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.

Alternative Therapy for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: The Asian Bodywork Connection

qua·le – [kwah-lee, kwey-lee] –noun, plural -li·a [-lee-uh] Philosophy. A sense-datum or feeling having a distinctive quality.

How can anyone adequately describe an experience of a personal nature unless the persons you’re speaking to have an adequate frame of reference with which to relate such an experience?

The symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are a result of a traumatic experience as unique to any individual as the experience itself. Can any drugs or therapies “cure” someone of an experience?

PTSD cannot be categorized as specifically emotional or psychological. The nature of this imbalance is emotional, psychological and pathological. “Pathological” meaning changes occurring in the tissues or organs. Anyone can be susceptible to long term effects resulting from a traumatic experience. Even an infant can suffer a lifetime of physical and psychological effects caused by a single frightening event.

From the aspect of Traditional Chinese Medicine, pathological changes resulting in illness are due to imbalances in the collective function of the internal organs. These imbalances may manifest as any combination of emotional, psychological or physical ailments which vary from person to person according to their constitution (a conglomerate of inherent strengths and weaknesses).

According to Chinese Medicine the heart acts as an “Emperor” in a manner of speaking. The heart is responsible for coordinating the functions of all other internal organs (Ministers) and has a profound influence over the conscious and subconscious mind. Each organ has a unique association with specific emotions and bodily functions in addition to a distinct and balanced correlation with various facets contributory to the integrative aspects of a complete and healthy mind.

When one experiences sudden fright, the energy (Qi) allocated to the heart scatters. The resulting feeling of energy trying to return to the heart can best be described as a tingling sensation in the chest. Depending on one’s constitution (inherent strengths or weaknesses) the full amount of scattered energy may not return to the heart. As a result, the Emperor loses the ability to appropriately dictate to the Ministers. Hence, a Dominant Minister, as dictated by one’s constitution, will struggle to subjugate the other organs until the organ becomes depleted. The resulting turmoil as another Dominant Minister struggles to gain control perpetuates a continuous cycle of imbalance affecting all-inclusive aspects of the body. The resulting emotional changes vary to include overwhelming fear, anger, worry, sorrow and confusion. Continuous emotional and psychological turmoil often give rise to physical ailments such as heart problems, digestive disorders, skin disorders, migraines, immune system problems- even cancer.

The organs depicted in the diagram are Yin organs. Each has a mutually paired Yang organ directly influenced by any internal imbalances. Each organ pair has a distinctly related emotion.

PicPTSD

Heart         Small Intestine  (Joy)
Spleen           Stomach     (Worry)
Lung     Large Intestine (Sorrow)
Kidney                Bladder     (Fear)
Liver         Gall Bladder    (Anger)

Improvements to health conditions can be made by positively influencing emotional, psychological or physical aspects of the body. However, since one cannot directly touch the emotions or mind, the physical body is a sensible area to begin therapy.

Asian Bodywork Therapy can help safely restore proper order to the imbalances associated with PTSD and substantially compliments all other therapies. Any effective treatment plan should vary according to each individual’s specific needs at any given time. Chinese Medicine concedes that the body is constantly changing in accordance with outside stimuli. As such, an Asian Bodywork treatment will be different every time.

The definition of Asian Bodywork Therapy (ABT) as defined by the AOBTA (American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia) is…

“…the treatment of the human body/mind/spirit, including the electromagnetic or energetic field which surrounds, infuses and brings that body to life, by using pressure and/or manipulation. Asian Bodywork is based upon Chinese Medical principles for assessing and evaluating the body’s energetic system. It uses traditional Asian techniques and treatment strategies to primarily affect and balance the energetic system for the purpose of treating the human body, emotions, mind, energy field and spirit for the promotion, maintenance and restoration of health.”

Advantages of ABT:

  • No drugs
  • Non invasive
  • Cost effective
  • Individualized therapy
  • Accurate holistic assessment/ therapy
  • Safe adjunct therapy
  • Self-help inclusive
  • Alleviates related ailments
  • No negative side-effects

* Logical comparisons cannot be made between Western medicine and Chinese medicine diagnoses and therapies. Terminology cannot be adequately equated and basic foundational theories are radically different.