Acupuncture and Natural Treatment Options for Fibromyalgia

By Julie Segall Lic. Ac., Dipl. CH

Fibromyalgia is escalating to epidemic proportions, yet there is much about this condition that remains a mystery to allopathic physicians. After working with many patients who suffer from fibromyalgia, I have concluded that their causes and, thus, their treatments are multi-factorial. There simply isn’t one major reason why people are suffering with fibromyalgia. Instead, a variety of emotional, constitutional, and nutritional factors combine to influence the onset and duration of this condition.

Western medicine can offer little to patients with fibromyalgia. Even alternative practitioners often struggle in effectively treating this condition. I recommend a comprehensive treatment of fibromyalgia that includes acupuncture, herbs, nutritional supplementation, and therapeutic exercises such as yoga. Since the condition is caused by a variety of factors, its treatment must be multi-layered.

Emotional Considerations

My clinical experience has shown that many fibromyalgia patients are the victims of previous abuse of a sexual, emotional or verbal nature. The betrayal of intimacy and the severing of trust that occur in abusive situations can have a variety of physical and emotional repercussions. In Chinese medicine, this betrayal causes deep imbalances between the fire and earth elements. Fire corresponds to the heart and pericardium, earth to the spleen and stomach. Fire is related to intimacy, trust, and connection. Earth is related to the health of our musculature, worry, obsession, and nourishment. One way to look at the symptoms of fibromyalgia is that excessive heat is generated in the heart as a result of betrayal and abuse. This heat is sent into the spleen and stomach, which control our muscles. This causes inflammation, pain, and fatigue (earth) along with anxiety and sleep problems (fire). The end result is that the victim of such abuse is in a state of shock; all major system of the body shut down and fatigue, pain, and anxiety prevail. This state of shock can go on indefinitely until it is directly treated. There are powerful acupuncture and herbal protocols to clear shock, which is typically the first priority in healing fibromyalgia. One of the most challenging things about working with this population is that they tend to become overly identified with their symptoms. They easily attach to the label of fibromyalgia, which makes them feel justified in being victimized by their pain. Perhaps this is because the initial insult of being a victim of abuse has carried over into their relationship with the fibromyalgia. If this theme is occurring, then an essential aspect of healing involves helping the patient detach from the ‘victim mindset’. Each case is certainly unique and it is not my intent to over generalize, but this theme has been prevalent through the many patients of fibromyalgia that I have worked with.

Therapeutic Considerations

Common painkillers such as aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen are not usually effective at relieving the pain of fibromyalgia. Other approaches, including acupuncture, herbal medicine, dietary counseling, exercise, and nutritional supplementation, are more likely to be of benefit. Many different disorders can cause symptoms similar to those of fibromyalgia, including anemia, depression, hepatitis, and Lyme disease, among others. Anyone who experiences muscular pain and/ or fatigue that persists for longer than a week or two should consult a health care provider. There may be an underlying medical disorder that requires treatment.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is an excellent treatment method for reducing pain and inflammation, improving energy, and harmonizing emotional imbalances. For fibromyalgia, I recommend committing to treatment once a week for 6-8 weeks, then assessing the progress. If practiced skillfully, acupuncture can be very helpful for fibromyalgia patients.

Herbs

Treating fibromyalgia with herbs tends to be so specific to the patient’s constitution that listing off a few formulas is not all that helpful. One Chinese herbal formula, however, is used extensively for fibromyalgia. It is called shen tong zhu yu tang. This formula promotes blood circulation and reduces inflammation. It is used for systemic pain.

Nutritional Considerations

Because malabsorption problems are common in fibromyalgia, all nutrients are needed in greater than normal amounts, and a proper diet is essential. Colon cleansing is recommended to rid the gastrointestinal tract of mucus and debris, and so improve nutrient absorption. Food allergies can exacerbate the discomfort of many disorders. Determine hidden food or chemical hypersensitivities by appropriate tests. Many fibromyalgia sufferers also have irritable bowel syndrome. It is recommended that a comprehensive digestive and stool analysis be done for parasites.

Eat a high-fiber diet that includes plentiful servings of raw and steamed vegetables. Maximize your intake of greens. Eat four to five small meals daily rather than three larger ones. This will ensure that you have a steady supply of nutrients available for proper muscle function.

Avoid processed foods and foods that are high in saturated or hydrogenated fats, such as dairy products, meat, and margarine. Saturated fats interfere with circulation, increasing inflammation and pain.

Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and sugar. These substances enhance fatigue, increase muscle pain, and can interfere with normal sleep patterns. Drink eight glasses of pure water daily. Fresh juices and herbal teas are also good choices. A plentiful intake of liquids is important for flushing out toxins.

Investigate the possibility that food allergies and/ or sensitivities may be contributing to the problem.

Nutritional Supplements

Treating fibromyalgia with nutritional supplements is best done on a one-on-one basis with a professional health care provider. It is best to work with someone who looks at your individual blood tests so that there can be greater precision with assessing your nutritional needs.

Balancing Sleep Cycles

Treating sleep deprivation is a top priority for patients with fibromyalgia. Neurotransmitters are regulated in delta sleep. Fibromyalgia patients don’t get enough of this, as they are jolted awake by intrusive alpha waves many times a night. They often wake feeling like they have been hit by truck because cellular repair and neurotransmitter balancing hasn’t happened. Chamomile, valerian, and 5 http can be helpful for getting more delta sleep. The Chinese herbal formula suan zao ren tang is also a safe, effective choice for improving sleep.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many natural treatment options for healing fibromyalgia. The treatment process can take a few weeks or months, but it is certainly worth pursuing. Do the best you can to commit to an organic whole foods diet, regular exercise, yoga, nutritional supplementation, and acupuncture. This should provide you with a vast framework of resources for healing yourself.

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