Traditional Chinese Medicine for the Treatment of Fibromyalgia
While science has made inroads and downright amazing discoveries in recent decades, one area that eludes doctors and scientists alike is fibromyalgia.
The National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association states that approximately 8% of adults 80 years of age and younger fit the criteria for fibromyalgia.
This condition is characterized by wide-spread body aches and pains, sleep disorders, constant feelings of fatigue, memory problems, and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies what should be tolerable pain sensations by affecting how your brain processes pain signals.
Currently, there is no cure but there are increasingly new ways of dealing with the symptoms of fibromyalgia. “New” as in returning to the ancient methods of healing, such as traditional Chinese medicine.
Conventional Western Medicine VS Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional modern-day methods of dealing with fibromyalgia involve prescription medications to treat symptoms, such as Cymbalta for nerve pain or sleeping pills for insomnia. These are like taking Tylenol to treat pneumonia.
TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) includes looking at the whole body and treating the root cause, rather than only looking to treat individual symptoms.
Customized treatment for each individual is common when speaking of TCM, and because the symptoms of fibro are so varied, even from person to person, a comprehensive program may include several types of treatments, including herbal medicine, nutritional advice, exercise, acupuncture, and meditation.
Vital Elements of TCM
TCM believes that two elements that are vital to a healthy life are QI (the life force in all living things) and blood. Both of these elements must flow freely within the body’s energy channels for the well-being of the body. Obstruction of the flow of these two compounds leads to pain and chronic health conditions.
Alternatively, a lack of QI or blood, due to obstruction, can also lead to pain. It is not uncommon in TCM to find both a lack of the elements and an obstruction.
TCM believes that strong emotions, such as anxiety, fear, anger, or frustration can block the two vital elements. Other causes include exposure to extreme temperatures, overwork, a lack of quality sleep, and poor nutrition.
This very foreign concept to Westerners is often ridiculed or made fun of, but the fact is that the Journal of Neuroimage reported a study out of the University of Michigan that found evidence that acupuncture affects the brain’s long-term ability to interpret and regulate pain.
This study found that 20 women who had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia for more than a year and experienced pain at least 50 percent of their time had reduced pain levels after 8 acupuncture treatments, along with a PET scan of the brain showing an increased binding of pain receptors.
While acupuncture has been proven to be effective in managing some of the pain levels fibromyalgia patients suffer with, herbal medicine and nutrition have also been shown to work in combination with acupuncture.
Herbal Medicine and Nutrition
Doctors of TCM will often prescribe a mixture of herbs that will vary from person to person to help restore the flow of energy and blood. These herbs may be consumed as teas, capsules, or powders mixed with water.
Some of the more common TCM herbs include:
- Red Yeast Rice
- Gotu Kola
- Ginkgo biloba
- Yu Xing Cao
Foods are thought to intervene and support the formation and flow of the two vital elements. Every food has an organ or meridian associated with it and all foods have a cool or warm nature associated with them.
Foods considered to be “warm” help to stimulate the functions of the body. Overconsumption of “warm” foods can overstimulate the body. The idea is to eat a balance of warm and cool foods.
Most practitioners of TCM seem to believe that fibromyalgia pain stems from overconsumption of warm foods that have overstimulated the body’s pain centers.
Chiropractic and Fibromyalgia
While chiropractic and TCM are not the same, they share a base of set beliefs in that a blockage of energy (chiropractors call this obstruction a subluxation, and they believe that this misalignment blocks nerve impulses) that causes health issues in the body.
Chiropractic and TCM are an excellent comprehensive way to treat the pain of fibromyalgia. Chiropractic and fibromyalgia are not on opposite ends of the spectrum. In fact, comprehensive chiropractic treatments have been proven to help stop the pain of fibromyalgia, especially pain in the neck, leg, and back.
If you are currently looking for alternatives to conventional Western medicine to help control your fibromyalgia symptoms, you would be wise to investigate Traditional Chinese Medicine and chiropractic.
If you are already seeing a chiropractor, ask for a recommendation for a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine in your area. You have nothing to lose but your pain.
About the Author
Dr. Brent Wells, D.C. founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Alaska and has been a chiropractor for over 20 years. Beside chiropractic adjustment, his practice has treated different musculoskeletal and other health problems by offering massage therapy to Juneau patients.
Dr. Wells is also the author of over 700 online health articles that have been featured on sites such as Dr. Axe, Organic Facts, and Thrive Global. He is a proud member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians. And he continues his education to remain active and updated in all studies related to neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions, brain injury, trauma, and more.