery. The intense pain caused by fibromyalgia is often accompanied by other issues such as fatigue, memory and mood problems and sleep issues.

In a study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, researchers from Baskent University in Turkey compared the effects of physical therapy modalities with those of acupuncture particularly on pain, daily function and the quality of life of patients with fibromyalgia. They reported that acupuncture is just as effective as physical modalities at alleviating the symptoms of fibromyalgia and improving the quality of life of people who suffer from this condition.

Acupuncture, a natural treatment for fibromyalgia syndrome

Physical therapy (PT) modalities are used in the treatment of fibromyalgia. Rehabilitation specialists employ them to reduce pain, accelerate healing and restore function to parts of the body that have sustained injury. These modalities can also reduce muscle spasms, decrease swelling and improve blood circulation.

There are nine types of PT modalities often used by physical therapists. These include hot packs, cold packs and cryotherapy, ultrasound, phonophoresis or the introduction of medication through the skin using ultrasound, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), electrical stimulation, prosthetic and orthotic training, light therapy and kinesiology tape.


To find out if acupuncture is as effective as PT modalities, the researchers conducted a comparative effectiveness study involving 44 female patients between the ages of 18 and 70. These patients presented a new diagnosis of fibromyalgia syndrome according to the American College of Rheumatology. They also manifested chronic widespread musculoskeletal pain symptoms, underwent routine blood tests and expressed a desire to receive PT or acupuncture therapy.

The researchers divided the participants into two groups. One group received 15 sessions of hot pack treatment, TENS and ultrasound to the tender points of the cervical and upper back regions. Meanwhile, the other group received 10 sessions of formulated acupuncture designed to treat neck pain and upper and lower back pain. (Related: Acupuncture has been clinically proven to reduce pain.)

The researchers used the Short Form McGill Pain Questionnaire (SF-MPQ) and the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ) to measure pain, functionality and quality of life before and after treatment. The results suggested that both the PT and acupuncture groups experienced reductions in all SF-MPQ domains and FIQ scores. Pre-and post-treatment scores also didn't differ between the two groups.

Based on these results, the researchers concluded that acupuncture is just as effective as PT modalities and can be used to treat FMS. They recommended a longer post-treatment follow-up to determine which of the two is the superior long-term treatment option.

Fast facts about acupuncture

Acupuncture is a centuries-old technique used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to treat a variety of conditions that involve pain. This healing art is said to promote natural healing and improve bodily functions through the stimulation of specific points called acupuncture points. This action is believed to release blocked qi (energy) -- the cause of pain and physical illnesses, according to TCM diagnosis. In 1997, the U.S. National Institutes of Health declared acupuncture as a safe and effective treatment for a wide variety of conditions, such as anxiety, depression, infertility, insomnia, migraine, musculoskeletal problems and nausea.

According to clinical studies, acupuncture is also an effective treatment for the following:

  • Allergic rhinitis
  • Biliary colic
  • Depression
  • Dysentery
  • Dysmenorrhoea
  • Headache
  • Hypertension
  • Hypotension
  • Knee pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Periarthritis of shoulder
  • Post-operative pain
  • Renal colic
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sciatica
  • Sprain
  • Stroke
  • Tennis elbow

Acupuncture is covered by many -- but not all -- health insurance plans. To ensure your safety and the effectiveness of the therapy, receive treatment only from a licensed acupuncturist.

Sources include:

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