Fibromyalgia and Acupuncture - Acupuncture Health Minute
What is Fibromyalgia?
The body-wide pain syndrome that disrupts sleep and causes chronic fatigue. This condition robs a person of the joy of living, interfering with his or her ability to accomplish simple daily routines. Currently, there are no tests to confirm a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia; instead, it is ruling out other conditions. The condition is also commonly associated with anxiety, memory difficulty, difficulty in retaining new information, trouble concentrating, and indecision. This can take a toll on a person's life and impact the loved ones (Kia & Choy, 2017).
What is the standard treatment?
There is no globally agreed-upon gold standard for treatment available. There are a myriad of pharmaceutical approaches that include but not limited to: pain management through the use of opioids, psychiatric through anti-depressants, and neurologic with anticonvulsants. The Western "pharmacological management has remained complex and poorly evidenced" (Kia & Choy, 2017). The significant strides in effective treatment come from alternative therapies: "cognitive behavioral therapy, exercise therapy, hydrotherapy, and acupuncture" (2017).
Does Acupuncture treat Fibromyalgia?
Acupuncture can treat fibrous tissue and muscle pain (fibro – fibrous tissue, my – muscle, algia – pain). However, Acupuncture is a treatment modality in Eastern Medicine (EM). There is no diagnosis in EM called "Fibromyalgia." There are, however, over 20 diagnoses in EM that a Western Doctor would diagnose as Fibromyalgia. Here are a few diagnoses:
Wind-Cold Damp with Internal Heat
Spleen & Kidney Yang Deficiency
Phlegm Stagnation Blocking the Channels
Yes, these diagnoses sound strange, foreign, and mystical. An airplane looks strange, foreign, and mystical to a person in the 1800s only because there is a lack of knowledge about it. We all know that airplanes fly based on flight mechanics and not a Harry Potter Wand. The same is true for EM.
Let's take a look at one of these diagnoses to have a better understanding of the different approach EM has. Liver & Kidney Yin Deficiency (LV & KD YD) can produce symptoms that would be categorized as Fibromyalgia. Before we can progress, we must understand what Yin is.
What is Yin?
Yin is all of the natural good body fluids: blood, lymph, spinal fluid, synovial fluid (joints), aqueous humor (eye fluid), and more.
What does it mean to be Yin Deficient?
Dehydration is the best description to start this conversation with, except this is more difficult and complex than just drinking a glass of water to solve. This means that blood deficiency, joint fluid deficiency, and eye fluid deficiency can be present. This can be caused by nutrition and fluid intake, long-term exposure to heat and dry conditions, pharmaceutically induced, cancer treatments, and aging to name a few. The symptoms of YD range from a red complexion, red tongue with no coating, irritability, hot hands and feet, ear ringing, night sweats, insomnia, joint stiffness, and pain.
YD is a downward spiral if left untreated. Drinking water is always recommended, but it is not enough on its own to treat this condition. Think about a small campfire in the woods. It is being watched by the campers and tended to. The small fire is not harmful; it is actually helpful. Gets rid of dead branches and leaves from the forest and keeps the campers warm. It is the ember from the fire that lifts away and lands on dry underbrush that is injurious. If tended to immediately, water can put it out. If no one notices, a forest fire starts to spread. The campers do not have enough water to extinguish the fire. That is what is happening with YD; the longer it exists untreated, the worse it gets.
YD can start with minor symptoms appearing but go unnoticed, like the ember that lifted away. People do not notice till there are flashing light symptoms such as insomnia, pain, irritability, and fatigue. This requires intervention. There are different effective EM modalities that can include: Acupuncture, Herbal Formulas, and Nutritional Therapy.
Some people think, "I am getting older. My joints are going to hurt. I am going to slow down. And I will be grumpy." This is stinking thinking! Do not accept being sore, stiff, in pain, grumpy, hot, or sweating through your sheets each night!
What is Liver and Kidney Yin Deficiency?
The addition of the organ to the diagnosis is due to specific symptoms.
The Liver specific symptoms can include dry eyes, floaters in the vision, high pitch ear ringing, difficulty falling asleep, depression, and fatigue.
The Kidney specific symptoms are weak knees, low back pain, night sweats, and can include low pitch ear ringing.
**Side Note** Kidney Yin Deficiency is a common cause of high blood pressure. Nourish the Kidney yin and lower the blood pressure naturally.
How to treat Liver & Kidney Yin Deficiency with Acupuncture?
The following Acupuncture points can be used together to nourish liver and kidney yin to relieve body-wide pain
KI6, LI3, SP6, UB18, UB23, SP21
These points should be retained for 25-35 minutes with shallow needling.
SP21 – Spleen 21 is the Great Embracement. It is used for body-wide pain for any reason. It has a nickname, "the Fibromyalgia Point."
What herbal formula should be prescribed?
Liu Wei Di Huang Wan (LWDHW)– the Six Ingredient formula with Rehmannia is the gold standard to treat LV & KD YD. However, it does not focus on relieving pain. Pain is generally the number one complaint from a patient seeking help with Fibromyalgia. The first prescription modification to this formula would be to add Dang Gui – Angelicae Sinesis and Bai Shao – Paeoniae Alba.
It is important to note that if the patient is taking prescription pharmaceuticals, the practitioner should take great caution to mitigate herb-drug interactions, and perhaps herbal therapy should be replaced with nutrition therapy.
What nutritional changes should be made?
Cut down on dry foods, hot spices, citrus fruit, and alcohol. Removing these from the diet temporarily will speed up the healing process.
Add anything that comes from under the sea, except lobster. Clams and Oysters raw or slightly steamed are highly recommended. Fruits and vegetables dripping or oozing with fluids (not citrus), cucumber, watermelon, papaya, and melons will also nourish yin. The simple addition of these foods directly supplements yin.
This is a plausible treatment for a theoretical patient. In EM there are 1000 treatments for one disease and 1000 diseases for one treatment. It is essential to be evaluated by a licensed, qualified, board-certified EM practitioner. EM overall is very safe with low-risk factors, but that is only true with highly skilled and educated practitioners.
Make an appointment today with Dr. Kitt to discuss your Fibromyalgia symptoms today. She has 15-minute free consultations conveniently located to Lido Key and Longboat Key on St Armands Circle in sunny Downtown Sarasota, FL.
Kia, S., & Choy, E. (2017). Update on Treatment Guideline in Fibromyalgia Syndrome with Focus on Pharmacology. Biomedicines, 5(2), 20. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.3390/biomedicines5020020