Fibromyalgia is a painful chronic condition currently without a cure. Acupuncture may be one way to reduce fibromyalgia pain, especially when combined with other forms of treatment.

Acupuncture in handShare on Pinterest
Nikola Stojadinovic/Getty Images

Fibromyalgia affects about 4 million adults in the United States or about 2% of the country’s adult population. People who live with fibromyalgia may experience fatigue, muscular pain, and trouble concentrating or remembering.

This chronic condition does not have a cure. It can be difficult to diagnose accurately, so doctors frequently focus on relieving an individual’s symptoms and pain.

You can read more below about suggested fibromyalgia treatments that may include a combination of medications and natural remedies, including acupuncture.

Acupuncture has been used for a variety of painful chronic conditions because it may:

  • reduce inflammation
  • improve circulation
  • loosen tight muscles
  • stimulate the release of endorphins (the body’s natural pain reliever)

Because fibromyalgia often brings symptoms that include pain throughout your body, acupuncture is viewed as one option to help alleviate those painful symptoms.

There is scientific evidence that acupuncture can have an effect on the nervous system and body tissues. A belief in the procedure or a good relationship with the practitioner may also play a role in any pain relief.

About acupuncture

Although doctors still have many questions about fibromyalgia, over time they have made progress in narrowing in on potential causes and effective treatments. You can read more about the potential causes and treatment options of acupuncture here.

Remember, acupuncture is not a substitute for regular medical care. It should not be used as a way to delay or avoid talking with your doctor about serious health conditions like fibromyalgia.

Was this helpful?

Acupuncture points are chosen based on the location of a person’s symptoms. After talking with clients about their pain, an acupuncturist will place needles along the corresponding spot on the body.

12 principle meridians of acupuncture

Known as the “12 principle meridians” in Chinese medicine, these meridians coincide with major pain points in the body. Each also includes a specific number that medical professionals use when prescribing and discussing acupuncture points:

  • Lung 7: This point is located above the wrist on the inside of the arm.
  • Stomach 36: This point is located on the front of the leg, just below the knee.
  • Spleen 6: This point is located on the inner side of the leg just above the ankle.
  • Gallbladder 20: This point is located at the base of the skull, where it joins the neck in back.
  • Liver 3: It’s located on the top of the foot, between the first and second toes.
  • Pericardium 6: This point is located on the inner arm, just above the wrist.
  • Heart 7: This point is located on the outer side of the wrist.
  • Urinary bladder 40: This point is located at the back of the knee.
  • Kidney 3: This point is located just behind the inner ankle.
  • Large intestine 4: This point is located on the back side of the hand between the thumb and first finger.
  • Small intestine 3: This point is located on the side of the hand, below the little finger.
  • Triple burner 5: This point on the channel is located on the outer side of the arm, above the wrist.
  • Governing vessel 20: This point is located at the top of the head.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Qi is one of the fundamental concepts, and it translates to “vital energy.” Whenever that qi (pronounced “chee”) is blocked, it’s known as qi stagnation. That leads to inactivity (stasis) of the blood, causing pain.

Was this helpful?

For those using Chinese medicine, fibromyalgia is mainly caused by emotional upsets affecting the liver. That concept is what informs the use of acupuncture in fibromyalgia.

This 2020 study of acupuncture and fibromyalgia choose to place needles in 3 acupuncture points on the head, 4 on the back, 2 on the upper extremities, and 8 on the lower extremities. These locations were chosen because they are acupuncture points that are believed to regulate the stagnation of Qi and blood.

Depending on the symptoms and types of pain an individual is experiencing, it’s possible that other acupuncture points might provide more effective pain relief though. A licensed acupuncturist will discuss your pain with you when making determinations about the best places to place needles.

Although there was no head-to-head comparison to show acupuncture is superior to other treatments, this 2021 study found evidence to support its use as part of a multimodal approach to fibromyalgia pain relief.

Some examples of other treatments that acupuncture could be combined with include:

  • exercise (aerobic or muscle strengthening)
  • cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • stress management techniques like yoga, meditation, massage

When comparing acupuncture’s effectiveness in treating five pain conditions, a scientific review found fibromyalgia to be a condition with some of the most favorable outcomes. Although this also does not prove how acupuncture compares with other treatment options, it does indicate that those with fibromyalgia may be able to get pain relief from acupuncture.

More research into the causes of fibromyalgia pain and the effectiveness of combining various pain relief treatments are still needed.

If you’re working with a licensed acupuncture practitioner, the risks with acupuncture are low.

Single-use, disposable needles keep the risk of infection low, and a trained practitioner is highly unlikely to place a needle in a location or way that will cause long-term damage. Though, even with a licensed practitioner, side effects of acupuncture may include soreness and minor bruising or bleeding where the needles are inserted.

Fibromyalgia is a painful chronic condition that currently has no cure. Treatment for fibromyalgia pain often involves a combination of medications, natural remedies, and lifestyle changes to address specific symptoms.

More research is still needed into the role of acupuncture in relieving fibromyalgia-related pain. The risks of acupuncture by a qualified professional are fairly low, but it’s always a good idea to discuss any plans to try acupuncture for pain relief with your doctor.