Fibromyalgia is one of the most common rheumatic disorders in the world behind arthritis.
People suffer from fibromyalgia experience a wide range of symptoms, including pain, aches and muscle tenderness and stillness, fatigue, with sleep disorders and intestinal bowel symptoms.
Fibromyalgia often been diagnosed if you have 11 out of 18 specific points on the body are painful or tender to pressure. Interestingly, many of these tender points are similar to the acupuncture points.
TCM Acupuncture and Fibromyalgia symptoms
According to the theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and acupuncture, imbalance and blockage of the Qi (vital energy) flow can result in symptoms and signs that reflect a Western diagnosis of fibromyalgia.
Qi (pronounced “chee”) is the vital energy that animates and supports the functions of the body. It flows through specific pathways, called meridians, and provides nourishment for the entire body.
Our bodies try to maintain a healthy balance of Qi flow through the meridian system. Should the supply of Qi has changed, or the flow of Qi has been disrupted, the pain starts.
Cause of pain – TCM explanation
Where there is blockage in the meridian, there is pain
Where there is malnutrition of the area, there is pain
When Qi is abundant and freely circulating throughout the body, there is health and pain-free living.
When Qi becomes “blocked”, or The supply of Qi is inadequate, the pain or stiffness related to fibromyalgia appears.
What do you do to help my fibromyalgia symptoms?
Firstly, we will ask you a few questions including:
- Where are the pain;
- How long do you have the pain,
- The factors which aggravates/triggers the pain;
- factors relieve your pain;
- Whether you have any sleep problem, emotional disorders such as anxiety, depression; and
- A complete medical history
Then we will check you with the unique Chinese medicine diagnosis approach including tongue check, pulse palpation, acupuncture points /meridian palpation, to make a diagnose according to TCM theory.
A treatment plan will make according to the diagnosis. The treatment may include acupuncture, cupping therapy, acupressure, or Chinese herbs. The treatment plan are tailored to address the meridians, your internal organs’ functions which are out of balance.
The goal is to eliminate symptoms and addressing the causes of the symptoms and underlying imbalance.
Other ways can help
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are alternative approaches for fibromyalgia. It is natural drug free and painless. There are some other ways which can help promote balance and health, including:
- Chinese herbal formulas,
- Dietary recommendations and nutritional advice, and
- Calming relaxing exercises
How acupuncture can help
Western-based systematic reviews of acupuncture for fibromyalgia are dependent on rather few, rather small, randomised trials in which the verum treatment has been compared to a sham version of acupuncture. Given that the sham interventions are not inactive placebos, but effectively different versions of acupuncture, it is not surprising that most reviews have not found acupuncture to be superior.
In general, acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system and cause the release of neurochemical messenger molecules. The resulting biochemical changes influence the body’s homeostatic mechanisms, thus promoting physical and emotional well-being. Stimulation of certain acupuncture points has been shown to affect areas of the brain that are known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress, as well as promoting relaxation and deactivating the ‘analytical’ brain, which is responsible for anxiety (Wu 1999).
Acupuncture may help relieve pain in patients with fibromyalgia by:
- altering the brain’s chemistry, increasing endorphins (Han 2004) and neuropeptide Y levels (Lee 2009; Cheng 2009), and reducing serotonin levels (Zhou 2008);
- evoking short-term increases in mu -opioid receptors binding potential, in multiple pain and sensory processing regions of the brain (Harris 2009);
- stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, which leads to release of endorphins and other neurohumoral factors, and changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord (Pomeranz 1987, Zhao 2008);
- reducing inflammation, by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors (Kavoussi 2007, Zijlstra 2003)
- improving muscle stiffness and joint mobility by increasing local microcirculation (Komori 2009), which aids dispersal of swelling.
Research of acupuncture for fibromyalgia
There is low to moderate-level evidence that compared with no treatment and standard therapy, acupuncture improves pain and stiffness in people with fibromyalgia.
There is moderate-level evidence that the effect of acupuncture does not differ from sham acupuncture in reducing pain or fatigue, or improving sleep or global well-being.
EA is probably better than MA for pain and stiffness reduction and improvement of global well-being, sleep and fatigue.
The effect lasts up to one month, but is not maintained at six months follow-up. MA probably does not improve pain or physical functioning.
Acupuncture appears safe.
People with fibromyalgia may consider using EA alone or with exercise and medication. The small sample size, scarcity of studies for each comparison, lack of an ideal sham acupuncture weaken the level of evidence and its clinical implications. Larger studies are warranted.