Fibromyalgia is a multi factorial syndrome affecting many body systems. It causes chronic, widespread pain in muscles, tendons, ligaments and fibrous tissues. Fibromyalgia affects approximately 2% of the US population, about 5-6 million Americans. The majority of those diagnosed are women in their middle ages, although men and children are also affected. Other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia include muscle stiffness, numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, fatigue, sleep disturbances, headaches and irritable bowel syndrome. A number of factors contribute to this symptomatology including changes in the regulation of certain brain chemicals like serotonin which is linked to depression, migraines and gastrointestinal distress. Some research indicates that viral or bacterial infection may also trigger fibromyalgia.  Mismanaged physical and emotional stress and post-traumatic stress disorder have also been linked to fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia can be difficult to treat due to the fact that several organ systems are affected. Treatment plans for fibromyalgia vary greatly based on different medical disciplines. In Western medical communities, pharmaceuticals are used to manage pain associated with fibromyalgia. Common medications include analgesics or pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as Ibuprofen (Advil), aspirin and naproxen sodium (Aleve), as well as with muscle relaxants. Antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs might be prescribed to manage depression and improve sleep. Anti-spasmodic medications are also used to relieve abdominal pain. Unfortunately, the benefits of medications are often limited by their side effects.

Diet modifications can also help manage symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. Because inflammation is the underlying cause of pain associated with fibromyalgia, some individuals respond well to anti-inflammatory diets. Anti-inflammation diets are high in whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, cold water fish, high quality fats, nuts, seeds, and fresh herbs and spices.  Others are responsive to detoxification diets which focus on the elimination of all processed foods, caffeine, alcohol, refined sugars, meat and common food allergens such as wheat, gluten, dairy, eggs, shellfish and soy. In addition, supplementation with probiotics keeps the digestive tract healthy and may also reduce inflammation by restoring a healthy balance of gut bacteria. Individuals with fibromyalgia often have low blood levels of serotonin, so supplementation with 5-HTP, which increases the synthesis of serotonin, may be useful in these cases. SAMe or S-adenosyl-L-methionine may decrease pain and morning stiffness.

Classical Chinese Medicine (CCM) has also been studied extensively for its effectiveness in treating fibromyalgia. Because CCM provides a holistic and systemic approach to health and healing, some individuals experience greater symptom relief when CCM therapies are used in addition to Western approaches. For example, results from a recent study published in the Journal of Rehabilitative Medicine indicated that the addition of acupuncture to conventional treatments was beneficial for pain and quality of life in fibromyalgia patients. In CCM, there are 4 pattern assessments associated with fibromyalgia: liver Qi stagnation, qi and blood stagnation, qi and blood deficiency and kidney deficiency. Acupuncture and Chinese medical herbs can provide fibromyalgia symptom relief by balancing ying and yang and by adjusting the flow of qi and blood. A Chinese medical practitioner might also apply heat to specific points on the body, and use cupping, moxibustion and massage to help reduce pain. Scientific research indicates that Tui Na, Chinese massage, and movement therapies like Qigong and Yoga can reduce pain and improve symptoms in fibromyalgia patients.

Dr. Lisanti at Integrative Med Solutions in Westchester, New York uses acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and naturopathic medical modalities including nutrition to meet the health care needs of his patients with fibromyalgia. If you are affected by fibromyalgia, please contact with Dr. Lisanti at Integrative Med Solutions to schedule an appointment.

One Response to “Integrative Therapies for Fibromyalgia”

  1. I have been diagnosted with Fibromyalgia and treament is not working. Do you accept fidelis insurance as I’m noy working now?

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