Q: What does acupuncture treat? Specifically, is there an acupuncture treatment for fibromyalgia? I’ve tried everything else, but still have no relief.

A: Numerous research studies have looked at acupuncture as a treatment for fibromyalgia, and although a few have shown statistically significant improvement of pain, some have not.

In studies that have indicated some benefit, relief was fleeting. In the majority of patients, it lasted from a few days to a few weeks. Some people had pain relief for up to six months, but there are no reports of long-lasting results.

If you are curious about acupuncture, try three treatments. If you think you have benefited from the sessions, continue up to six or eight treatments. By then, you can decide whether acupuncture is cost-effective helpful enough for you to continue further.

Even if acupuncture is helpful, don’t rely on it as your primary treatment. Use it along with other remedies to provide relief. For example, combine acupuncture with other treatments proven to be effective in people with fibromyalgia, such as exercise, tricyclic antidepressants, pain medication, massage therapy, meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy, Keep in mind that you’ll also have to stick with a regular sleep schedule; improve your diet to be based more on vegetables and less on red meats, refined sugar and processed foods; manage stress; and discontinue smoking, alcohol and caffeine.

You say that you’ve tried everything. In my experience, however, many patients have not found relief because, in looking for a quick fix, they haven’t followed treatments exactly as recommended for along enough period of time or at a high enough dose. If you need specific advice about treatments and combinations to try, please talk to a rheumatologist or pain specialist who has experience in treating people with fibromyalgia

James McKoy, MD, Rheumatologist