Fibromyalgia is a condition mostly affecting women between 20-50 years of age. Patients suffer chronic, severe muscular pain and stiffness accompanied by moderate to serious depression and fatigue. Fibromyalgia can be differentiated from other chronic muscle-joint pain by the presence of more than 10 sites of pain on the body. It is not a rheumatic, inflammatory nor a degenerative disorder and has been misinterpreted as a psychosomatic disorder for the longest time. In 1987, the American Medical Association (AMA) recognized Fibromyalgia as a true illness and major cause of disability.
Most of the Fibromyalgia sufferers will also have some of the following symptoms : tension headaches, migraines, unable to concentrate, dizziness, sensitive to light, noise or smell, painful menstruation and dry mouth. Most of them have sleep problems too. They are usually able to fall asleep but are not able to sleep soundly or wake up too early in the morning.
Western physicians tend to treat Fibromyalgia by prescribing various drugs for each of the above symptoms. For instance, anti-depressants are used to deal with the sleep and mood disorder; non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) are used to deal with the pain. Unfortunately, a lot of patients cannot tolerate antidepressants and even NSAIDs on a long term basis. And these drugs can have potential for side effects and many of these side effects include many of the symptoms of Fibromyalgia.
Treating Fibromyalgia with Chinese Medicine
According to Chinese medicine's theory, patients of Fibromyalgia have a body constitution with a liver-spleen disharmony as the core of their disease mechanism. This means that their liver 'qi' (energy) is stagnant and suppressed and their spleen 'qi' and function is vacuous and weak. Based on this body constitution, patients will have malnourishment of their sinews, muscle and vessels. Because of the stagnation, patients may also have damp heat impediment, blood stasis, weak circulation, kidney 'yin' and kidney 'yang' deficiencies. Each patient will have a slightly different Chinese medical pattern discrimination because of the unique constitution of different patient. Chinese medicine do not try to mask the pain or symptoms but would try to balance the patients' body to get rid of the liver-spleen disharmony. Each patient receives their own individualized treatment. This treatment mainly consists of the oral administration of Chinese herbal formulas. At Vitality Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Clinic, for the ease of patient compliance, we prescribe Chinese herbal formulas that is given as granuated extracts, that could be dissolved in warm water and drunk as a 'tea' several times a day. Depending on the patient's individual pattern, acupuncture and moxibustion may also be prescribed during the treatment course.
What to expect with Chinese Medicine treatment ?
Although improvement of the symptoms can be seen within a relatively short period of time with Chinese medicine, typically the treatment last 3 to 6 months in its active phase, and should be followed up by several more months of taking herbs as a maintenance and preventive measure. In addition, we will give a guide line to the patient's diet and lifestyle in order to eliminate the root of the condition. We will also introduce the patients to some no or low cost Chinese home remedies, like herbal teas, self-massage, aromatherapy, light therapy, exercises and acu-point massage that they can perform at home as an on-going maintenance program.