Dr. Jeannette Kerns, AP, DOM, L.Ac., is a top acupuncturist in Florida and owner of East Lake Acupuncture and Soldier City Acupuncture in Saint Cloud, Florida. With a passion for helping others and an unwavering commitment to her patients, Dr. Kerns is a prime example of a true leader in healthcare. Dr. Kerns is well-known... more
One of the most often asked questions in my practice is whether or not acupuncture can treat fibromyalgia.
The quick answer is be ‘yes’ acupuncture may help with symptoms of fibromyalgia. However, much like pain medications, it will wear off and the underlying condition will still be there. In the case of fibromyalgia, I approach the disease with the mindset to provide pain control while my patient and I work together to find the root cause and work on treating the source as well as the symptoms. Many of my patients have gone on to live nearly symptom-free in just a short time.
I know what you’re thinking… “sign me up!” However, first it’s important to understand what fibromyalgia is, what it’s caused by and what it will take to manage it long-term. From there you can make an informed decision as to whether this is the route you’d like to take.
In a nutshell fibromyalgia is a syndrome of widespread chronic pain associated with sleep disorders, depressed mood, cognitive impairment and fatigue. According to a research article published by the NHI (National Health Institute), fibromyalgia is considered a stress-related disorder, characterized by heightened pain perception, including widespread hyperalgesia to deep-pressure stimuli and has three primary underlying causes: Neurotransmitter dysregulation, hypothalamic, pituitary, adrenal (HPA) axis and inflammation.
Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers responsible for keeping our brains functioning and managing everything from our breathing to our heartbeat to our learning and concentration level to our responses to pain, stress and even the feelings of being in love. When these signals aren’t firing properly, the entire nervous system is on the fritz, including how we perceive both physical and emotional pain.
The HPA axis is our central stress response system. the HPA axis is a major part of the system that controls your physiological reaction to stress. That covers psychological stress (the kind you feel when you're overwhelmed or upset) as well as physical stress, such as illness, trauma, and injury. The HPA axis also helps regulate many other functions including digestion, the immune system, mood, sexuality how your body uses energy.
In the case of inflammation there is (or at least was) some controversy. Initially, scientists were confused as to how to approach fibromyalgia because while it seemed like an inflammatory disease, it didn’t present like most and therefore didn’t fit neatly in the diagnosis box. There are no hot, angry, swollen joints, even though the patient often describes those sensations. Most tests for inflammatory markers often reveal normal or only slightly elevated levels in fibromyalgia. Corticosteroids or NSAIDs such as ibuprofen are often ineffective at alleviating fibromyalgia pain, leading family, friends and physicians to assume the pain is ‘all in the head.” Narcotics work for a short time, but in the end will cause increased pain due to their effect on neurotransmitters.
Scientists now know that inflammation is involved, but from a source they had not expected…the immune system, much of which lives in our gut. It was discovered that certain molecules from the immune system, called cytokines, are high in people with fibromyalgia. Additionally, the central nervous system has its own immune system, separate from the rest of the body, and studies show high levels of immune molecules called chemokines there as well.
In my clinic we help patients manage their fibromyalgia through dietary changes and lifestyle changes, regular lab testing combined with clinical strength herbs, proper supplementation and acupuncture. This method is highly effective, and many are surprised at how quickly they feel better. Sometimes within 24-hours (that's the acupuncture working.)
- “Publications: Institute Department of Cognitive Clinical Neuroscience.” Staff - Apl. Prof. Dr. Michael Schredl: ZI Mannheim, www.zi-mannheim.de/en/research/departments-research-groups-institutes/institute-cognitive-clinical-neuroscience-e/publications-institute-cognitive-clinical-neuroscience-e/jahr/older.html.
- Backryd E, Tanum L, Lind AL, Larsson A, Gordh T. Journal of pain research. 2017 Mar 3;10:515-525. doi: 10.2147/JPR.S128508. Evidence of both systemic inflammation and neuroinflammation in fibromyalgia patients, as assessed by a multiplex protein panel applied to the cerebrospinal fluid and to plasma.
- Blanco I, et al. Clinical rheumatology. 2010 Dec;29(12):1403-12. Abnormal overexpression of mastocytes in skin biopsies of fibromyalgia patients.
- Bote ME, et al. Neuroimmunomodulation. 2012;19(6):343-51. Inflammatory/stress feedback dysregulation in women with fibromyalgia.
- Cordero MD, et al. Antioxidants & redox signaling. 2013 Mar 1;18(7):800-7. Is inflammation a mitochondrial dysfunction-dependent event in fibromyalgia?
- Liptan, GL. Journal of bodywork and movement therapies. 2010 Jan;14(1):3-12. Fascia: A missing link in our understanding of the pathology of fibromyalgia.