Traditional Chinese medicine teaches that the body has patterns of energy flow that are essential for good health. When that energy — which the Chinese call qi (pronounced chi) — is disrupted, a person's health falters. Acupuncture helps to restore that flow with the insertion of tiny needles along meridian lines on the body, which correspond to various organs. The procedure is believed to work by opening up the pathways of qi and restoring health.
Acupuncture originated in China more than 3,000 years ago. Here in the United States, it has become a popular method for alleviating all kinds of pain. As a treatment for fibromyalgia, study results have been mixed. But for those who have had success, acupuncture may work by inducing relaxation and promoting sleep, which in turn can benefit your pain. The procedure may be also used to relieve migraines, to enhance fertility, and to alleviate depression.
During an acupuncture session, a practitioner will insert as many as fifteen thin needles into specific points on your body. The location of each needle corresponds to the site of your pain, but it is not necessarily inserted in the place where you hurt. The needles do not draw blood and, in most cases, do not cause much pain. But you may feel a prick at insertion. Each acupuncture session lasts about an hour, and patients generally need four to six sessions before seeing results.
For people who do not like needles, acupressure offers an alternative. Acupressure involves the same principles as acupuncture. But instead of needles, the procedure involves the use of the practitioner's hands.
If you do decide to try acupuncture, find a licensed therapist, preferably one who has treated people with fibromyalgia before. Discuss your plans with your doctor to make sure you're healthy enough. Be honest with the acupuncturist about your health; he should be told of your fibromyalgia as well as other conditions and any medications you take. If your acupuncturist recommends herbal supplements, talk to your doctor first before taking them. They could cause dangerous interactions. Also, keep track of your progress. Acupuncture may require four to six sessions before it takes effect.
Acupuncture is not likely to cause side effects, but your practitioner is obligated by law to use sterile needles that have never been used before. Unsterilized needles can put you at risk for infection.