Fibromyalgia: A Chinese Medicine Point of View

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Explanation of Fibromyalgia Symptoms According to Chinese Medicine

Fibromyalgia simply isn’t the great mystery doctors make it out to be nor is any other disease. All disease follows a pattern as predicated by the foundations of Chinese Medicine. In fact, there can be many causes of fibromyalgia symptoms which can be accurately assessed and effectively treated by an experienced Chinese Medicine practitioner.

Causes according to Chinese Medicine may include:

  • Blood Deficiency
  • Qi Deficiency
  • Qi and Blood Deficiency
  • Dampness
  • Disharmony of Spleen, Kidney, Heart

These causes may be further influenced by drug use, stress, dietary or other factors.

 

The Truth about Fibromyalgia

Western medicine doctors diagnose fibromyalgia by process of elimination.

“Fibromyalgia” is often diagnosed when no other condition, such as arthritis, can be positively identified by objective medical tests.

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.

Low thyroid levels (hypothyroidism), polymyalgia rheumatica, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Lyme disease, Restless Leg Syndrome, major depression, Myofascial Pain Syndrome can all cause symptoms that may be diagnosed as fibromyalgia.

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 precipitating 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.

Symptoms of fibromyalgia 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 medicine views certain symptoms categorically as “fibromyalgia” symptoms while other symptoms may not have any specific relationship to fibromyalgia making a definitive diagnosis difficult. If the condition is not diagnosed and treated early, symptoms can go on indefinitely, or they may disappear for months and then recur.

Fibromyalgia Pain: A Chinese Medicine Point of View

Quite simply, where there’s pain, there is lack of sufficiently flowing energy (qi) or blood.

Pain is caused by the stagnation of energy or fluids (blood). When flow is restrained or interrupted, pain occurs, alerting us to a problem. Three causes of pain are:

1. Obstruction (The flow of qi or blood becomes blocked in a specific area of the body due to injury, swelling, 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.)

Successful treatment for fibromyalgia symptoms requires consultation with a skilled practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). To effectively address fibromyalgia symptoms, the TCM physician must accurately diagnose the root cause of the pain. This is done largely according to by tongue and pulse examination which can provide substantially more information than any blood tests, or MRIs.

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.

Historically, Acupuncture, Asian Bodywork Therapy and Chinese Herbal Therapy have been very successful in eliminating the root causes of fibromyalgia.