Fibromyalgia is a common, chronic condition. The main symptoms include specific
tender points on various parts of the body, widespread musculoskeletal discomfort,
morning stiffness, fatigue and disturbed sleep. The condition occurs most often in
women aged 30-50. Other symptoms commonly believed to be associated with fibromyalgia
are irritable bowel syndrome, urinary frequency, anxiety, headache and numbness or
Apart from tender points on the body, physical exams and lab tests for people with
fibromyalgia are usually normal. Because of this, some physicians are inclined to
believe that the condition is "all in the patient's head." However, the general consensus
is that fibromyalgia is real. In fact, the American College of Rheumatologists has
given it an official medical definition. It involves the presence of widespread chronic
pain and the existence of pain in at least 11 of 18 specific points on the body when
pressure is applied. Although the cause of fibromyalgia is not known, it may be related
to poor sleeping with incomplete muscular relaxation.
Conventional treatment for fibromyalgia may include antidepressants (particularly
those that help induce sleep), anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, sleeping
pills and anti-anxiety medications. Taking medication of this type could affect one's
ability to concentrate or perform on the job. Physical therapy and aerobic exercise
may also be helpful for individuals with fibromyalgia. Still, there is the issue
As an acupuncture physician practicing Chinese medicine, my perspective is to view
many of the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia as being related to problems with
the impaired circulatory system (blood and body fluid). Disturbance of the circulatory
system can result from a hyperactive sympathetic nervous system. This can be brought
on by emotional disturbance, stress or inadequate production of body heat.
Approximately 50% of the body's energy is used for digestion, from which heat is
a byproduct. While the heart and kidney play key roles in heat production, digestion
is the most significant source of heat production in the body. When the digestive
system is sluggish, there is often not enough body heat. When the body cannot maintain
proper body temperature, the body's reaction is muscle constriction. Muscle constriction
then produces heat, like a supplement, which on a chronic basis produces aching,
fatigued muscle and retention of metabolic waste.
Acupunctures ability to affect deep layers of tissue is key to its success in pain
management. Acupuncture and herbs can enhance the circulatory system. Acupuncture
for fibromyalgia increases muscle relaxation, increases circulation, increases body
temperature and enhances the body's function. Though a patient with fibromyalgia
may report systems of pain in the shoulder or hip, I may still treat other areas,
as it is important to treat the body as a whole. The intent is to turn the body's
vicious cycle into a good cycle. The physical therapy techniques we teach our patients
to incorporate into a home exercise program are essential to further enhance results.
At Acupuncture & Physical Therapy Specialists we have found this combination of techniques
to be very effective in managing pain.