Unravelling Fibromyalgia: A Traditional Chinese Medicine Perspective

Unraveling Fibromyalgia: A Traditional Chinese Medicine Perspective

What is Fibromyalgia? 

In the realm of chronic disorders, fibromyalgia stands as a perplexing and debilitating condition, characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, tenderness, and heightened sensitivity to pressure. It affects around 4 million adults in the United States. Due to its multifaceted nature, involving both central and peripheral factors, medical professionals and researchers continue to grapple with understanding its underlying cause and mechanisms.

While Western medicine fixates on symptom mitigation, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) digs deeper and brings valuable insights to unravel the hidden mysteries of fibromyalgia. 

Continue reading to discover how TCM views fibromyalgia, its underlying causes, and the holistic treatment modalities in TCM theory.

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Traditional Chinese Medicine Say About Fibromyalgia

What Does Traditional Chinese Medicine Say About Fibromyalgia? 

In TCM, fibromyalgia is coupled with imbalances in qi flow, yin and yang forces, and blood circulation. The patterns of disharmony are often tied to liver qi stagnation, spleen qi deficiency, and kidney essence deficiency. 

There are certain treatments described later in this article that aim to restore flow, harmonize energy, and nourish the affected body parts.

10 Root Causes of Fibromyalgia 

The exact cause of fibromyalgia is still hidden despite extensive research and studies. However, here are ten common contributing triggers that have been noticed in most of these cases.

  1. Presence of genetic predisposition in many individuals.
  2. Abnormal processing of pain signals in the neural pathway.
  3. Neurochemical imbalances.
  4. Serious physical injury or trauma.
  5. Environmental factors such as toxins, infection, or allergens.
  6. Psychological or emotional stress.
  7. Autoimmune conditions as in Gu syndrome
  8. Sleeplessness. 
  9. Chronic inflammation.
  10. Hormonal imbalances including estrogen dominance

Fibromyalgia vs. Multiple-Sclerosis 

Fibromyalgia and multi-sclerosis are two entirely different medical conditions.

Fibromyalgia is a persistent pain condition illustrating restless sleep, extensive pain, and fatigue all over your body. Conversely, MS is an autoimmune illness that affects the central nervous system, reflecting various neurological issues such as cognitive impairment, muscle weakness, and sight problems.

Both FM and MS can adversely affect your life with chronic symptoms, but they pertain to distinct causes and require definite diagnostic tools for treatment.

Fibromyalgia Symptoms

Fibromyalgia Symptoms 

Researchers suggest that fibromyalgia, a condition that can affect people of all ages, tends to be more prevalent in women and children than in men. Here are some common fibromyalgia symptoms.

  • Prolonged pain in various parts of your body.
  • Extreme tiredness after a good night’s sleep.
  • Having difficulty sleeping.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
  • Digestive problems like bloating, constipation, diarrhea, etc.
  • Waking up with joint stiffness.
  • Sensitivity to touch and pressure at tender points. 
  • Trouble with concentration, memory, and attention span.
  • Numbness, tingling, weakness in arms, legs, feet, back, and neck.
  • Tension headaches and migraine issues. 
  • Abdominal or bladder pain.
  • Paraspinal lumbar tenderness.
  • Restless leg syndrome.

It’s important to note that the symptoms of fibromyalgia can often overlap with other conditions, making the diagnosis  a bit challenging. That’s why it’s always recommended to seek evaluation from a healthcare professional.

Types of Fibromyalgia Pain

Types of Fibromyalgia Pain

1. Fibromyalgia Back Pain

Back pain stemming from fibromyalgia can be incredibly intense, even though there may not be any visible signs of swelling or inflammation. Typically, this type of pain radiates from the upper to the lower back area, tending to cause stiffness in your shoulders, hips, neck, and chest muscles.

2. Fibromyalgia Chest Pain

Inflammation in your costal cartilage can trigger sharp pain in your upper sternum and ribs, making breathing difficult and resulting in chest pain. This condition can further extend to musculoskeletal tightness and soreness, and often get confused with heart attack.

3. Fibromyalgia Foot Pain

Pain is always an unpleasant sensation, but certain types can tremendously impact your life. Foot pain is one such type that can impede your strength, balance, and mobility. During a flare-up, you may feel sizzling tingles when walking or wearing shoes, resulting in numbing pain with every step, especially when putting pressure on your feet.

4. Fibromyalgia Headaches

If you have fibromyalgia, your experiences with headaches may differ. But, some run-of-the-mill signs may include intense throbbing pain on one side of the head that can spread to the eyes, neck, and shoulders. Dizziness, nausea, and sensitivity to sensory stimuli can also be seen in the patients of fibromyalgia. 

5 . Fibromyalgia Rash

Fibromyalgia can sometimes be associated with skin-related symptoms, including rashes. These rashes may result from factors such as medication side effects, allergic reactions, or psychological and emotional distress, leading to sensations like crawling on the skin.

4 Hormone Deficiencies in Fibromyalgia

4 Hormone Deficiencies in Fibromyalgia

Below are four common hormonal imbalances that can worsen fibromyalgia symptoms when left ignored.

1. Thyroid Dysfunction

Although fibromyalgia and thyroid dysfunction are quite distinct conditions, thyroid dysfunction can worsen fibromyalgia symptoms. Individuals with fibromyalgia who also have a thyroid disorder may encounter extreme fatigue, throbbing pain, and an increased risk of emotional disturbance.

2. Disrupted Growth Hormone 

Studies have found that fibromyalgia patients with reduced growth hormone levels often end up experiencing muscle weakness, impaired recovery, and extreme fatigue. 

3. Disturbed Sleep-related Hormones 

Sleep disturbances are also widespread among fibromyalgia patients. However, poor sleep quality can dictate imbalances in melatonin and serotonin secretion, which are accountable for regulating your sleep, mood, and perceptions.

4. Low Levels of Cortisol 

Clinical studies have suggested a link between fibromyalgia and cortisol levels, indicating that low cortisol levels can increase fibromyalgia pain intensity and vice versa. The severity could be due to dysfunction in the HPA axis that is responsible for reduced cortisol levels. 

Fibromyalgia Diagnosis

Diagnosis of fibromyalgia can be challenging as it has no obvious causes that can be detected by laboratory or imaging tests. In this case, your general practitioner may look into your genetic history or conduct a physical examination to evaluate your condition better. 

Therefore, if you are diagnosed with fibromyalgia, you can seek help from both Western and TCM treatments. Western treatments can help you manage the symptoms, but TCM offers a unique approach to understanding and treating fibromyalgia flares.

Fibromyalgia Awareness Month

Each year in May, an awareness month is observed to provide education, information, and support for individuals living with this condition. Purple ribbons and exquisite butterfly tattoos are widely recognized for raising awareness.The goal of this initiative is to promote a healthy and happy lifestyle for those affected by fibromyalgia.

Western Treatment Modalities

Medication for Fibromyalgia

As of now, a precise and tailored treatment mechanism is yet to be fully established. As a result, western treatment modalities heavily rely on pain relievers, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and muscle relaxants to address specific symptoms such as pain, inflammation, and disrupted sleep.

Duloxetine, milnacipran, and pregabalin are FDA-approved  medications for fibromyalgia. However, low-dose naltrexone, an addiction treatment drug, can also be prescribed as an off-label treatment. This drug performs its action simply by modulating the immune system and releasing endorphins, which are natural pain relievers.

It’s also worth noticing that certain medications may cause side effects like nausea, dry mouth, difficulty urinating, constipation, etc, in different patients. Therefore, it’s advisable to not solely rely on them but incorporate natural and TCM treatments for optimal results.

Natural Treatment Modalities

Natural Treatment Modalities 

1. Physical Therapy for Fibromyalgia

Physical therapy can be very effective at managing the painful flares of fibromyalgia. This treatment usually encompasses specialized exercises, stretches, and hydrotherapy techniques that help develop strength, flexibility, and posture.

2. Self-care for Fibromyalgia

Taking care of yourself is vital for improving sleep quality, reducing stress, easing body pain and inflammation, and enhancing your emotional and physical well-being. Engaging in gentle exercises, meditation, and deep breathing are highly efficient self-care practices that can yield desired results.

3. CBT for Fibromyalgia

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) facilitates individuals to gain control over fibromyalgia triggers by focusing on managing the psychological and emotional aspects related to pain and fatigue.

5. IV Vitamin Therapy for Fibromyalgia

You may have heard about IV vitamin therapy. Primarily, this treatment involves injecting vitamins and supplements into your body, such as B12, vitamin D, zinc, magnesium, and selenium, as recommended by your practitioner to address fibromyalgia. 

However, it is important to note that the effectiveness of this therapy may vary among fibromyalgia patients, so it is crucial to seek professional advice before making any decisions.

6. Essential oils for Fibromyalgia

Lavender, bergamot, lemon, and peppermint are among the essential oils that have shown potential in alleviating fibromyalgia symptoms for many patients. It is important to note that while some individuals have reported benefits, the effectiveness of essential oils for fibromyalgia is not scientifically proven and may yield varying results for others.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Modalities

Traditional Chinese Medicine Modalities

While there's no known cure for fibromyalgia, a combination of TCM modalities can provide a cumulative effect.

1. Acupuncture for Fibromyalgia 

In the US, acupuncture is the most practiced modality to treat Fibromyalgia. It involves skin penetration with thin, solid needles at the anatomical points to regulate vital Qi, reduce pain, promote relation, improve sleep, and enhance your overall well-being.

2. Herbal Medicine for Fibromyalgia

In TCM, herbal supplements offer viable alternatives to alleviate the symptoms of distress and fatigue caused by fibromyalgia. OHCO introduces time-honored comprehensive formulas that may ease various irregularities resulting from this condition.

Stomach Chi

Unlock the transformative power of Stomach Chi—a phenomenal blend of eleven potent herbs working in harmony to enhance your body's internal strength, invigorate cells at their core, and provide deep nourishment.

At the root level of the human system, this deep nourishment builds essential connective tissues throughout the body, enabling it to respond and overcome invading agents as it was designed to do. For fibromyalgia, a systemic and chronic condition, comprehensive, total body treatment often yields the most significant benefits.

Stomach Chi

OHCO Motion

Experience the relief you deserve with OHCO Motion—an invaluable adjunct for addressing the prominent discomfort of fibromyalgia along the way. This meticulously crafted formula not only provides much-needed relief but also synergizes with Stomach Chi's deeper nourishment, enhancing blood circulation and optimizing qi flow throughout your body for far-reaching benefits. For optimal results, take Stomach Chi before a meal, followed by OHCO-Motion after the meal.

OHCO Motion

3. Qigong and Tai chi for Fibromyalgia

Qigong and Tai Chi are two movement-based practices in Traditional Chinese Medicine that incorporate gentle movements, deep breathing, and meditation techniques. These therapeutic practices have been known to alleviate stress, reduce pain, and promote overall well-being.

4. Tui Na Massage for Fibromyalgia

Tui Na is a traditional massage in TCM that targets acupoints, meridians, and tense muscles that lead to discomfort. With up to 80 techniques, Tui Na aims to bring balance to the body, enhance blood flow, eliminate Qi blockages, and relieve pain and muscle soreness.

5. Cupping Therapy for Fibromyalgia

Cupping therapy is an ancient result-oriented strategy to relieve muscle pain, stiffness, and tightness. It's also known as vacuum cupping or horn treatment, and it involves using heated cups to create suction on specific areas of the body. This can improve blood flow and eliminate toxins and impurities from the body.

Final Takeaway

Fibromyalgia's complex nature presents challenges for scientists and researchers in their quest for a definitive solution. However, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers valuable insights, recognizing that internal imbalances such as Qi stagnation, yin and yang deficiencies, and poor blood circulation contribute to its occurrence. By understanding these imbalances, TCM provides a range of solutions to enhance the quality of life for individuals with fibromyalgia.

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