What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia (FMS) is a condition mostly affecting women between 20-50 years of age.
It is characterized by chronic, widespread, severe muscular aching, pain, and stiffness accompanied by insomnia, fatigue and depression. It is neither a rheumatic, inflammatory, progressive, or degenerative disorder.
In 1987, the American Medical Association (AMA) recognized FMS as a true illness and major cause of disability. 70-90% of FMS sufferers will also have one or more of the following: post-exertional malaise, sleep disturbances, headaches, either migraine or tension, swollen feet, numbness or tingling, difficulty thinking and concentrating, dizziness, sensitivity to stress, painful menstruation, and dry mouth. In terms of sleep disturbances, FMS sufferers are usually able to fall asleep but are not able to sleep soundly or wake up to early in the morning.
Because fibromyalgia involves a number of different symptoms, Western physicians try to treat this disorder by prescribing various drugs for each of these symptoms. For instance, antidepressants are commonly prescribed to treat sleep and mood, while non steroidal anti-inflammatories are prescribed for the pain. Unfortunately, not all patients tolerate antidepressants and even anti-inflammatories can have their own potential for side effects. Ironically, some of these side effects include many of the symptoms of FMS.
How can Chinese Medicine treat Fibromyalgia?
According to Chinese medical theory, most patients with FMS have a liver spleen disharmony. This means their liver Qi is stagnant and their spleen Qi is weak. Based on these core disease mechanisms, individual FMS sufferers may also have malnourishment of their sinews and vessels, damp heat, blood stasis, kidney yin and/or kidney yang deficiency. Because every patient with FMS has a slightly different Chinese medical pattern, each patient receives their own individualized treatment. This treatment mainly consists of the oral administration of Chinese herbal formulas which may be give as powdered or desiccated extracts. Depending on the practitioner and the patient’s individual pattern acupuncture and moxibution (heat therapy) will be applied.
In addition, practitioners will give nutritional and life style advice in order to treat the whole person and to eliminate the root of the condition.
Usually, the Chinese medical treatment of fibromyalgia lasts several month in its active phase, and this may be followed up by several month of taking Chinese herbs in pill or powder form preventively.