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.
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. In Oriental medicine, fibromyalgia pain is seen as a disruption of the flow of Qi within the body and is usually associated with disharmonies of the Liver, Spleen, Kidney and Heart systems.
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.
Read more about acupuncture and Oriental medicine for fibromyalgia!
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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.
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 Restorative Sleep
Try to get at least 8 hours of restorative sleep. Maintain a routine sleep schedule and make your bedroom a sanctuary from every day stress.
Practicing good sleep hygiene will give your body an opportunity to get stronger and heal.
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 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.
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). 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.
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 Life Energy (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.
Do you or someone you know suffer from a repetitive stress injury? Read more and contact an acupuncturist near you to learn how acupuncture and Oriental medicine can be incorporated into your wellness plan!
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