Acupuncture to Treat Fibromyalgia

Acupuncture to Treat Fibromyalgia

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    A , Health Education, answered

    As an alternative therapy to promote natural healing, acupuncture is earning a growing respect from the traditional medical community. However tempting acupuncture may sound, you may hesitate due to fear of the unknown. Get your doctor’s blessing first, and then ask the following questions to find a well-qualified acupuncturist near you.

    • Do you hold a current license to practice acupuncture and oriental medicine in this state?
    • Are you an NCCAOM (National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine)-certified acupuncturist?
    • What has been your experience with treating people with fibromyalgia?
    • Besides acupuncture, what other modalities of Oriental medicine do you use in cases such as mine?
    • Can you please tell me about your initial examination?
    • What makes acupuncture so important to you that you chose to become a professional acupuncturist?
    • What is your greatest strength or special interest as an acupuncturist?
    • How do most of your patients find you?
    • Do I fill out my own insurance forms, or does your office do that?
    • Are you interested in treating me? Why?
    • Do you know where the eighteen fibromyalgia tender points are?

     Acupuncture helps your body find the potential to heal itself. This process requires a great deal of knowledge and the skillful hands of an experienced and licensed acupuncturist. As Dr. Tess Hahn, the NCCAOM’s 2008 Chair of the Board of Commissioners and an Idaho-based professional acupuncturist, concludes, “There is ‘cookbook acupuncture’ for very simple things, and then there’s true Oriental medicine as acupuncture techniques are applied specifically for an individual’s health pattern. The distinction between these two is really key and lies in the diagnosis. A correct initial assessment of what’s going on with that person is very important. You want a practitioner who has a very detailed understanding of the patterns of disharmony in the body and treats every patient differently.”

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    A , Health Education, answered

    Before you begin your search for an acupuncturist, find out if your insurance company covers acupuncture for fibromyalgia symptoms. Ask your insurance company these questions:

    • Is this kind of treatment covered in my health-care plan?
    • Are there any limits or requirements (like a restriction on the number of visits or the total amount allowed for payments)?
    • Can I chose my own acupuncturist or do I have to see someone in your network?
    • Do I need a referral from my doctor?

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    A , Health Education, answered

    The gold standard for acupuncturists is NCCAOM (National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine) Diplomate status. Look for these initials after the person’s name: OMD (Doctorate in Oriental Medicine), L.Ac. (Licensed Acupuncturist), or other abbreviations as explained at NCCAOM’s Web site: www.nccaom.org/diplomates/index.html.

     The “Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM)” designation indicates this acupuncturist has been trained at a properly accredited facility and has passed the rigorous NCCAOM competency examination. There are about fifty-five accredited schools, but many more that are not. Diplomates are expected to take continuing education courses and must renew their certification every four years.

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    Look for an acupuncturist who is so successful that he can rely exclusively on word-of-mouth referrals for new business. While there’s nothing wrong with advertising, especially for new practitioners, the ones who operate by referrals alone know they have to work extra hard to maintain their good reputations.

     Ask about a waiting list, which can be an initial irritant but ultimately is a good sign. It’s the same principle as a long line of people waiting to get into a popular restaurant.

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    Dr. Tess Hahn, the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine’s (NCCAOM) 2008 Chair of the Board of Commissioners and an Idaho-based professional acupuncturist, suggests asking your acupuncture therapist, “Are you interested in treating me? Why?” She also suggests these follow up questions:  “What do you think you can do to improve my life?” and “Are you excited about doing that?” It only makes sense that you want someone who really cares and is passionate about her ability to help you.

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    Some, though not all, studies on acupuncture in people with fibromyalgia suggest that it may help to manage pain and other fibromyalgia symptoms. In one review of seven studies, researchers found that fibromyalgia patients who had acupuncture treatment experienced a reduction in pain and needed less medication. In another study, fibromyalgia patients who received electroacupuncture (in which needles deliver a mild electric current) had a 70% improvement in pain and sleep quality. Other studies have failed to show that acupuncture offers fibromyalgia patients any benefit.

    If you would like to consider using acupuncture as an alternative therapy for fibromyalgia, talk with your doctor or healthcare provider first. Look for a licensed practitioner who has experience treating people wih fibromyalgia.
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