Acupuncture relieves fibromyalgia pain – better than medications

smiling woman without painNew research shows acupuncture relieves fibromyalgia pain in both short and longer terms, better than medications

Acupuncture therapy is widely used for pain relief. Recent research shows that acupuncture can effectively relieve pain and improve quality of life in those with fibromyalgia (1).

In fact, the study found acupuncture to be statistically more effective than medications at relieving pain. The effects were present for up to 6 months after treatment. This 2019 systematic review of 441 scientific studies on acupuncture for fibromyalgia narrowed their focus down. Here they analyzed and combined only the best quality randomized controlled trials. (twelve trials including 774 subjects total from Universities in the US, Switzerland, China, Brazil, Spain, and Turkey). Using this special statistical analysis, the authors concluded that acupuncture therapy can be recommended as a safe and effective therapy for the management of fibromyalgia.

What is fibromyalgia? Fibromyalgia is a syndrome in which a diffuse type of pain occurs at various places in the body, but there is no obvious cause of the pain.

Fibromyaligia affects 2-4% of the population; women more than men. The classic fibromyalgia pattern of “18 tender points” can start out intermittently but can progress to being persistent.  It can vary day to day in intensity and location for each individual. It can be accompanied by fatigue/lack of energy, sleep and mood disturbances, memory issues and brain fog.  Other pain-related issues can include headaches, and muscle twitches or cramps. Lab tests are used to rule out other causes of the pain, and it is diagnosed when symptoms persist for at least 3 months. There is no cure per se, only medications to address symptom relief. Fibromyalgia is known to cause a significant economic burden on society. Over 75% of the costs to society are not by missed work, but rather are indirect from lost productivity (2).

Acupuncture likely does not work as a simple or direct pain management tool like medicines, and that is why it works better than the pharmacological approach.

Acupuncture supports the functioning of several systems in a holistic manner. The mechanism is likely by creating a reset in the way the body shifts from a fight-or-flight survival state into a healing/restorative state. (See our blog on acupuncture’s effect on the amygdala – the “stress brain”). Acupuncture, then, is not a pain killer treatment, but a supportive treatment for overall health and wellbeing.

Our clinic’s holistic approach adapts the treatment to your unique circumstances.

This means then that our approach is not just to apply a standard research acupuncture protocol for fibromyalgia. Each treatment is customized to reflect your changing situation and adapt to support ongoing progress. Our clients tend to experience not just reduced muscle tenderness, but also improvements in sleep, mood, fatigue/energy, and headaches and concentration. We also give homework for self care.  This can include acupressure points, diet and lifestyle suggestions, stress management, and trying a tracking system. This helps create more awareness for triggers and influences and encourages positive change in learning to cope and adapt better in life.



(1) Acupuncture therapy for fibromyalgia: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Pain Research, V.12, 2019 Xin-chang Zhang et al.

Impact of Acupuncture