Barbara Poczyniak, R.Ac, Reg. Acupuncturist & Arvigo Therapy ® Practitioner
Symptoms can vary from person to person and can also depend on the weather, stress, physical activity or even the time of day.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia symptoms can vary, but often include:
- Widespread chronic pain in the body
- Fatigue and/or stiffness in the body
- Trouble sleeping
- Painful menstrual periods
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Chronic headaches and facial pain
- Heightened sensitivity (to odours, bright lights, foods, weather changes)
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mood changes
- Tingling or numbness in hands and feet
How is Fibromyalgia diagnosed
Approximately 2% of the North American population may suffer from this disorder, and up to 90% of those diagnosed are women. Most people are diagnosed in mid-life, although there is no specific laboratory test for fibromyalgia. Other medical tests and lab results are ruled out prior to the diagnosis of this disorder. A set of guidelines for assessment is also used by doctors, by which patients must have had widespread aches and pains for a minimum of 3 months and pain/tenderness at a minimum of 11 out of 18 locations on the body.
What causes Fibromyalgia
There is no known cause of fibromyalgia, but it has been linked to:
- Injury (particularly to upper spinal region for some people)
- Traumatic and/or stressful events
- Infection (scientists believe a viral or bacterial infection may be a trigger)
- Abnormalities of the sympathetic nervous system
- Disturbed sleep patterns
Some scientists think a gene or set of genes may be responsible. In some cases there is no obvious factor and fibromyalgia appears to occur on its own.
Treatment of Fibromyalgia
There is no definitive medical treatment for fibromyalgia, and it can be hard to treat. Some people who suffer from this disorder also may have other complex chronic conditions such as chronic fatigue, Rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. Effective treatment usually requires a team approach (doctor, physical therapist as well other health care providers such as acupuncturist, massage therapist, etc).
A balanced treatment plan usually includes:
- taking medication (if prescribed)
- getting enough sleep
- managing stress, making lifestyle/work changes if necessary
- eating well
- getting enough exercise
How Acupuncture can help with Fibromyalgia
Acupuncture has been studied and shown as being an effective part of treatment for patients with Fibromyalgia. In studies it has been combined with counselling, as well as lifestyle changes such as reduction of coffee and alcohol and gradual increase of exercise such as walking.
Results from these studies suggest that the acupuncture is believed to correct neuro-endocrine dysfunctions by stimulating endorphins in the brain. These endorphins have multiple effects on the nervous system including reducing pain, improving mood and a sense of well-being.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, pain is one symptom that tells us qi is not moving regularly and smoothly in the body. Acupuncture helps regulate the free flow of qi and relieves any stagnation that may be causing obstruction and therefore pain or other symptoms.
In TCM, fibromyalgia is generally viewed as being related to the Liver organ system, which is primarily responsible for the smooth flow of qi and blood. Poor sleep, mood changes, headaches and other symptoms can also be greatly affected by the functioning of Liver organ system and the quality of qi movement. Although symptoms are usually treated individually in western medicine, in TCM we look at the root cause and focus on bringing the body back to homeostasis.
- Understanding Fibromyalgia, Acupuncture Today
- What Is Fibromyalgia? National Institutes of Health
- Treatment of Fibromyalgia with acupuncture and counselling, BCMJ