Jade Acupuncture Clinic

Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia syndrome can be a very frustrating illness, but does respond to treatment by Chinese medicine. It’s not a well understood disease by the medical community or family and friends, however it affects up to 5% of the population, with approximately 6 million suffers in the United States alone. Fibromyalgia can affect people of all ages, although diagnosis typically occurs between the ages of 20 and 55. About 20% of those diagnosed with fibromyalgia are men.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic illness that causes immense physical pain and debilitating fatigue. It is a condition that causes many different symptoms, which can affect all parts of the body. In addition to pain and fatigue, other symptoms can include sleep disorders, morning stiffness, irritable bowel syndrome, foggy thinking, chronic headaches, numbness and tingling in the extremities, dizziness and light headedness, and skin and chemical sensitivities. Symptoms may be aggravated by weather or stress.

Fibromyalgia is not easily diagnosed, and is generally diagnosed only after other diseases and disorders are ruled out. A person with fibromyalgia needs to have experienced pain for 3 or more months, and have at least 11 of the 18 specified tender points of fibromyalgia.

Researchers have a number of possible theories for the possible causes for fibromyalgia syndrome; however no definite cause of fibromyalgia has been determined. Some of the theories include an autonomic nervous system disorder dysfunction, injury and muscle trauma, genetic predisposition, an infectious agent such as a virus, or an over-active immune system. It is also theorized that sleep disorders, considered to be a symptom of fibromyalgia, may actually be the cause of the illness.

In 2007, the FDA approved Lyrica, the first medication specifically targeted to fibromyalgia patients. In 2008, Cymbalta became the second approved medication for fibromyalgia. While the medications don’t cure fibromyalgia, they are reported to decrease pain and improve function for those who take the drug. Side effects include dizziness, sleepiness, blurred vision, weight gain, dry mouth, swelling of the hands and feet, impaired motor function, and problems with concentration and attention. Other side effects include nausea, constipation, and increased sweating.

Other medications commonly used to treat fibromyalgia syndrome include muscle relaxants and anti-anxiety medicines. These medications come with a wide range of side effects as well, including increased risk of suicide.

Chinese medicine provides a safer treatment option than medications, and avoids the serious and unwanted side effects of pharmaceuticals.

Both acupuncture and Chinese herbs have been shown to be helpful in treating fibromyalgia. A study published in the June 2006 edition of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings shows acupuncture can relieve fatigue and anxiety in fibromyalgia patients for up to 7 months after the treatment. This study was also presented at the 11th World Congress on Pain.

Overall, researchers found that the reported relief acupuncture provided was on par with medications, such as anti-depressants and acetaminophen. Acupuncture treatments have also been shown to decrease depression for suffers of fibromyalgia.

A 2006 study in the Zhejiang Journal of Chinese Medicine found that Chinese herbal medicine was more effective than Western medications in treating the symptoms of fibromyalgia, with no adverse reactions among those taking the herbs.

In addition to acupuncture and Chinese herbs, it’s important to consider the “Three Free Therapies”, as Bob Flaws calls them. Exercise can be beneficial; however care must be taken to avoid overdoing exercise. It’s also important to find time for relaxation. Additionally, proper diet is a key component in a treatment plan for fibromyalgia.

Although fibromyalgia can be a very trying and debilitating disease, Chinese medicine can provide a safe, gentle, and effective treatment option.     

Copyright 2008 by Jeri Petz, MSOM, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM), Dipl. OM (NCCAOM)
Jade Acupuncture Clinic Ltd.