Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition that affects some 3-6% of people around the world. It’s more common in women — 75-90% of cases — but men and children can develop it, as well, and it affects all ethnic groups.
At Coastal Pain Medicine, pain management specialist Dr. Patrick Brennan and our team offer acupuncture as one of the treatment options for our patients in Pompano Beach, Florida, with fibromyalgia.
Here’s what you need to know about fibromyalgia and how we treat it.
Fibromyalgia (FMS, or fibromyalgia syndrome) is a difficult disorder to live with, and it can be difficult to diagnose.
In the past, it was described as a “hysterical condition” in women, and some people still buy into this stigma, in large part because it fails to show up on any imaging or blood tests. Those living with it, though, know that the pain is very real.
Today, specialists agree that fibromyalgia causes pain and stiffness in the muscles, ligaments, and tendons throughout the entire body. It’s believed some still-unknown factor alters the way the brain processes pain signals, producing amplified pain sensations even when there’s no painful stimulus.
Symptoms can be triggered by trauma, infection, or stress, or they may appear over time for no apparent reason.
If fibromyalgia doesn’t show up on a test, how can you diagnose it?
In the past, doctors would look for the 18 symmetrical tender points on the body, places where, if you touch them, you feel a distinct soreness. Pain may even be referred from those points to other areas of the body. But the test was dropped for being too vague, as well as insufficient to rule out other conditions.
Today, doctors base their FMS diagnosis on two things:
When you come in for an evaluation, Dr. Brennan looks at your entire medical history and performs a physical exam. He makes note of where you feel pain and how severe it is. He may also order blood and imaging tests to exclude any other reason for your discomfort.
If everything comes back negative, he may conclude you have fibromyalgia.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medicine practice that uses ultra-fine needles placed at specific body points. It’s been gaining support in evidence-based medicine in the last few decades.
How acupuncture achieves its effects depends on whom you ask. Traditional Chinese medical specialists and Western medicine doctors hold different ideas about the body and healing.
In traditional Chinese medicine, good health occurs when the “yin” (female) and “yang” (male) aspects of the life force, called “qi” or “chi,” are balanced within the body. Illness, then, is when the forces are out of balance.
Qi travels along 14 major meridians, or pathways, in the human body. Acupuncturists tap into the energy flow at 350 individual acupuncture points. Inserting needles into these points in highly specific combinations brings qi back into balance.
Western medicine practitioners believe placing acupuncture needles into specific spots on the body triggers biochemical responses, such as releasing endorphins (the body’s natural painkillers) and boosting neurotransmitters (control nerve impulses and muscle contractions).
These affect your body’s internal regulation system, reducing pain and inflammation. And with better physiological balance, your body’s natural healing abilities can work more effectively.
Research suggests acupuncture can, in fact, reduce the widespread pain of fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions. But while practitioners use it for a variety of other physical and mental concerns, there’s limited evidence for its effectiveness outside of pain relief.
If you’re in constant pain from fibromyalgia, acupuncture — Chinese or Western — may be just what you need to get the pain relief you crave. To learn more, or to set up a consultation with Dr. Brennan, call our office at 954-284-0996, or schedule online with us today.