Fibromyalgia is the second most common rheumatic disorder in the United States behind arthritis, according to the American College of Rheumatology.
People diagnosed with fibromyalgia experience a wide range of symptoms including fatigue, pain, stiffness, aches, muscle tenderness, along with sleep disorders, intestinal and bowel troubles. The diagnosis of fibromyalgia can be confirmed when 11 out of 18 specific points on the body are tender to pressure. Interestingly, some of these tender nits closely correspond to the location of ancient acupuncture pointes.
How acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help According to the theories of acupuncture and Chinese medicine an imbalance to the flow of Qi and blood can create symptoms and signs that reflect a Western diagnosis of fibromyalgia.
Qi (pronounced “chee”) is the energy or the power that animates and supports the functions of the body. It flows through specific pathways, called Meridians, and provides nourishment for the entire body.
When Qi is abundant and feely circulating throughout the body, there is healthy and pain-free living. When Qi becomes “blocked”, or the supply is inadequate, pain, stiffness and other symptoms related to fibromyalgia can appear.
Most cases of fibromyalgia fit into the Chinese diagnosis of a Liver, Spleen, and/or Heart disharmony. This doesn’t mean that these organs have a “problem,” it means that the “functions” of these meridians according the Chinese medical diagnosis are out of balance.
The functions related to the Liver organ, according to Chinese medicine, are to control the smooth flow of blood, Qi, and emotions and to nourish the tendons. When the Liver meridian becomes “blocked” there will be an inadequate supply of blood and Qi flowing throughout the body. The tendons and muscles will not be properly nourished, leading to stiffness and pain. Other symptoms of a “blocked” Liver are depression, anger, anxiety, and insomnia. A Liver imbalance can occur from improper diet, stress, deep, unexpressed anger, drugs and alcohol.
The Chinese function of the Spleen is to transform the food that we ingest into Qi and blood. The health of the Spleen is affected by diet, over-concentration, and worry. An unbalanced Spleen can result in fatigue, digestive troubles, muscle stiffness, and pain.
When there is an insufficient amount of Qi and blood produced by the Spleen, the Heart organ will be affected. The role of the Heart is to pump blood throughout the body. It is also considered to be the home of the Spirit. If the spleen cannot generate enough blood to nourish the Heart, the Heart Qi does not have enough control top properly house the Spirit. Symptoms can include anxiety, palpitations, insomnia, and emotional unrest.