My body aches all over and I am always weak and tired. My Doctor says I have fibromyalgia. I have researched it and found that the only solution is steroid medication, can Acupuncture help?
According to the American College of Rheumatology, approximately 2 percent of the population, up to six million Americans, suffers from fibromyalgia. Considered by some western physicians as a psychosomatic disorder, fibromyalgia ranks in the ever-growing list of modern ailments for which there are no specific scientific explanations, and effective treatments. There are a dozen theories attempting to explain fibromyalgia and its symptoms. Some of the more predominant theories include; endorphin imbalances in the brain, neurotransmitter imbalances including serotonin, sleep disorders, buildup of toxins in the body, stress and depression. Though symptoms vary from person to person, the common thread appears to be a combination of some or all of the following symptoms appearing and disappearing randomly with no apparent causation. Fatigue, restless sleep or insomnia, peripheral neurological disorders including restless leg syndrome, tingling and numbness, joint stiffness, pain and swelling, headaches, memory disturbances, and cold extremities. Many patients also exhibit associated symptoms such as irritable bowel syndrome, urinary dysfunctions and psychological disturbances. Because there are no specific laboratory examinations to aid the western physician, the common approach is to offer palliative treatments with anti-depressants, pain medications and anti-psychotics.
Here again, the true value of Chinese medical theory can be demonstrated. Because of the underlying concept of the body as a whole system with interconnected and interdependent mechanisms Chinese medicine does not need a disease to treat. It treats the person with the express understanding that the body has the ability to maintain its health naturally. It’s when the body is overwhelmed that it looses its balance and cannot recover. Recent research has shown that individuals who have been exposed to abusive environments are more susceptible to developing fibromyalgia. This points to the theory that emotional stress, repressed anger, resentment and frustration, physical and mental abuse can severely damage the body’s rhythm causing diseases. By focusing on the underlying symptom differentiation, a Chinese Medicine practitioner can guide the body back into a balanced state thereby allowing the natural healing process to occur. By strengthening the vital energies of the liver, kidney, spleen and heart, and eliminating triggers such as allergies, lack of adequate sleep and improper nutrition, I help restore the natural rhythm of the body and relieve the symptoms. Here are some specific recommendations.
A healthy, well balanced diet rich in complex carbohydrates, whole grains and fresh vegetables, and moderate organic proteins is important for a healthy body. Just as important is not what you eat but how and when you eat it. It is my belief that even he most benign and beneficial food can turn toxic when consumed under emotional stress. Most Americans do not eat properly; they eat on the run, multitasking and grab the easiest rapidly consumable foods. Eat sitting down, eat in a quiet place with no distractions, eat with friends or family and always eat slowly. Consume four or five smaller meals and do not eat late in the evening.
Have more dark green leafy vegetables, kale, spinach and dandelion greens. Winter melon, pumpkin, pumpkins seeds, yam, sweet potatoes, lima beans, black beans, lotus seeds, white fungus. Mung beans, jujube dates, buckwheat and also mint, ginger, scallions, daikon radish and pearl barley as well as anise, cardamom, and tarragon, are also beneficial in moving stagnant Qi and providing nourishment to the muscles. Foods rich in essential fatty acid including cold-water fish, various nuts and seed are important. Proper water intake is essential to prevent dehydration, at least 10 eight oz cups per day at room temperature are recommended.
AVOID: spicy foods, alcohol and smoking, eating while stresses, strong emotions, anger and anxiety can damage the liver and cause stagnation of Qi. Tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, potatoes, dairy products, red meat, sugar, and processed or refined foods have been known to trigger fibromyalgia. Each individual has specific foods that may cause allergies, be watchful and eliminate foods that cause gastrointestinal upsets or other allergic reactions. An elimination diet can aid in isolating allergic foods.
• Take a nice warm bath before bed with Jasmine, rosemary and lavender oils. And always go to bed at the same time before 11 pm.
• Make soup from lotus seeds, white fungus and figs to aid in nourishing the heart yin energy
• Make Dandelion tea as an antioxidant and to prevent frequency and severity of pain.
• Licorice and jujube dates cam be mixed in tea to nourish the yin and remove toxins in the body. Take 3 grams of licorice and 6 black jujube dates and boil into tea.
• Boil 1 cup buckwheat, 1 cup chopped chestnuts, and ½ cup longan fruits or black jujube dates in 6 cups of water to make porridge, eat daily for one month.
Potentially Helpful Supplements
• Vitamin C (250 to 500 mg twice per day) and Coenzyme Q10 (50 to 100 mg twice daily) help improves oxygen delivery to tissues; act as antioxidants and support immune function. Zinc (20mg daily) has also shown to be beneficial for the immune function. Chromium picolinate (200 mcg with meals) can prevent low blood sugar which can trigger fibromyalgia or worsen the condition
• Magnesium (150 mg twice daily) with malic acid (1,200 mg daily) taken together can relieve pain and fatigue.
• For depression, 5-Hydroxytryptophan, B vitamins, Phosphatidyl choline and phosphatidyl serine can be used; these will also improve cognitive functions and improve stress reactions. Melatonin (0.5 to 3 mg once before bed) may help with sleep.
• Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) may reduce pain and help support the connective tissues.
• SAMe helps relieve stress, depression and muscle pain, though caution is advised id you are taking medications for manic-depressive disorders or MAO inhibitors and other anti-depressants.
Some Herbal Remedies
• The g-linolenic acid in evening primrose oil is anti-inflammatory, and can reduce the aches and pains and other symptoms.
• Siberian ginseng, schizandra berry, ashwaganda root, gotu kola, and astragalus root can be used to strengthen the immune function and resistance to stress.
• Valerian, scullcap, black cohosh, passionflower and lavender taken together in extract form can relieve muscle pain and tension. Arnica, Bryonia, Hypericum and Rhus toxicodendrum are good homeopathic remedies.
• Jasmine, lemon balm, rosemary can be used as aromatherapy to reduce nervous tension and relieve exhaustion.
• Ginseng, licorice, astragalus, green tea, gotu kola, codonopsis, and acanthopanax have adaptogenic capabilities and have been used in treating the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
• A typical Chinese herbal prescription for fibromyalgia (dang gui decoction for frigid extremities) may contain herbs such as Angelica Dang Gui, white peony, cinnamon twig, asarum, jujube, akebia and honey fried licorice. Prescriptions are available from local practitioners.
Physical Activity and Exercise
Sedentary life is a sure way of predisposing yourself to muscular problems. Low-intensity exercises may improve fibromyalgia symptoms. It has been shown that individuals who exercise regularly will experience fewer symptoms than those who do not exercise. Physical exercise should focus more on stretching and flexibility and less of strength and bulking methods. The “Eight Treasures Qi Gong” exercise is a 30-minute brief practice that helps strengthen the joints, increase flexibility without excess stress on the joints. Meditation, yoga and other stress reduction methods have been shown to be beneficial in treating fibromyalgia. Here is a simple stress reduction meditation that can help.
Helpful Stress Release meditation:
1. Lie down on your back or sit comfortably, with your spine erect at the edge of a chair, feet flat on the floor making a 90-degree angle.
2. Reach up toward the sky with both hands, while inhaling deeply and as you hold your breath, make tight fists and squeeze, tightening all the muscles in your arms.
3. Slowly exhale, relaxing your arms, bringing your fists down, to your chest
4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 several times.
5. Now cross your arms in front of your chest, with your fingers touching the just under the collarbones; your wrists cross at the center of your upper chest.
6. Lower your chin toward your chest.
7. Inhale four short breaths in a row (without exhaling) through your nose, filling your lungs completely on the fourth breath. Hold the breath for a few seconds with the chest full and expanded.
8. Exhale slowly through your mouth.
9. Repeat this exercise for two or three minutes, concentrating on the depth and rhythm of the breath.
• Stop Smoking, and excessive use of alcohol. They are irritants and alcohol especially depletes the Liver energy leaving muscles and tendons week and malnourished.
• Be mindful of your diet and environment. Many times certain food or environmental allergens can trigger or worsen fibromyalgia. Do an elimination diet to isolate and remove foods that may trigger allergies.
• Reduce meats and only organic sources, if you must, all sugars including fructose, corn syrup and honey should be eliminated or reduced.
• Stress and emotions play a key role in symptoms and prognosis of fibromyalgia. Reduce stress, and anxiety, with use of meditation, yoga or other methods.