Fibromyalgia (FM) is a chronic condition characterized by the presence of widespread body pain and is often accompanied by:
- Morning stiffness
- Poor sleep
- Brain fog (“fibro fog”)
- Abdominal pain or other gastrointestinal problems such as GERD or IBS
- Anxiety and/or depression
About 10 million people in the US and 3-6% of the world population is affected by it. It is more frequent in women and it has a significant negative effect on the quality of life. Fibromyalgia runs in families so there could be a genetic component making people more susceptible to it.
Fibromyalgia is a real disease. The underlying cause is still unknown but it is believed that the problem relies on an altered capacity of the brain to process pain resulting in an increased sensitivity to it (hyperalgesia). FM can be triggered or aggravated by physical or emotional stressors, and by infections. Studies have shown that patients with FM have altered gut microbiota, suggesting that a gut malfunction could be the cause of Fibromyalgia as well.
There are no specific tests for FM so the diagnosis is based on symptoms and history.
Due to the uncertainty of what causes FM, the treatment is aimed to reduce pain and other symptoms and to improve quality of life. Non-pharmacological therapies (acupuncture, physical therapy, supplements, yoga, meditation, tai chi, and others) sometimes is more effective and have fewer side effects but on some occasions pharmacological treatment (pain medication, antidepressants, anti-seizure drugs) is necessary.
Fibromyalgia in Chinese Medicine.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), FM is not a one size fits all diagnosis and approach, different patterns can lead to the same disease and warrant a different approach. In general, these patterns lead to the same principle, the reduction of Qi and blood flow in the body causing pain. The patterns attributed to the development of FM are the following:
1. Liver Qi stagnation. Emotional stress or trauma can affect the Liver. The liver is in charge in TCM, between other functions, of the flow of blood and Qi (energy) in the body. When Qi and blood stagnates or gets blocked, there is not enough supply to an area of the body and that causes pain. The principle of treatment is then to regulate the flow of qi and blood to reduce or eliminate pain.
2. Qi and blood deficiency. When Qi and blood are insufficient they can stagnate as well. Qi and blood deficiency leads also to undernourishment, hence pain. The treatment is to nourish qi and blood.
3. Qi stagnation and blood stasis. As explained above stasis leads to pain.
4. Kidney deficiency. The Kidneys are considered in TCM as the “Root of Life”, they hold the genetic blueprint of our body constitution and determine our level of health throughout the stages of life. Some people have a genetic predisposition to weak Kidneys and others have strong Kidneys but have burned themselves out by excessive work, stress, poor nutrition, and poor sleep. Acupuncture and lifestyle modifications can replenish the Kidneys.
Fibromyalgia can result also from the invasion of pathogenic wind, cold, and dampness (also known as Bi Syndrome) that can affect muscles, tendons, and joints, causing pain and stiffness. When this is the case, acupuncture works by dispelling wind, cold and, removing dampness.
The Science Behind Acupuncture for FM.
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are proven to be safe and effective treatments for fibromyalgia.
How can acupuncture help?
1. Acupuncture increases blood flow in the skin and muscles, important for reducing pain.
2. Acupuncture can regulate the central nervous system to release endogenous opioids and nonopioid compounds, such as endorphin, serotonin, enkephalins, and others. These substances are essential to decrease the hypersensitivity of pain and reduce pain symptoms.
3. Acupuncture reduces Substance P (a substance involved in pain perception).
4. Acupuncture helps with anxiety and depression
5. Acupuncture can improve sleep quality
At Alivia Acupuncture Clinic we use 100% natural medicine to approach FM. Acupuncture, supplements, herbs, and lifestyle modifications can make a difference in your daily life. If you or somebody you know is affected by Fibromyalgia, there is hope. Call and schedule an appointment today.
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