What is Fibromyalgia (fy-bro-my-AL-ja)?
Fibromyalgia is a common and complex chronic pain disorder that causes widespread pain and tenderness to touch that may occur body wide or migrate over the body. Along with other symptoms, pain and tenderness wax and wane over time. Fibromyalgia (FM) affects people physically, mentally and socially. Approximately 10 million Americans (2-4%) have FM with a ratio of about 8 to 2, women over men. It occurs in people of all ages, including children. The literal translation of the word fibromyalgia is pain in the muscles, ligaments and tendons. But FM is much more than pain and presents with many other symptoms that vary from person to person.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Chronic widespread body pain which can wax and wane is the primary symptom of fibromyalgia. Both men and women with fibromyalgia often experience moderate to extreme fatigue, sleep disturbances, sensitivity to touch, light, and sound, and cognitive difficulties. Many individuals also experience a number of other symptoms and overlapping conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome,TMJD, lupus and arthritis. Stress often increases symptoms of fibromyalgia.
- Pain – The pain of fibromyalgia is profound, chronic and widespread. It can migrate to all parts of the body and vary in intensity. FM pain has been described as stabbing and shooting pain, with deep muscular aching, throbbing, and twitching. Neurological complaints such as numbness, tingling, and burning are often present and add to the discomfort of the person with fibromyalgia. The severity of the pain and stiffness is often worse in the morning. Aggravating factors that affect pain include cold/humid weather, non-restorative sleep, physical and mental fatigue, excessive physical activity, physical inactivity, anxiety and stress.
- Fatigue – In today’s world many people complain of fatigue; however, the fatigue of FM is much more than being tired after a particularly busy day or after a sleepless night. The fatigue of FM is an all-encompassing exhaustion that can interfere with occupational, personal, social or educational activities. Symptoms include profound exhaustion and poor stamina.
- Sleep problems – Many people with fibromyalgia have an associated sleep disorder that prevents them from achieving deep, restful, restorative sleep. Medical researchers have documented specific and distinctive abnormalities in the Stage 4 deep sleep of FM patients. During sleep, individuals with FM are constantly interrupted by bursts of awake-like brain activity, limiting the amount of time they spend in deep sleep.
- Other signs, symptoms, and overlapping conditions – Additional symptoms may include: irritable bowel and bladder, headaches and migraines, restless legs syndrome (periodic limb movement disorder), impaired memory and concentration, skin sensitivities and rashes, dry eyes and mouth, anxiety, depression, ringing in the ears, dizziness, vision problems, Raynaud’s Syndrome, neurological symptoms, and impaired coordination.
An estimated 3% – 6% of the American population suffers from the chronic disorder known as fibromyalgia, which causes widespread pain, fatigue, and even anxiety. The exact cause of the disorder is unknown, and its duration and intensity varies for each patient. For those living with it, it can be a life-altering condition, leaving them unable to enjoy activities that others take for granted. While there are many variations in the treatment of fibromyalgia, acupuncture provides a safe method which has been shown to greatly reduce the associated symptoms.
Although there is no known cure for fibromyalgia, a multidisciplinary team effort using combined treatment approaches, including patient education, aerobic exercise, cognitive behavioral therapy and pharmacologic therapies have been shown to improve symptoms and function in patients with fibromyalgia. Helping patients to identify which combination of these therapies makes the most impact on their quality of life can be part of a successful symptom self-management system. Education is paramount to the success of this kind of protocol, both for healthcare professionals as well as the patient.
Among the benefits fibromyalgia sufferers stand to gain from acupuncture are:
- Reduced Pain
- Improved Sleeping Habits
- Boosted Immune System
Additionally, other treatment methods may be applied to work in conjunction with acupuncture therapy. A well-rounded treatment plan is key to successfully treating the disorder. Rather than relying on medications such as pain relievers or antidepressants which alter brain chemistry, relief may be found in combining acupuncture with some or all of the following:
- Chiropractic Care – Fibromyalgia causes muscle tightness, discomfort, and a loss in mobility over time. Gentle chiropractic adjustments can help the muscles regain their pliability without causing damage.
- Cold Laser Therapy – Muscle tissue has been shown to have reduced healing capabilities in fibromyalgia patients. Cold laser therapy not only stimulates tissue healing, but decreases pain sensations as well.
- Exercise – Staying physically active is crucial for patients, allowing them to retain higher levels of comfort and flexibility. Aerobic exercise seems to be particularly helpful.
- Diet – Fresh and organically grown foods have less stress on the body, helping it function at its maximum capacity. A diet consisting of foods such as soy, nuts and berries, brown rice, and hormone-free chicken and turkey will be beneficial.
Fibromyalgia can be a frustrating and debilitating illness for the millions of individuals who struggle with it each day. It often leads to multiple doctors, different treatment plans, and a dependency on a range of pharmaceutical drugs. Thankfully, acupuncture can be a highly effective option, resulting in drastically reduced pain and fatigue for months at a time. Furthermore, when combined with complimentary therapies and appropriate lifestyle changes, it can mean a radical change in the quality of life for fibromyalgia patients.
For more information about how acupuncture and other treatments can help you, please contact Board Certified Licensed Acupuncturist, Steve Drugan,B.S., L.Ac., at 614.218.6287 or click here. Taking new patients in and around Columbus, Ohio.