Fibromyalgia and The Path Of Pain
This chronic, debilitating condition refers to a group of nonarticular rheumatic disorders. These are characterized by pain, tenderness, and stiffness of muscles and of the areas of tendon insertion and adjacent soft tissue. The muscle stiffness and soreness is characterized by focal points. These are areas of more acute actual inflammation (trigger points) as shown on the diagram. The actual diagnosis is made by the presence of up to 18 pairs of these trigger points in specified places on the body.
Just a Name, Not a Solution
Frequently there will be poor sleep, overwhelming fatigue, irritability, anxiety. There may also be urethral irritation, irritable bowel symptoms, and general malaise. This condition may be induced and intensified by physical or mental stress. It is exacerbated by chronically disturbed sleep, trauma, and exposure to damp or cold. This is a new term in western medical circles. Unfortunately, so many people have mistaken it for a solution. Many sufferers will tell you that it is not a solution, and to oriental thinking, it isn’t even consistent enough to be a syndrome.
How Fibromyalgia Got Its Name
There was a time when we went to the doctor’s office with aches and pains. When they showed no swelling or visible deformations under x-rays, the doctor, friendly enough, patted us on the back. He asked us if there was another problem: were we lonely, did we have friends, a good social network? Well, you could go home and take a hot bath, was the suggestion, and take some aspirin. Some offered something stronger. But we understood what the practitioner really thought of our complaints. We were ashamed that we were bothering them about pains that we could bear up under easily enough. Why bother the doctor about such a thing? “Just getting to that age, I guess!” As if aches and pains were a natural part of this passage.
The New Era of Patient
Suddenly there is a new age of patients, mostly female, who are demanding more. "Are you saying I'm crazy? Do you think I'm just faking this?" And the doctor taken aback suddenly finds the answer in Latin nomenclature. He comes up with "fibro" meaning muscle and tissue and "myalgia" meaning ache and or pain.
Now there is a name, Fibromyalgia, and little more You thank the practitioner for the name because it gives you an identity with your dis-ease but it is still not a solution (see article: Diagnosis, The One-Word Disaster).
A Chinese Medical Perspective
What we’ve always known in Chinese medicine is that these pains fall into patterns. Moreover, we’ve always used the patients’ own self-determination about what that pain is and how they feels to define it. There are 4,000 years of empirical observation of organ/meridian related syndromes. We’ve seen a clear record of what series of pains have what origins.Mostly, what we are seeing today in terms of Fibromyalgia is that it is a combination of these pain patterns.
Excess and Deficiency
Among these syndromes some are excess syndromes and some are deficiency syndromes. To understand this further it would help to think of the ‘ex’ in excess as meaning extra as in ‘from the outside’ or ‘more than the average’. So we of average health can get excess syndromes from the outside, meaning from weather or strain or accidents etc.
Often these are carried to us through a ‘wind’ (Chinese medically speaking) which results in symptoms that move around. We can also have normal health with paranormal or extra energy derived from within. This is harder to understand, and so the easiest thing to remember is that if it is not a deficiency, it is an excess. Excess people generally do not like to be touched and may have considerable duress to suffer through a massage.
One of the most common forms of excess is blood stagnation. Sometimes these people ache all over. It can originate with an excess such as a car accident or even just an emotional shock. Sometimes a car accident can be just that combination of physical and emotional trauma. Anyway, these people can ache almost anywhere you touch them.
The opposite is often also a cause. A lack of movement (of energy and blood) leads to a sluggishness that creates a stagnation. It is not up to Chinese diagnosis to assess blame, but only to measure its present state of affairs. To turn the problem around, we have to create internal movement and a new sense of harmony. This is so that whatever prevailed to stop the normal flow does not have the chance to predominate again.
If a person has a condition that is more purely deficient, they will like being touched. For these people, the laying on of hands can give a real sense of amelioration of symptoms. To more permanently solve the problem, however, we must supplant the body’s needs where the body is most lacking.
A kidney deficiency can be of two different types. The first is a yang deficiency. Yang is that energy that represents heat, light, and movement. So the effect of this being deficient is that the person will be cold or even so much as to say, chilled to the bone. A yin deficient person will generally be hot or flushed. They might have night sweats (night is the property of yin energy, and if it is too weak it cannot control the yang forces as it should, and they escape). In the extreme they can feel hot to the bone, a condition we call steaming bone.
A generally kidney-deficient person will ache, especially in the Winter. As the diagram shows, their aching predominates in the low back, the knees and ankles. It can also be generally in the spine and possibly any joint, since kidney deficiency relates to the bones.
Spleen Deficiency and Stomach Prolapse
Spleen Deficiency — The Chinese spleen may actually pertain more to
the pancreas in our western understanding. This person is going to be tired when a deficiency registers. They will not have much thirst and may have frequent and looser bowel movements. They may also be anemic and colder. The long-term problem has been the inability to properly process and take nourishment from their food. As a deficient person, they may enjoy a total body massage, but the places that seem to bother them the most are on the left side.
Aches are mainly noticed from the crux at the base of the neck on the left side and down around the left scapular area into the lower thoracic area (also on the left). Further aching could possibly be noticed on the outer part of the left leg and lower leg to the outside ankle and foot. In general, these are the people who complain of muscle weakness and aching.
The Stomach may be the most predominant problem today. With too much worry stress, the stomach will tend to prolapse or fall. Like the Spleen, this blocks up and down the left side of the body (see diagram). Sometimes we can trace the whole syndrome to one prolonged period of worry or stress.
Liver and Gallbladder Patterns
This is the first organ we think of when we mention extreme stress. This causes the energies to stagnate and stagnated energies eventuate in pain. Mostly, this will happen on the right side. A knot in the right shoulder, neck, and scapular area, or the hip and sciatica, on the right side, is so common that I never hesitate to suspect it. People of this pattern are light sleepers and wake up often through the night. It is the source not only of fibromyalgia in these areas but a whole host of other problems that branch off from it.
This is exacerbated by diet. Too much fat and oil are big occlusive foods, as are cheese. Just average amounts in the normal North American diet may be too much. They are hard to avoid, in fact, and cause the gallbladder to overwork. Ironically, we need the functioning of the gallbladder to help us dissolve these fats and oils. Especially when they come to us in amounts that exceed the normal capacity of the body's ability to process. Of course, when it is hurting it causes us pain in the same pattern as the Liver. If it is the source of pain, the Western solution, like the eye in the Bible, is to take it out.
One of the most common places to find too much oil is in nuts or nut butters as well as butter and margarine itself. Coffee and chocolate will affect the Liver directly and can cause pains to rise up shortly after consumption.
A Post Note on Treatment
Since some of my talks on this syndrome, many people have come to see me for treatment. If they follow through a course of treatment, usually eight to twelve sessions, the changes can be significant. A lot of people echo that it is a complete changeover in their lives. The treatments can be very strong and painful at first, but at the end seem like nothing at all.