Acupuncture can be an effective treatment method for patients seeking relief from the aches and pains of fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is an idiopathic condition that frequently presents with whole body pain and sensitivity, but can also have several other accompanying symptoms such as gastrointestinal disturbances, insomnia, low energy, joint pain, numbness and tingling, trouble thinking clearly and anxiety. Recent studies doing a meta-analysis of the effectiveness of acupuncture for those suffering from fibromyalgia found that acupuncture was an effective treatment method resulting in pain reduction, improved sleep and improved quality of life.
In Chinese medicine and acupuncture, the best way to approach a problem is through the use of a differential diagnosis. Chinese medicine has a saying “one pattern, one hundred diseases. One disease, One hundred patterns.” What this means is that a given pattern of organ disharmony can manifest in many different ways, causing many different symptoms or disease. But at the same time, in a given disease, such as fibromyalgia, there can be several root problems that can manifest with similar symptoms. For example if we were to take a sample of 100 people with fibromyalgia and look not only at their common symptoms of pain, but to take all of their other body wide symptoms and tendencies into account, we would find not just one pattern that would correspond to them, but most likely 3 or 4 groups of people that had similar symptoms and patterns. This differential diagnosis is important in acupuncture and Chinese medicine because the approach, use of acupuncture points, use of herbs and dietary therapies will vary depending on the underlying pattern causing disease. This is one of the great strengths of Chinese medicine, to be able to look at the individual and find the root cause, and treat accordingly rather than grouping all people with a broad diagnosis together and treating them the same way.
Most commonly there are three patterns found in those people with fibromyalgia. The first, Qi and Blood deficiency results from a weakness and taxation of the body resulting in a body wide deficiency and lack of nourishment. This lack of qi and blood produces low circulation of these substance which results in pain, insomnia, low energy, poor digestion and trouble thinking clearly. Treatment strategies here are to gently move the qi and blood in the body while tonifying the qi and blood with herbs and dietary therapy. Next most common is a stagnation of qi and blood, in this case there is enough qi and blood in the body, but there is again a lack of circulation of qi and blood that causes pain throughout the body. Here, stronger techniques are used to move the qi and blood and restore proper circulation as well as looking for the root cause for the stagnation, which could be environmental, traumatic, or emotional. Finally, excessive highly emotional states and high stress over long periods of time can also be a common pattern. Emotional regulation often falls upon the Liver in Chinese medicine, which is also responsible for the flow of qi and blood throughout the body. When the liver is overtaxed through high stress and emotions in excess of what the person is capable of handling, again a lack of circulation of qi and blood can occur causing pain. These liver stagnation related symptoms can also cause insomnia, digestive issues, low energy and anger, frustration, irritability and depression. Moving the qi and blood and helping calm the mind through emotional regulation is the approach with this type of pattern.
Whatever the reason behind the fibromyalgia symptoms, acupuncture and Chinese medicine has the tools to proper diagnose not only what is going on in the body, but why it is happening and then can take steps to correct the imbalance, resulting in pain reduction, improved sleep and digestion, better mood and more energy.
If you are in Aurora CO, Denver, CO or any of the surrounding cities and are interested treating fibromyalgia with acupuncture and Chinese medicine or have questions about this or any other issue, please feel free to call or email me, I would love to speak with you!