Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Dr Jessica Gunawan and Physician Brandon Yew on July 4, 2022

Can TCM Help Reduce Fibromyalgia Symptoms?

There are several things you can do at home to help cope with your fibromyalgia symptoms naturally. Our experts explain how here.

Fibromyalgia min scaled

Fibromyalgia symptoms tend to be something that many people struggle with their entire lives. This may include both mental and physical issues.

Currently, there is no cure. However, there are things you can do at home to cope with symptoms naturally.

In this guide, our experts explain fibromyalgia symptoms and how to deal with everything from joint pain to intestinal bloating.

What is Fibromyalgia?

In addition to chronic pain, fibromyalgia may also cause fatigue, depression, and mood disorders.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes fatigue and widespread bone and muscle pain throughout the body.

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 
  • Problems with thought, memory, or concentration 
  • Tingling or numbing sensation in the hands and feet 
  • Digestive issues like bloating, constipation, abdominal pain, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) 

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

What Causes Fibromyalgia Symptoms?

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. It also occurs twice more in women than men. Here are some other possible risk factors:

Underlying health conditions

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

Lifestyle habits

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, and 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. 

How To Control Fibromyalgia Symptoms

There aren’t definitive ways to clinically diagnose fibromyalgia. A physician will usually analyze your symptoms and perform a physical examination.

Blood tests may help rule out anemia or thyroid gland disorders. It’s worth remembering that people who have the condition are also more sensitive to pain than most. 

Here are some things you can do to manage the condition:

Stay physically active

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

Try cycling, swimming, 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.

Try therapy

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 behavioral 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.

Use herbal formulas

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
  • Si Ni Tang 
  • Fu Ling Wan 
  • Xuan Bi Tang 
  • Yi Yi Ren Tang 
  • Bu Yang Huan Wu Tang 
  • Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang 
  • Dang Gui Nian Tong Tang 
  • Dang Gui Si Ni Tang
  • Jing Fang Bai Du San 
  • Jing Fang Si Wu Tang 
  • Shen Tong Zhu Yu Tang
  • Huang Qi Gui Zhi Wu Wu Tang 
  • Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang 
  • Ma Huang Xi Xin Fu Zi Tang 

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.”

Can Acupressure Help With Fibromyalgia Symptoms?

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), Feng Chi (GB20), Tai Yang (EX-HN5), and Jian Jing (GB21) 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) 
  • Shou San Li (LI10)  
  • Qu Chi (LI11)  
  • Bi Nao (LI14) 
  • Lao Gong (PC8) 
  • Wai Guan (SJ5) 

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

  • Yin Men (BL37)  
  • Wei Zhong (BI40) 
  • Cheng Shan (BL57) 
  • Feng Shi (GB31) 
  • Yang Ling Quan (GB34) 
  • Xuan Zhong (GB39) 
  • Tai Xi (KI3) 
  • Yin Bao (LI9) 
  • Tai Chong (LR3) 
  • San Yin Jiao (SP6) 
  • Yin Ling Quan (SP9) 
  • Xue Hai (SP10) 
  • Liang Qiu (ST34) 
  • Zu San Li (ST36) 
  • Yao Yan (EX-B7) 

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.

Medications That Treat Fibromyalgia Symptoms

A number of medications are available for doing away with fibromyalgia symptoms. You can purchase painkillers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) from a pharmacy. 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 neurotransmitters in the brain, subduing pain and improving mood. 

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.

If you’re looking to try a more natural route, then consider Panax ginseng. One study found that Panax ginseng improves the quality of life and reduces tender points in patients with fibromyalgia.

Managing Symptoms Can Improve Quality Of Life

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
  2. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Fibromyalgia
  3. Cleveland Clinic. Fibromyalgia
  4. National Library of Medicine. 2018. Fibromyalgia: Exercise, relaxation and stress management. 
  5. Scientific Research Publishing. 2021. Role of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Fibromyalgia: A Systematic Review. 
  6. United Kingdom National Health Service. Fibromyalgia
  7. Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry. 2013. Effects of Panax ginseng extract in patients with fibromyalgia: a 12-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.

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