Fibromyalgia (FM) is a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body. It is a common disease. According to NHS Choices nearly 1 in 20 people may be affected by fibromyalgia to some degree. If you have increased sensitivity to pain, fatigue, muscle stiffness, difficulty sleeping, memory and concentration problems. You might suffer from FM.
How to treat FM? If a patient was suspected suffer from FM, their GP will usually refer them to a rheumatologist, neurologist or psychologist. Usually the patients will be given pain killers, antidepressants, muscle relaxants and sleeping pills. These medications may often cause a number of side effects, when used long term. Some non-pharmacological treatment plans are suggested by Fibromyalgia Action UK – the only Fibromyalgia association in UK. In their treatment guidelines acupuncture, massage therapy and herbal remedies are recommended.
Traditional Chinese medicine uses syndrome differentiation diagnosis to treat FM.
FM has many symptoms that tend to vary from person to person. The main symptom is widespread pain. If the pain is related to cold and dampness weather, it is due to Bi syndrome; if the pain is sharp and in fixed position with long history, it might due to blood stasis; if the pain is related with emotional change with depression, it is due to liver qi stagnation; if the muscles are more stiff than painful, it might due to blood deficiency; if there is more fatigue and the pain worsens when muscles overstrain, it is due to qi deficiency.
The best Chinese medicine treatment is to combine acupuncture, Tuina massage and Chinese herbal medicine. The acupuncture points selection and herb selection are varied from person to person. Different syndrome differentiation diagnosis will use different treatment principles. For example Taicong (LV3) and Hegu (LI4) can be selected to release the pain due to Qi stagnation and blood stasis. Zusanli (ST36) and Qihai (RN6) can be selected to tonify qi and enhance energy levels. Xuehai (SP10) and Geshu (BL17) can be selected to remove blood stasis; some trigger points or Ashi points must be selected on the region of pain. The mechanism of acupuncture to release and relieve pain has been approved by many researches. I have another blog article discussing this topic so will not mention it further here.
Acupuncture has a better effect when combined with Chinese herbs. My experience on FM herbal treatment is to use modified Duhuo Jisheng Tang. It is a classical herbal formula originally from Tang Dynasty (AD 652). It contained 15 ingredients. We must do a lot of modification according to clinical symptoms of each individual case. For example: If there is more Qi deficiency add Huangqi, Baizhu; more blood deficiency add Jixueteng; if there is severe pain add Yanhushuo, Chuanlianzi. etc.
Tuina massage is the other good treatment for FM, especially after acupuncture treatment a few minutes of Tuina massage can often make patients feels much better immediately.
The etiology of FM is not yet certain. Western medicine still faces many difficulties in its treatment. Fortunately we have complementary medicine to help patients with this painful condition.