Fibromyalgia Treatments with Acupuncture in Atlanta
“Fibromyalgia” is a chronic disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and tenderness in localized areas. The cardinal feature of fibromyalgia is chronic, widespread pain that is not explained by another rheumatic or systemic disorder. Explicit in this definition is the exclusion of other conditions that can present with widespread pain.
Many other health disorders can cause symptoms that may be diagnosed as fibromyalgia, including but not limited to low thyroid levels (hypothyroidism), rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Lyme’s disease, Restless Leg Syndrome and depression.
Symptoms include pain which may appear in several or many areas of the body. The same areas of the body may not be painful all the time and triggering factors can increase the intensity or frequency of painful episodes. Symptoms may also get worse with fatigue, inactivity, changes in the weather, cold or drafty conditions, overexertion, hormonal fluctuations (such as just before menstruation or during menopause), stress, depression, or other emotional factors. These symptoms may include:
- Chronic muscle pain, muscle spasms or tightness
- Moderate or severe fatigue and decreased energy
- Insomnia or waking up feeling just as tired as when you went to sleep
- Stiffness upon waking or after staying in one position for too long
- Difficulty remembering, concentrating, and performing simple mental tasks
- Abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, and constipation alternating with diarrhea (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
- Tension or migraine headaches
- Jaw and facial tenderness
- Sensitivity to one or more of the following: odors, noise, bright lights, medications, certain foods, and cold
- Feeling anxious or depressed
- Numbness or tingling in the face, arms, hands, legs, or feet
- Increase in urinary urgency or frequency (irritable bladder)
- Reduced tolerance for exercise and muscle pain after exercise
- A feeling of swelling (without actual swelling) in the hands and feet
Western’s Medicine’s View of Fibromyalgia
Western medicine doctors diagnose fibromyalgia by process of elimination. It is often diagnosed when no other conditions, such as arthritis, can be positively identified by medical tests.
Western medicine views certain symptoms categorically as “fibromyalgia” symptoms while other symptoms may not be considered to have any specific relationship to fibromyalgia, making a definitive diagnosis of the condition difficult. If fibromyalgia is not diagnosed and treated early, symptoms can go on indefinitely, or they may disappear for months and then recur.
Chinese Medicine’s View of Fibromyalgia
Chinese medicine(CM)’s view of fibromyalgia is simple: where there is pain, there is a lack of sufficiently flowing energy (qi) or blood. We often refer to this condition as Bi syndrome (specifically and most frequently, Muscular Bi Syndrome).
Pain is caused by the stagnation of energy or fluids (blood). When this flow is interrupted or constrained, pain occurs, alerting us to a problem. Three general causes of pain from Bi Syndrome in CM are: 1. Obstruction (The flow of qi or blood becomes blocked in a specific area of the body due to injury, swelling or oversupply.) 2. Constraint (Qi and/or blood can become restricted and fluid flow inhibited due to emotional, or psychological factors.) 3. Deficiency (There is insufficient qi to promote the flow of blood or, there is insufficient blood volume to support all the body’s natural functions.)
Practitioners of Chinese Medicine assess symptoms related to fibromyalgia very differently than Western medical doctors. Fibromyalgia, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, is not a disease, but one or more specific patterns of imbalance, each with very distinct symptoms that can be traced to the dysfunction of specific internal organs. Western doctors, unaware of these patterns, diagnose collective symptoms as “fibromyalgia.”
One specific pattern according to Chinese Medicine is described as “dampness,” or the accumulation of fluids in various parts of the body. If these fluids accumulate in the head, for example, they can cause unclear thinking, a sensation of heaviness, vision problems, or vertigo. Fluids that collect in the muscles and joints can cause pain and stiffness, even to the point of immobility.
How Chinese medicine Treats Fibromyalgia
Successful treatment for fibromyalgia symptoms requires consultation with a skilled practitioner of Chinese Medicine such as those at our Atlanta acupuncture clinic. To effectively address fibromyalgia symptoms, our CM physicians at Buckhead Acupuncture clinic must accurately diagnose the root cause of the pain. This is done largely according to by tongue and pulse examination as well as a highly detailed case and personal history which can provide substantially more information than any blood tests or MRIs. Certain highly individualized factors are taken into consideration that many Western doctors do not give a second thought to, such as specific body constitution, diet, lifestyle, emotional states, environmental influences and more.
Historically, acupuncture, Qi Gong, gentle Asian bodywork therapy and Chinese herbal therapy have been very successful in eliminating the root causes of fibromyalgia.
TCM has a threefold strategy for treating Muscular Bi syndrome:
- Resolve the Bi syndrome and expel the Wind, Cold, and/or Damp.*
- Treat any underlying factors contributing to the development of Bi.
- Provide symptomatic relief by stopping pain.
*Wind, Cold and Damp are specific diagnoses in Chinese medicine used to describe the presence of certain pathogenic environments that have manifested in the body due to various lifestyle, emotional or environmental factors.
This comprehensive strategy addresses the symptoms of fibromyalgia and its underlying causes. Together, acupuncture, herbal medicine, bodywork and Qi Gong provide powerful treatment options for patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia. It is common for all of these modalities to be employed simultaneously, but each may be used alone.
Acupuncture and gentle bodywork may be best for treating the pain syndromes that accompany fibromyalgia; herbal medicine for treating the Wind, Cold and Damp Bi factors and underlying imbalances in the body; and Qi Gong for providing gentle exercise while treating contributory psychological or emotional factors.
Fibromyalgia & Acupuncture
Bi and other pain syndromes account for more than one-half of acupuncture treatments in the United States each year. Fibromyalgia patients often use acupuncture as a means of pain control, once or twice a week, which can be an effective complementary treatment.
As a type of Muscle Bi, fibromyalgia is treated with a combination of acupuncture and moxibustion. Three different kinds of points are used:
- Local points in areas of tenderness and pain are needled. Moxibustion and electrical stimulation, if appropriate, may be used. Diathermy (heat lamp) and Tui Na applied to specific acupuncture points or muscle groups may prove useful as well.
- Specific acupuncture points associated with the type of Bi syndrome diagnosed are needled.
- Other underlying factors contributing to the development of Bi are treated as well. Certain points along specific channels may be added to treat certain coinciding differentiations, such as Liver Qi stagnation, Kidney and Spleen deficiency or Qi and Blood deficiency.* Small acupuncture needles, known as intradermal needles, may be left in painful sites for a few days.
**The Chinese medicine version of “Kidney” does not simply refer to the physical organ of a person, but is also used as a general term to describe the energetic components of that particular system in the body. The descriptions used by Chinese medicine pertaining to the treatment of this illness, such as “Kidney deficiency” are merely a metaphor for representing the body.
Fibromyalgia & Herbal Medicine
Herbal medicine treatment for fibromyalgia uses specific herbs to address each of the three levels of treatment, but focuses specifically on using herbs that address Bi. These herbs also provide symptomatic relief of pain and discomfort.
An efficient approach to individualizing herbal prescriptions is to use herbs that stop pain but also expel the pathogenic factors responsible for Bi. Dosages and herbs are chosen on the basis of predominant symptoms. Specific herbs for Bi syndrome also affect different areas of the body and can be used to make the formula more efficient. Herbs to treat Wind, Cold, or Damp in the body also may be added to the formulas. Finally, herbs that affect any predisposing factors may be used as well. No matter what, your formula as a patient will be highly individualized by our Atlanta acupuncturists to fit your body constitution and specific needs.
Fibromyalgia & Qi Gong
Qi Gong exercises offer treatment potential for patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Because CM relates stress, depression, anxiety, and other emotional states to all of the body’s Organs, exercises such as the organ healing sounds may be used to strengthen the organs, help correct imbalances in the body, and maintain emotional balance. These exercises encourage gentle physical movement and stretching, thus reducing pain, eliminating obstruction in channels and maintaining movement. Mindful Qi Gong massage helps relieve pain and increases the flow of Qi.
This highly comprehensive and patient-centered approach takes into account the complex and individual nature of the syndrome in each person. Come to our Atlanta acupuncture clinic to find out more about how we can help you find relief from your fibromyalgia!
For more information on ways to help alleviate fibromyalgia pain please send an email to [email protected] and we will send you a free newsletter with additional information about exercise, diet and meditation practice for fibromyalgia. If you have fibromyalgia and are interested in a natural and holistic means of reducing the frequency and intensity of your pain call 678-549-7848 today for a free fifteen minute phone consultation.