TCM and Fibromyalgia
Traditional acupuncture takes a holistic approach to health and regards illness as a sign that the body is out of balance. The exact pattern and degree of imbalance is unique to each individual. The traditional acupuncturists skill lies in identifying the precise nature of the underlying disharmony and selecting the most effective treatment. The choice of acupuncture points will be specific and individual to each patients needs. Traditional acupuncture can also be used as a preventive measure to strengthen the constitution and promote general wellbeing.
Fibromyalgia often happens after a chronic illness, or disease state, such as Chronic Fatigue, Ross River Fever etc. Fibromyalgia needs a multi-modality approach to treat it effectively as no single therapy on its own offers a complete fix to this issue. In Chinese Medicine Fibromyalgia is seen as a disharmony of 3 of the major organs (Spleen, Liver and Kidneys). In Chinese medicine when they talk about the Spleen they are talking about the gut and the immune system. The Kidneys is the Adrenals and the Liver is either the physical liver or the emotional side of the liver, being anger and frustration.
The major pattern of disharmony for Fibromyalgia, according to TCM, is called hot Bi-Sydrome. The Chinese believe that excess fluids cause excess fluids to build in the body (called dampness), and this causes inflammation and heat. They also say that internal wind pushes the damp around the system. Think of the wind over a fire. Basically this relates to wide spread inflammation. Because the organs are in disharmony they cannot transport the fluids properly, detox properly and this cause stagnation in the body. Think of damming a running river and then the water builds up and becomes stagnant. This fluid accumulation, the inflammation and stagnant state cause heat and pain all over the body and this then represents itself as Fibromyalgia.
This is where acupuncture and Chinese herbs can help. The acupuncture and Chinese herbs helps stimulate the organs to work properly, the acupuncture works locally on circulation and pain, and both the herbs and acupuncture reduce inflammation and remove fluids from the body to help in the overall treatment.
On a western medicine perspective, TCM and acupuncture help to release endorphins into the body to help pain and inflammation. They also help with adrenal function and help with any stress response causing inflammation in the body. TCM and acupuncture also help with circulation of the fluids and help with the immune system and gut so that the body functions healthily again.
In modern times with the advent of TENS (Transcutaneous Electro Neuro Stimulation, or Electro stimulation), acupuncture needles can have electro pulses run through them to stimulate nerves and muscles at a local level. It also helps to stimulate more pain helping endorphins into the system and helps to transport the fluid accumulation causing the pain response and inflammation. This electro stimulation helps to increase the efficiency of the acupunctures therapeutic response and helps with increased success in the treatment of pain and arthritic like conditions like fibromyalgia. This can be seen in many of the latest studies on helping pain be electro-acupuncture.
Acupuncture may help relieve pain in patients with fibromyalgia by:
- altering the brains 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.
The Chinese have been treating Fibromyalgia like symptoms for centuries with acupuncture and Chinese herbs and had great success in doing so. While this modern disease state may be known by another name to Chinese Medicine, the cause is still the same as it was 10,000 years ago. In Chinese Medicine they treat the cause to fix a complaint, not treat the symptoms and hope the cause gets fixed at the same time. Basically stress, diet, poor gut function, poor adrenal function, lifestyle and emotional factors and disease states (chronic fatigue, EBV, Ross River etc) are all the cause and these all need to be addressed to fix Fibromylagia. Just addressing the pain (the symptoms) isn’t going to fix this complex issue.