What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is defined as widespread pain and fatigue. It’s a very difficult disease to have because it is extremely hard to diagnosis because it mirrors so many other conditions and there is no specific test to diagnose it. It is also difficult to have because there is no cure for fibromyalgia, only ways to control the symptoms. There are millions of adults, over the age of 18, who currently have fibromyalgia. While fibromyalgia has symptoms similar to an autoimmune disease, researchers believe that it is actually involved in the nervous system.
There are a few risk factors of fibromyalgia. One is being a woman. Women account for 80-90% of fibromyalgia patients. If fibromyalgia runs in your family, you are also more likely to have it. If you were diagnosed with any other disorders, such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus, this would increase your chances of having fibromyalgia, too. Any repetitive injury or any traumatic event could also onset fibromyalgia. Obesity is another risk factor associated with fibromyalgia, which is why health and nutrition are very important for proper body function.
Doctors must run lab tests and x-rays to rule out the possibility of any other conditions. While there is no way to diagnose fibromyalgia, there are some symptoms that doctors can look out for such as pain, sensitivity to cold or heat, sensitivity to touch, fatigue, headaches, irregular sleep patterns, etc. The symptoms greatly mirror those of arthritis. Another symptom is something called fibro-fog. Fibro fog is when you have difficulty with memory and concentration. Patients may also experience bladder issues, digestive issues, and depression or anxiety. These symptoms usually appear around the age of 45, but can appear at any time.
Everyone experiences different symptoms of fibromyalgia, so it’s important for your doctor to know exactly what you are experiencing so that they can try to alleviate your symptoms and pain. Anti-depressants are used to help treat your pain, exercising, massage, physical therapy, etc. Setting a regular sleep pattern can also help. People with fibromyalgia need to get proper rest. Exercise is the most effective treatment for fibromyalgia and should be used in combination with any other treatment option. Cognitive behavioral therapy is also used to treat depression stemming from your fibromyalgia. This is therapy that is used to change the way people act or think.
Acupuncture for Fibromyalgia
Another great treatment plan for fibromyalgia is acupuncture treatment. It is said that 1 in 5 people with fibromyalgia use acupuncture within 2 years of their diagnosis. In Chinese Medicine, fibromyalgia is categorized as ji bi, which is muscle impediment. Practitioners of TCM call fibromyalgia a Liver-Spleen disharmony. There are multiple acupuncture points that can be used in fibromyalgia treatment, all depending on what symptoms they are trying to help.
Acupoints for Fibromyalgia
For damp heat obstruction, which deals with fatigue and the inability to concentrate, these are some acupuncture treatment points.
- SP 6—Used to tonify Yin and Blood, all spleen disorders.
- ST 36 –Used to tonify deficient Qi and Blood and also to tonify Wei Qi
- ST 8 – Used to help with headaches and dizziness.
For Qi Deficiency:
- CV 6 – Used for building and storing Qi and helpful with combating general fatigue.
- GV 20 – Used for headaches and effecting the Tong Ren/Tam Healing System, which is related to emotions, memory, and behavior.
- UB 20 – This is the main point for all spleen problems. Also used commonly for fatigue.
For Yin Deficiency:
- CV 4 – Used for all deficiencies of Yin, Yang, Qi, and Blood.
For Yang Deficiency:
- KD 3 – Used to tonify DK Yin or Yang deficiencies.
- KD 7 – Used to tonify KD Yang and low back pain.
Research Studies on Acupuncture for Fibromyalgia
In a 2010 research study, an acupuncturist had a total of 24 patients who were treated for 12 weeks. Each session was 30 minutes long and they were seen twice weekly. Moxibustion was used to warm the needles. During this treatment, patients were counseled regarding certain topics pertaining to fibromyalgia. After one month of the study, one patient discontinued treatment because she felt worse and three patients had gone into remission. That left 20 patients, which most of the patients had an 85% large improvement rate. This study was a success for acupuncture treatment for fibromyalgia.
Another research study done in 2016 had a total of 153 patients. They were broken down into two groups: one group receiving individualized acupuncture and the other group receiving sham acupuncture. Both groups were given one acupuncture treatment a week, lasting 20 minutes. In addition to the acupuncture treatment, there was also usual pharmacological treatment. At the end of the treatment, the individualized treatment proved to be efficient in terms of pain relief. This pain relief lasted one year, with symptoms only being mild and infrequent.
A woman, Carrie Anton, posted her own story online about her success with acupuncture in helping her fibromyalgia symptoms. She said she was extremely skeptical of acupuncture and found the whole thing to be odd. Despite her skepticism, she tried it. After speaking to the acupuncturist about her health, he suggested two treatments per week for the next couple of months, then gradually reduce the visits to once a week. During her treatment, she felt so relaxed that she actually fell asleep. When the doctor returned, he asked her how she was feeling. She felt tingly, which the doctor said was her Chi. After her first treatment, she was already noticing a significant difference. She continued treatment for six months, until the cost became too much because of a change in her health care plan.
Complications of Fibromyalgia
Because there is no cure for fibromyalgia, there are some complications that come with this condition. Patients with fibromyalgia are more likely to experience a lower quality of life. They also will experience higher rates of depression, which leads to higher suicide rates. Chances are if you have fibromyalgia, it is co-existing with another condition. The pain and fatigue experience with fibromyalgia can make it difficult to perform daily tasks or to even work, causing disability.
Anton, C. 2017. Skeptical at First, Acupuncture Soothed My Fibromyalgia Symptoms. Fibromyalgia News Today.
Clydesdale, D. 2007. The Yin and Yang of Fibromyalgia Syndrome: Treatments Based on the Ancient Wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine. National Fibromyalgia Association.
Clarke, T. 2004. Treatment of Fibromyalgia With Acupuncture and Counseling. BC Medical Journal.
Nordqvist, C. 2018. Everything You Need to Know About Fibromyalgia. Medical News Today.
Acupuncture for Chronic Fatigue/Fibromyalgia- Treatment Protocols. Ying Yang House Theory.
Vas J, Santos-Rey K, Navarro-Pablo R, et al. Acupuncture for fibromyalgia in primary care: a randomized controlled trial. Acupuncture in Medicine 2016;34:257-266.
What is Fibromyalgia? National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association