Fibromyalgia is a complex condition involving pain and other symptoms such as tiredness, increased sensitivity to gentle touch, weakness of the limbs, sleep problems, anxiety, depression and muscle spasms. Difficulty concentrating and problems with the memory are also common – this is often referred to as ‘brain fog’ or ‘fibro-fog’. The clinical picture varies tremendously from person to person, with each individual having different symptoms.
The cause of fibromyalgia is not understood by conventional medicine. A number of ideas have been proposed, relating to sleep disturbance, stress, and abnormality of neurotransmitters (such as dopamine and serotonin) in the brain. Because this is a poorly understood condition, Western medicine has little to offer by way of treatment – drugs used include analgesics, muscle relaxants, hormones, anti-depressants and anti-seizure medication. Naturally, there are side-effects with most of these drugs, and the success rate is quite low.
Chinese medicine treats fibromyalgia as a ‘knotty problem’ – that is, a complex interconnection of different causes and symptoms. By taking a holistic and individualised approach it is possible to get a unique picture of the state of each individual – looking at the person rather than the disease.
For ‘knotty problems’ such as fibromyalgia an integrated approach to treatment can be extremely effective as it approaches the condition from a number of different angles at the same time.
A number of studies on the acupuncture treatment of fibromyalgia have shown significant improvement in symptoms, especially pain , fatigue and anxiety. Participants also reported improved overall well-being and quality of life. Acupuncture can be used to regulate the hormones and strengthen the Qi to boost energy levels and reduce anxiety.
Tui Na massage can relax tense muscles and ease muscle spasm.
The ‘brain fog’ of fibromyalgia is a common symptom of ‘Dampness’ in Chinese medicine, which can effectively be tackled with Chinese herbs and/or acupuncture.Herbs are also very effective for improving energy levels.
Nutritional advice can be extremely useful to reinforce the effects of the treatment, especially in boosting energy levels and clearing ‘brain fog’.
As the symptoms of fibromyalgia are interconnected, an integrated approach such as this can tackle different symptoms at the same time, leading to a gradual improvement in all areas of health and well-being. The different branches of Chinese medicine developed together, and in complex cases like fibromyalgia the effect of each kind of treatment works to bolster and reinforce the other treatments, leading to a quicker and stronger effect.
For more info on my own UK based practice click here: Integrated Chinese Medicine, Bristol & South Wales