Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine for Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) affects an estimated two percent of the population. It is diagnosed when there is a history of widespread pain in all four quadrants of the body for a minimum duration of three months, and pain when pressure is applied to at least 11 of 18 designated tender points on the body. In addition to musculoskeletal pain, patients with fibromyalgia can suffer fatigue, sleep disturbance, memory loss, mood swings, and digestive problems.
What is Fibromyalgia Syndrome?
From the perspective of western medicine, fibromyalgia is a medically unexplained syndrome characterized by chronic widespread pain, a heightened and painful response to pressure, insomnia, fatigue, and depression.
While not all affected persons experience all associated symptoms, the following symptoms commonly occur together:
• chronic pain
• debilitating fatigue
• difficulty sleeping
• joint stiffness
• chronic headaches
• dryness of mouth, nose, and eyes
• inability to concentrate (called “fibro fog”)
• irritable bowel syndrome
• numbness, tingling or poor circulation in the hands and feet
• painful menstrual cramps
• restless legs syndrome
On its own fibromyalgia does not result in any physical damage to the body or its tissues and there are no laboratory tests which can confirm this diagnosis. Symptoms often begin after a physical or emotional trauma, but in many cases, there appears to be no triggering event. Women are more prone to develop the disorder than are men, and the risk of fibromyalgia increases with age.
Research shows that up to 90 percent of people with fibromyalgia have turned to complementary or alternative medicine to manage their symptoms. Acupuncture, in particular, has become a popular treatment choice and has been shown to be an effective treatment for FMS.
An Oriental Medicine Perspective
Oriental medicine does not recognize fibromyalgia as one particular disease pattern. Instead, it aims to treat the symptoms unique to each individual depending on their constitution, emotional state, the intensity and location of their pain, digestive health, sleeping patterns and an array of other signs and symptoms.
Since symptoms of fibromyalgia vary greatly from one person to another, a wide array of traditional and alternative treatments have been shown to be the most effective way of treating this difficult syndrome. Therefore, if 10 people are treated with Oriental medicine for fibromyalgia, each of these 10 people will receive a unique, customized treatment with different acupuncture points, different herbs and different lifestyle and dietary recommendations.
A treatment program may include a combination of psychological or behavioral therapies, medications, exercise, acupuncture, herbal medicine, and bodywork.
Since pain is a hallmark symptom of fibromyalgia, an Oriental medicine approach will incorporate treatment for pain, though this may differ from western “pain management” therapies. The Oriental medicine theory of pain is expressed in this famous Chinese saying: “Bu tong ze tong, tong ze bu tong” which means “free flow: no pain, no free flow: pain.”
Pain is seen as a disruption of the flow of Qi within the body. The disruption of Qi that results in fibromyalgia is usually associated with disharmonies of the Liver, Spleen, Kidney, and Heart systems.
If you have fibromyalgia, acupuncture and Oriental medicine may be what you’ve been looking for to ease your symptoms and reclaim your health and vitality. Please call for a consultation today.
Find Fibromyalgia Symptom Relief
Although fibromyalgia is a disorder that can be disabling for many due to chronic widespread pain and fatigue there are some things you can do to alleviate the symptoms and improve your overall quality of life.
Learn and Practice Stress Reduction Techniques
Chronic stress can lead to fatigue, depression, a weakened immune system, and a host of serious physical and psychological ailments. When under stress your muscles contract and tense affecting nerves, blood vessels, organs, skin, and bones. Chronically tense muscles can result in a variety of musculoskeletal conditions and disorders including muscle spasms and pain.
While it isn’t always possible to remove the external forces causing stress the ability to effectively deal with stress is a choice. Take time for yourself and cultivate the energy you need to handle your stress more effectively.
Eat a Well Balanced Diet
Managing your diet may seem time-consuming but the benefits it offers make it worthwhile. Many fibromyalgia sufferers find relief through a properly managed diet. A list of basic nutrients to combat nerve sensitivities, improve cognition, boost the immune system, and reduce swelling is included in this newsletter.
While even basic movements may be painful, exercise helps restore strength and endurance. Tai Chi, Qi Gong or Yoga are great for easy stretches, careful strengthening, deep breathing, along with relaxation techniques.
Gentle stretching will clear tension that builds when muscles tighten and will improve overall circulation. Be sure to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.
The practice of meditation is a proven stress reducer that helps the body create a sense of calm and a continuing sense of well being. While 15 minutes daily is recommended, even 5 or 10 minutes can have a powerful effect on your day.
Get at least 8 hours of restorative sleep. Maintain a routine sleep schedule and make your bedroom a sanctuary from everyday stress. Practicing good sleep hygiene will give your body an opportunity to get stronger and heal.
Fight Fibromyalgia with Nutrient Dense Foods
The National Fibromyalgia Association recommends a balanced diet containing nutrient dense foods free of artificial additives and sweeteners to help your body fight fibromyalgia syndrome. Some key nutrients to include are:
Found in whole grains, beans, nuts, chicken, fish, and eggs; B complex vitamins directly influence the nervous system’s proper functioning and combat nerve problems such as tingling and tenderness.
Found in nuts, grains, beans, fish, meat and dark green vegetables, magnesium is needed for muscle flexibility and bone, protein, and fatty acid formation. Magnesium is also integral in making new cells, relaxing muscles, clotting blood, aiding in calcium absorption and activating B vitamins.
Directly affecting cellular function, this fatty acid found in fish minimizes nerve sensitivity and improves cognition.
Helps combat stress, builds the immune system and reduces swelling. Vitamin C is found in a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables including citrus fruits, green vegetables, tomatoes, and berries.
Increases circulation of oxygen and nutrients throughout the body and helps to eliminate waste.
Acupuncture and Fibromyalgia Study
A study from the Mayo Clinic found acupuncture helpful in treating the fatigue and anxiety commonly experienced by fibromyalgia patients.
In the trial, patients who received acupuncture to counter their fibromyalgia symptoms reported improvement in fatigue and anxiety, among other symptoms. Acupuncture was well tolerated, with minimal side effects. Those who received acupuncture treatments reported less fatigue and anxiety one month following treatment than did the group who did not.
According to David Martin, M.D., Ph.D., lead author and a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist, the study “affirms a lot of clinical impressions that this complementary medical technique is helpful for patients.”
Dr. Martin performed the study with co-authors Ines Berger, M.D.; Christopher Sletten, Ph.D.; and Brent Williams. The study only examined patients who reported more severe symptoms, offering better experimental control. Still, Mayo Clinic doctors urge further studies to see how acupuncture can best be used in treating fibromyalgia patients.
Migraines and Headaches
Reduce Migraine and Headache Pain with Acupuncture
Are you plagued by chronic headaches? More than 45 million Americans (one in six) suffer from chronic headaches, 20 million of whom are women. Scientific research shows that acupuncture can be more effective than medication in reducing the severity and frequency of chronic headaches.
The pain that headache and migraine sufferers endure can impact every aspect of their lives. A widely accepted form of treatment for headaches, acupuncture can offer powerful relief without the side effects that prescription and over-the-counter drugs can cause. Headaches and migraines, as well as their underlying causes, have been treated successfully with acupuncture and Oriental medicine for thousands of years. Acupuncture and Oriental medicine can be used alone in the management and treatment of headaches, or as part of a comprehensive treatment program.
Traditional Chinese Medicine does not recognize migraines and chronic headaches as one particular syndrome. Instead, it aims to treat the specific symptoms that are unique to each individual using a variety of techniques such as acupuncture, tui-na massage, and energetic exercises to restore imbalances found in the body. Therefore, your diagnosis and treatment will depend on a number of variables including:
- Is the headache behind your eyes and temples, or is it located more on the top of your head?
- When do your headaches occur (i.e. night, morning, after eating)?
- Do you find that a cold compress or a darkened room can alleviate some of the pain?
- Is the pain dull and throbbing, or sharp and piercing?
Your answers to these questions will help your practitioner create a treatment plan specifically for you. The basic foundation for Oriental medicine is that there is a life energy flowing through the body which is termed Qi (pronounced chee). This energy flows through the body on channels known as meridians that connect all of our major organs. According to Oriental medical theory, illness or pain arises when the cyclical flow of Qi in the meridians becomes unbalanced. Acupuncture stimulates specific points located on or near the surface of the skin to alter various biochemical and physiological conditions that cause aches and pains or illness.
The length, number and frequency of treatments will vary. Typical treatments last from five to 30 minutes, with the patient being treated one or two times a week. Some headaches, migraines and related symptoms are relieved after the first treatment, while more severe or chronic ailments often require multiple treatments.
Do you or someone you know suffer from headaches or migraines? Call today to find out how acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help you!
Headaches Dramatically Reduced by Acupuncture
Since the early seventies, studies around the globe have suggested that acupuncture is an effective treatment for migraines and headaches.
Researchers at Duke University Medical Center analyzed the results of more than 30 studies on acupuncture as a pain reliever for a variety of ailments, including chronic headaches. They found that acupuncture decreases pain with fewer side effects and can be less expensive than medication. Researchers found that using acupuncture as an alternative for pain relief also reduced the need for post-operative pain medications.
In a study published in the November 1999 issue of Cephalalgia, scientists evaluated the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of migraines and recurrent headaches by systematically reviewing 22 randomized controlled trials. A total of 1,042 patients were examined. It was found that headache and migraine sufferers experienced significantly more relief from acupuncture than patients who were administered “sham” acupuncture.
A clinical observation, published in a 2002 edition of the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, studied 50 patients presenting with various types of headaches who were treated with scalp acupuncture. The results of this study showed that 98 percent of patients treated with scalp acupuncture experienced no headaches or only occasional, mild headaches in the six months following care.
In a case study, published in the June 2003 Issue of Medical Acupuncture, doctors found that acupuncture resulted in the resolution or reduction in the frequency and severity of cluster headaches, and a decrease or discontinuation of pain medications. It was concluded that acupuncture can be used to provide sustained relief from cluster headaches and to stimulate the body’s natural production of adrenal cortisol to aid in discontinuing corticosteroids.
According to the July 2005 issue of the British Medical Journal, a randomized controlled trial in Germany found that acupuncture cut tension headache rates almost in half. Researchers divided 270 patients who reported similarly severe tension headaches into three groups for the study. Over the project’s eight-week period, one group received traditional acupuncture, one received only minimal acupuncture, and the third group received neither treatment. Those receiving the traditional acupuncture reported headache rates of nearly half that of those who received no treatments, suffering 7 fewer days of headaches. The minimal acupuncture group suffered 6.6 fewer days, and the non-acupuncture group suffered 1.5 fewer days. The improvements continued for months after the treatments were concluded, rising slightly as time went on.
7 Healthy Habits of Headache Sufferers
Headache sufferers can reduce the intensity and frequency of their headaches or migraine episodes by following a few simple steps:
Nutrition – Eat regular meals, avoid foods and drinks that are known to trigger headache attacks.
Sleep – Practice good sleep habits. Maintain a regular sleeping schedule, including weekends and vacations.
Stress – Implement stress reduction techniques into your daily life.
Education – Stay apprised of the latest treatment options and headache relief news.
Headache Diary – Keep a diary of when your headaches occur, along with any triggers, and share the information with your healthcare provider.
See Your Healthcare Provider –Make an appointment with your healthcare provider to specifically discuss your headaches.
Be a Partner in Your Headache Care – Stay informed, so you can be a participant in your treatment and an advocate for improving your own headache care.
Acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help prevent illness by building up the immune system with just a few needles inserted into key points along the body’s energy pathways.
These points are known for strengthening the circulation of blood and energy and consolidating the outer defense layers of the skin and muscle (wei Qi) so that germs and viruses cannot enter through them.
Seasonal acupuncture treatments also server to tonify inner organ systems and correct minor annoyances before they become serious problems.
Call to see how acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help you stay healthy
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Get Relief from Repetitive Stress Injuries with Acupuncture
Repetitive stress injuries (RSI) are the most common job-related injuries and are responsible for the highest number of days lost among all work related injuries. One of the most well-known types of repetitive stress injury, carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) accounts for over two million visits to physicians’ offices and approximately 465,000 carpal tunnel release operations each year, making it the most frequent surgery of the hand and wrist.
Symptoms of repetitive stress injuries include tightness, stiffness, pain, tingling, numbness, coldness and loss of strength in the arm. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a repetitive stress injury that refers specifically to the inflammation of a specific ligament that puts pressure on the median nerve.
Acupuncture is extremely effective for treating repetitive stress injuries including carpal tunnel syndrome; eliminating the need for surgery or the use of anti-inflammatory drugs or corticosteroids. In fact, one of the most common reasons that people get acupuncture is for repetitive stress injuries. Recent studies even suggest that acupuncture may be more effective than corticosteroids when it comes to treating CTS.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway in the wrist made up of ligaments and bones. The median nerve and the tendons that connect the fingers to the muscles of the forearm pass through this tightly spaced tunnel.
Carpal tunnel syndrome, also known as median nerve entrapment, occurs when swelling or irritation of the tendons in the carpal tunnel results in pressure on the median nerve causing pain in the palm side of the wrist and pain and tingling in the fingers. The median nerve controls sensations to the palm side of the thumb and fingers, as well as impulses to some small muscles in the hand that allow the fingers and thumb to move.
Symptoms usually start gradually, with frequent burning, tingling, or numbness in the palm of the hand and the fingers, especially the index, middle and ring fingers. Pain can sometimes travel up the arm and affect the shoulder. The symptoms often first appear during the night. As symptoms worsen, people might feel pain, weakness, or numbness in the hand and wrist, radiating up the arm during the day. Decreased grip strength may make it difficult to form a fist, grasp small objects, or perform other manual tasks. If not properly treated, CTS can cause irreversible nerve damage and permanent deterioration of muscle tissue.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Repetitive Stress Injuries with Acupuncture
From an Oriental medicine perspective, a repetitive stress injury is seen as a disruption of the flow of Qi and Blood (Xue) within the area and associated with cold, dampness or wind penetrating the muscles and sinews. Acupuncture points, stretching exercises, herbal remedies and nutritional supplements are chosen to treat accordingly.
In addition to reducing the swelling, inflammation and pain, acupuncture addresses any headaches, neck pain, shoulder stiffness and sleeping problems that often accompany this condition. Your treatment may also take into account any underlying conditions that contribute to the development of RSI including posture, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid problems, diabetes, and hormonal changes of pregnancy and menopause.
Acupuncture Effective in Treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
According to a randomized, controlled study published in the May 2009 issue of the Clinical Journal of Pain, acupuncture is as effective as the corticosteroid, prednisone, for the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).
The study investigated the efficacy of acupuncture compared with steroid treatment in patients with mild-to-moderate carpal tunnel syndrome as measured by both nerve conduction studies and symptom assessment surveys. One group received eight acupuncture treatments over four weeks, and the other group received daily oral doses of prednisone for four weeks.
Results showed that acupuncture was just as effective as the corticosteroid for pain, numbness, tingling and weakness. For the symptoms of night time awakening and motor function, the acupuncture group had better results.
Researchers concluded that acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment option for CTS for those who experience side effects to oral steroids or for those who do not wish to undergo surgery.
Reduce Your Repetitive Stress Injury Risk
Managing repetitive stress injuries often requires some lifestyle changes, and it can take time to work out a strategy that works best for you.
Here are a few minor changes you can implement to minimize stress on your hands and wrists:
Alternate Tasks – Avoid doing the same task for more than a couple of hours at a time and alternate between tasks that use different muscle groups where possible.
Fatigue is a sign that you need to take a break. Take small breaks to gently stretch and bend your hands and wrists and readjust your position.
Reduce Pressure – Many people use more force than needed to perform tasks involving their hands, which can increase pressure and cause irritation. Be mindful of the speed and amount of pressure used to perform tasks. Ease up, slow down, and grip using your palm or whole hand to distribute the load. If using tools such as riveters or jackhammers for extended periods, take frequent breaks or operate the tool at a speed that causes the least amount of vibration.
Cultivate Good Posture –Incorrect posture can cause your shoulders to roll forward, shortening neck and shoulder muscles and compressing nerves in your neck, which can affect your wrists, hands, and fingers.
Shoulders and neck should be relaxed to open the chest and allow your head to float upwards without strain. When using a keyboard, wrists should be in a relaxed middle position and in a straight line with your forearms at elbow height or slightly lower.