5 Ways to Relieve Unsettling Fibromyalgia Symptoms

Fibromyalgia symptoms are both physical and psychological. These are not life-threatening but can impair a person’s ability to function normally.

Woman sitting on the floor in a dark area of a room with her eyes closed

Fibromyalgia symptoms can recur over time. These are physically and psychologically debilitating and can impair a person’s quality of life. Notable signs of the condition are: 

  • Anxiety 
  • Depression 
  • Fatigue 
  • Difficulty sleeping 
  • Temporomandibular joint syndrome 
  • Pain and stiffness all over the body 
  • Struggles with thought, memory or concentration 
  • Tingling or numbing sensation in the hands and feet 

There aren’t any cures available for fibromyalgia. However, various steps can be taken to ease symptoms and help you function daily. Let’s discover these together. 

Woman grimacing in pain as she rubs her right shoulder with her left hand
Women have a higher risk of developing fibromyalgia symptoms like stiffness and pain as compared to men.

Who is at Risk of Developing Fibromyalgia, and Why? 

The exact reasons behind fibromyalgia are yet to be determined, but it can affect people of all ages. It also shares similar traits to many health disorders. In addition, several factors may make a person prone to developing the condition. 

For instance, it’s more likely to occur in middle-aged adults. Talk about being on the wrong side of 40.

It also transpires two times more among members of the fairer sex than in men. 

Therein lies health conditions that trigger fibromyalgia 

Being previously diagnosed with a rheumatic disease, mood disorder or other health conditions that give rise to pain – lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis – can also make you vulnerable to fibromyalgia.

How you live today determines your health tomorrow 

Pathogenic factors can arise from a pressure-cooker work environment, poor work-life balance, an unhealthy diet and other less-than-commendable lifestyle practices. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), these are believed to be Cold, Heat, Wind, Dampness, Blood Stasis, Qi (vital life force) Stagnation.

As a result, it disrupts qi and blood circulation within the muscles, sinews and joints. Kidney, Liver and Spleen Deficiencies may also ensue. 

Woman smiling as she cycles a bicycle outdoors
Moderate cycling is suitable for people with fibromyalgia as they fatigue easily.

Five Ways to Have Better Control Over Fibromyalgia Symptoms 

There aren’t definitive ways to clinically diagnose fibromyalgia. A physician will usually analyse your symptoms and perform a physical examination. Blood tests may help rule out anaemia or thyroid gland disorders. It’s worth remembering that people who have the condition are also more sensitive to pain than most. 

A bucket of sweat a day keeps fibromyalgia away 

Staying physically active is a necessity, but it can be difficult to do so if you’re experiencing fatigue. Studies show that gentle, low-intensity routines can improve fitness and reduce pain severity.

Try cycling, dancing, or walking for 30 to 60 minutes, two to three times weekly. Perform strength-building routines with machines, elastic bands, or light weights. Workouts that incorporate meditation, such as yoga,  Qigong, or tai chi, can also help.

Breathe in, focus, breathe out 

Autogenic training promotes relaxation and alleviates muscle tension. It involves focusing on a specific set of muscle groups and repetitions of muscle tensing and relaxing. Gradually, it’ll help you become more aware of your body, and consciously achieve physical and mental calmness.

Separately, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is also used to treat mood disorders. It reduces the degree of connectivity between areas of the cerebral cortex – the outer layer of neural tissue in the cerebrum – that relates to pain. Thus, it contributes to a shift in pain processing, promoting significant recovery from physical distress. 

Rectify imbalances, one herbal formula at a time  

Real Health Medical Senior TCM Physician Brandon Yew proposes using herbal formulas to address pathogenic imbalances that provoke the onset of fibromyalgia. These distinctively include: 

  • Si ni san (四逆散) 
  • Si ni tang (四逆汤) 
  • Fu ling wan (茯苓丸) 
  • Xuan bi tang (宣痹汤) 
  • Yi yi ren tang (薏苡仁汤) 
  • Bu yang huan wu tang (补阳还五汤) 
  • Du huo ji sheng tang (独活寄生汤) 
  • Dang gui nian tong tang (当归拈痛汤)  
  • Dang gui si ni tang (当归四逆汤) 
  • Jing fang bai du san (荆防败毒散) 
  • Jing fang si wu tang (荆防四物汤) 
  • Shen tong zhu yu tang (身痛逐瘀汤) 
  • Huang qi gui zhi wu wu tang (黄芪桂枝五物汤) 
  • Gui zhi shao yao zhi mu tang (桂枝芍药知母汤) 
  • Ma huang xi xin fu zi tang (麻黄细辛附子汤) 

However, Physician Yew cautions, “Keep in mind that these recommendations are meant for varying pathologies of fibromyalgia. As such, avoid purchasing any of them to self-medicate without first consulting a licensed TCM practitioner.”

The body works well under the right amount of pressure 

The stimulation of acupoints can soothe pain, tingling and numbness sensations and relieve stiffness in different areas of the body. Applying pressure on the bai hui (DU20, 百会), feng chi (GB20, 风池), tai yang (EX-HN5, 太阳), and jian jing (GB21, 肩井) points can dull pain in the head, neck and shoulders.

Meanwhile, you can soothe pain in the upper limbs by activating acupoints like: 

  • He gu (LI4, 合谷) 
  • Shou san li (LI10, 手三里)  
  • Qu chi (LI11, 曲池)  
  • Bi nao (LI14, 臂臑) 
  • Lao gong (PC8, 劳宫) 
  • Wai guan (SJ5, 外关) 

Likewise, pressing on these acupoints can provide pain and fatigue relief in the lower back and limbs:  

  • Yin men (BL37, 殷门)  
  • Wei zhong (BI40, 委中) 
  • Cheng shan (BL57, 承山) 
  • Feng shi (GB31, 风市
  • Yang ling quan, GB34, 阳陵泉) 
  • Xuan zhong (GB39, 悬钟) 
  • Tai xi (KI3, 太溪) 
  • Yin bao (LI9, 阴包) 
  • Tai chong (LR3, 太沖) 
  • San yin jiao (SP6, 三阴交
  • Yin ling quan (SP9, 阴陵泉) 
  • Xue hai (SP10, 血海) 
  • Liang qiu (ST34, 梁丘) 
  • Zu san li (ST36, 足三里) 
  • Yao yan (EX-B7, 腰眼) 

Do note that acupressure only provides mild symptomatic relief and is incapable of tackling the root pathology of fibromyalgia for effective and longer-lasting treatment.

Getting by with a little help from pharmaceuticals 

A number of medications are available for doing away with fibromyalgia symptoms. You can purchase painkillers like paracetamol from a pharmacy, while stronger options such as codeine and tramadol are only available with a physician’s prescription. Antidepressants may also bring about the same effect for some people. It can increase the level of neurotransmitters in the brain, subduing pain. 

Muscle relaxants and sleep medications can boost sleep quality and reset your circadian rhythm. Anticonvulsant use, too, has been associated with better shut eye and control over fibromyalgia flare-ups.

Fibromyalgia may not necessarily be life-threatening but can present with complex sets of symptoms. Seeking professional assistance is ideal for managing the condition effectively. Ultimately, the treatment options you choose are only deemed safe if they’re suggested by certified healthcare providers.

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fibromyalgia. [online] [Accessed 5 May 2022]
  2. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Fibromyalgia. [online] [Accessed 5 May 2022]
  3. Cleveland Clinic. Fibromyalgia. [online] [Accessed 5 May 2022]
  4. National Library of Medicine. 2018. Fibromyalgia: Exercise, relaxation and stress management. [online] [Accessed 5 May 2022]
  5. Scientific Research Publishing. 2021. Role of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Fibromyalgia: A Systematic Review. [online] [Accessed 5 May 2022]
  6. United Kingdom National Health Service. Fibromyalgia. [online] [Accessed 5 May 2022]

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