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Fibromyalgia - Finding relief in the fog

Updated: Dec 6, 2022

Along with chronic body pain, Fibromyalgia sufferers experience fatigue, sleep issues, cognitive deficits, mood instability and gastrointestinal disturbances

What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a condition that affects many although remaining cloaked in mystery. Manifesting as chronic widespread pain and tenderness throughout the body most patients report their symptoms to fluctuate, move around and alter frequently. In addition to the chronic body pain, the symptoms of Fibromyalgia include extreme fatigue, sleep issues, memory and concentration deficits, mood instability and gastrointestinal disturbances.

Specialists believe that Fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your body perceives and responds to pain.

Why does Fibromyalgia occur?

Once again, like many questions surrounding Fibromyalgia the answer to this remains a work in progress. It has been demonstrated that fibromyalgia is more common in women than men and many people who have fibromyalgia may have also experienced the following conditions:

  • Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

There is some evidence that fibromyalgia can develop after an illness or event such as:

  • Rheumatoid or other inflammatory arthritis

  • Following an illness or virus such as Shingles or Glandular Fever

  • Trauma or injury resulting in chronic pain

  • Emotional upheaval, long periods of anxiety or depression

Many Fibromyalgia patients report feeling dismissed by the medical profession and that their pain is not considered 'real'

There is ongoing research into the cause of fibromyalgia and along with the possible trigger episodes listed above, consideration is being given to genetic factors and how certain genes can cause a person to respond differently to a pain stimulus. Problems with an individual’s central nervous system and its ability to process pain is also being investigated.

The lack of definitive diagnostic testing presents one of the biggest hurdles for fibromyalgia sufferers. Many patients report feeling dismissed by the medical profession, that their pain is not considered to be ‘real’ and that nothing further can be done to support them. This tends to lead to distress and frustration which only serves to exacerbate anxiety and stress potentially flaring the condition.

How is Fibromyalgia diagnosed?

Diagnosis of fibromyalgia is generally reached by conducting testing that will rule out other conditions that have similar presentations. Diagnosis is also based on the following:

  • A patient presenting with a history of widespread pain lasting more than 3 months

And Potentially:

  • Fatigue

  • Cognitive problems

  • Digestive upset

  • Mood instability


Fibromyalgia and Traditional Chinese Medicine:

The movement of Qi around our body can be likened to the flow of water in a river. Pain occurs when our Qi flow is obstructed or stagnent, think a blockage or halt to a rivers passage.

Traditional Chinese Medicine would categorize fibromyalgia as ‘ji bi’ (muscle impediment). Bi Syndrome in Traditional Chinese Medicine theory is a term also known as “Painful Obstruction Syndrome” and is categorized by an obstruction in the flow of Qi and Blood movement through the meridians resulting in joint pain, muscle pain or numbness and can include soreness of the tendons.

Fibromyalgia has a set of commonly associated symptoms that are Traditional Chinese Medicine disease categories in their own right. This means we would consider the patterns for those conditions and their associated treatments when approaching a patients fibromyalgia support. The three main associated conditions besides ‘ji bi’ are:

  • ‘Xu Lao’ - vacuity taxation or pattern of severe weakness

  • ‘Yu Zheng’ - depressive condition or unexpressed emotions

  • ‘Shi Mian’ – to suffer from insomnia

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners consider the causes of disease in a wholistic manner. Observing their connection to external environmental factors, emotional influences, lifestyle, and dietary considerations and associated TCM pattens:

By viewing the cause of disease wholistically TCM considers the impact of our internal and external environments

The six environmental excesses:

  • Wind

  • Cold

  • Heat

  • Dryness

  • Dampness

  • Summer Heat

The Seven affects:

  • Joy

  • Sadness / Grief

  • Anger

  • Fear

  • Pensiveness / Worry

  • Fright

  • Shock

Additional factors are:

  • Poor Diet

  • Alcohol Consumption

  • Iatrogenesis

  • Aging

TCM Patterns are:

  • Liver-spleen disharmony

  • Damp Heat

  • Qi and yin vacuity with liver depression and fire effulgence

  • Spleen-kidney yang vacuity with liver depression

  • Spleen qi and yin & yang vacuity heat with liver depression

  • Blood Stasis

  • Phlegm nodulation

We find the core disease mechanism of a fibromyalgia syndrome to commonly be a liver-spleen disharmony that over time evolves into qi and yin vacuity and liver depression due to either body type or age.


Traditional Chinese Medicine support of Fibromyalgia:

Fibromyalgia sufferers respond well to a combination of Traditional Chinese Medicine techniques

When a patient is diagnosed with fibromyalgia it is usually post extensive testing to rule out any other rheumatoid conditions whose symptoms can mimic that of fibromyalgia. Whilst it is a relief to have these significant conditions excluded, a diagnosis of fibromyalgia can be met with frustration and distress as western medicine presently has little to offer in the way of treatment other than pain support via medication.

Once a patient arrives at diagnosis, which can take many years, a multi-modality approach to patient support is usually suggested. This is inclusive of psychological support, chronic pain management specialists and complementary therapies. It is often at this point patients will explore modalities such as acupuncture.

The symptoms of Fibromyalgia all carry significant weight on their own. This means when supporting a patient with fibromyalgia it is essential that we not only discover and alleviate the root cause for the pain, but we also address any associated emotional imbalances, gut disharmony, and sleep issues.

You can read more about the treatment of insomnia in a blog on Scott’s website ‘Insomnia Support, find balance with Traditional Chinese Medicine’ and emotional support in the blog on the Red Bridge website ‘The important link between the emotions and our health.’ We have also written extensively in our prior blogs about digestive health. As IBS is common amongst fibromyalgia patients you may be interested in reading ‘IBS support with Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine.’

At Red Bridge Family Acupuncture Healesville, we find that Fibromyalgia sufferers respond well to a combination of Traditional Chinese Medicine techniques. Acupuncture and moxibustion work well together to address the pain by strengthening qi and invigorating its movement. In some more recent cases we have also found great results with the use of vagus nerve stimulation. In all cases there will be dietary and lifestyle guidance offered to support the treatment. A great deal can be gained from observing and correcting areas of our diet and day to day habits that are negatively impacting our health. Often herbal medicine may also be prescribed to help further address underlying imbalances.

Qi loves movement

Incorporating gentle movement into the recovery process is essential. Therapeutic exercise such as walking, swimming, Qigong or Tai Chi can be a great low impact additions for patients who resist movement due to pain and fatigue. These exercises also have the benefit of supporting good sleep hygiene, calming anxiety, and mobilizing the body to support Qi movement.

If you or someone you know is suffering from the symptoms of Fibromyalgia and you would like to learn more please feel free to contact us on (03)59061494 or via our to find out more information.

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