Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine for Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia affects approximately 2% of the US population, about 5 million people. Fibromyalgia is a syndrome with many different symptoms that can vary from patient to patient. The primary symptoms all fibromyalgia patients share is global diffuse pain that persists along with sleep disturbances. The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown although many people with the condition have a history of either physical or emotional trauma.
Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine (AIM) can offer relief from fibromyalgia. In Spain, a recent study demonstrated that a course of 10 weekly individualized acupuncture treatments gave patients a 41% decrease in pain, while also decreasing other fibromyalgia symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety and depression. In this study, MRI scans before and after receiving Acupuncture, participants brains showed that those with fibromyalgia had less opioid receptors in their brain and after receiving a course of Acupuncture, these participants had developed more opioid receptors! This finding demonstrates that part of how Acupuncture heals the body is by activating neuroplasticity to regenerate health. This study also contributes to our understanding about the underlying causes of fibromyalgia. And most significantly for patients, the results of decreased pain and better quality of life were maintained at the one year follow-up (Vas, 2016). This is one of the most promising and significant studies to date. Currently, only 1 in 5 fibromyalgia patients try acupuncture within 2 years of their diagnosis.
Here are two Acupressure points to try @ home:
Du26 is located at the center point between the upper lip and nose. You can sliding your finger from your nose to your lip and feel for the most sensitive spot. Press lightly while breathing in and relaxing the parts of your body your breath focuses your attention upon.
Sp21 wrap one arm around to the opposite side of your torso and feel for a tender point between the 7th and 8th ribs: directly below the center of the armpit Press gently while breathing in and relax the parts of your body your breath focuses your attention upon. Sp21 is a point that influences microcirculation in the body and is used for widespread, diffuse, all over body pain.
AIM Nutrition Tips
Stay away from sugar and all things that turn into sugar, alcohol and simple carbohydrates for 21 days. You might also want to try eliminating dairy and wheat. After a 21day total elimination diet, add one food back at a time, spacing the reintroduction of different foods every three days and wait and see if this food/drink does or does not trigger a pain or other fibromyalgia symptom.
After an Elimination diet you may still enjoy these foods but in a much more limited quantity. These are foods in AIM nutrition that create ‘dampness’ in the body. ‘Dampness’ in Acupuncture medical theory can cause pain: especially pain that gets worse with changes in weather, swollen joints, inflammation, bloating, edema, brain fog, feeling fatigued but also not able to get a good nights sleep, allergies, rashes. . .Sound familiar?
Other things that contribute to chronic global pain in AIM medical theory include: stuck emotions, Qi Deficiency, Yin Deficiency and/or Blood Deficiency. Qi Deficiency can occur from burn out, overwork, chronic sleep deficiency, lack of nutrition, etc. Yin Deficiency is often caused by a diet low in healthy fats and low reproductive hormones. What causes Blood Deficiency? Irregular eating (skipping breakfast, food disorders, etc) or vegetarian or vegan diet not balanced in essential proteins (amino acids), anemia and/or Vit D deficiency.
To increase your Vitamin D levels, eat more deep sea fish or take a high quality fish oil and get some sun every day! Sunny days! Sun yourself 2-3 times per week about 5-10 minutes per day with as much skin exposed as possible (Holick, 2004). Other vitamins that play a role in pain include: calcium, potassium, as well as proteins and healthy fats. Analyze your diet to figure out what’s missing. Then focus on food based sources to use food as medicine to heal your body back to health.
Once you have identified the nutrients lacking in your diet, work on making your food medicine by integrating foods high in the nutrients you are lacking. Focus on the foods you can eat vs ruminating on what you can’t eat. If you find yourself too busy or in too much pain to cook/eat well, consider taking supplements to balance out nutritional deficiencies.
There are several herbal formulas that can successfully treat and manage fibromyalgia symptoms. Your AIM practitioner will determine the right formula for you based on your individual constitution and fibromyalgia symptoms.
Breathing Yoga Therapy for Fibromyalgia
Developing a breathing yoga practice with intentional relaxation can become an internal part of nurturing your wellbeing.
Lay on the floor on cushy yoga/excercise mat with your knees bent, place your feet up on a wall or couch or ottoman.
Tips: Support your body with props, support your neck or arms with props can help relieve pressure and make the pose more restorative. Turn your palms up to open the shoulders and relax the chest.
Focus on deep breathing and unwinding your body.
With each inhale, your breath will guide your mind to a different part of your body. Follow the sensations in your body from inhale to inhale.
With each exhale, practice letting go of that part of your body.
Imagine it melting, softening, unwinding, relaxing, surrendering, turning a color you associate with relaxing… find the right word or imagery that helps your body relax.
Note that the the ‘right’ word or image may change from breath to breath, day to day. Be Present with your Breath and body moment by moment.
Know someone with fibromyalgia! Refer them to Yin Rising Acupuncture!
Holick, M. F. (2004). Sunlight and vitamin D for bone health and prevention of autoimmune diseases, cancers, and cardiovascular disease. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 80(6), 1678S-1688S. Vas, J.,
Santos-Rey, K., Navarro-Pablo, R., Modesto, M., Aguilar, I., Campos, M. Á., & Santamaría, O. (2016). Acupuncture for fibromyalgia in primary care: a randomised controlled trial. Acupuncture in Medicine, acupmed-2015.