Fibromyalgia affects more than 500,000 Canadians almost 2% of the population. Chances are that more people are people living with fibromyalgia due to lack of a diagnosis of the disease. It is much more common in women, but men can also have it.
Even the people who have been given a diagnosis of fibromyalgia have usually spent many frustrating years trying to convince doctors that there was really something wrong with them. Why is it so hard for conventional Western medicine to diagnose fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is similar to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in that it is not seen as a clear-cut disease caused by a specific agent, but rather as a collection of symptoms. Fibromyalgia means "pain of the muscle fiber," and the most characteristic symptom is a high level of pain in muscle tissue.
Diagnosis is made when there is a history of widespread pain in all four quadrants of the body for a minimum duration of three months and pain when pressure is applied to at least 11 of 18 designated tender points on the body. This condition does not result in any physical damage to the body or its tissues and there are no laboratory tests which can confirm this diagnosis.
Symptoms often begin after a physical or emotional trauma, but in many cases there appears to be no triggering event. Women are more prone to develop the disorder than are men, and the risk of fibromyalgia increases with age.
Fibromyalgia patterns based on TCM differentiation:
1- Liver Qi Stagnation - anxiety, emotional upset, headaches (including migraine headache), being easily angered, muscle stiffness in neck and shoulders, insomnia, waking frequently and having difficulty falling back to sleep, irritable bowel syndrome. All symptoms may be triggered by emotional stress
2- Qi and Blood Deficiency - specifically spleen qi deficiency and heart blood/liver blood deficiency, with such symptoms as chronic fatigue, exhaustion, dull headache, loose bowel movement, IBS, muscle weakness and numbness, insomnia, dream-disturbed sleep and waking up tired, palpitations and depression.
3- Qi Stagnation and Blood Stasis - aches and pains in the whole body, burning or gnawing pain with tingling sensations in extremities, headaches.
4- Kidney Deficiency (either Yin, Yang, Qi or Essence Deficiency) - there will be impotence or lack of libido for males and infertility issues for both males and females. Other symptoms: sore lower back with restless leg syndrome, irritable bladder, dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, premenstrual syndrome, hot flashes and night sweats.
Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine for Fibromyalgia:
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine provide relief of symptoms by balancing yin and yang, and moving the qi and the blood. A lot of tender points of Fibromyalgia are on or adjacent to actual acupuncture points. For example the tender points at the base of the skull are actually on the Gall Bladder Channel (GB-20), and the name of the point in Chinese is "Feng Chi" meaning Wind Pool and is traditionally used for headache, head wind, one-sided and generalized headache, dizziness and so forth. A regular plan, with long-term, consistent integrative treatment is necessary in patients with fibromyalgia.
Chinese herbal medicine works wonderfully for relief of Fibromyalgia pain. Herbal formulas can be used to move the qi and blood, increase circulation, strengthen kidneys, and or tonify spleen and heart.
Acupuncture research for Fibromyalgia:
A study conducted by the University of Washington and the Center for Health Studies at Group Health Hospital, suggests that more than half of all participants had clinically meaningful improvements:
- Pain 46%
- Fatigue 51%
- General well being 45%
Another study suggests that acupuncture demonstrates positive change in the Visual Analogue Scale, myalgia index, number of tender points, and improvement in quality of life based on the SF-36 questionnaire.
[Ref: /soc. For acupuncture research-10th Ann. Symposium 2003;29. Targino, RA., et. Al., Curr Pain headache Rep., 2002 Ar.; 23(1):49-0.]