Judy Bowen-Jones

Chronic Fatigue, CFS , ME & Fibromyalgia

What is Fibromyalgia?

Also called fibromyalgia syndrome or FMS, fibromyalgia is a chronic condition involving body wide tenderness and pain of muscles, tendons and ligaments and severe tiredness and fatigue. It is estimated that 1 in 20 people may suffer from fibromyalgia at some point in their lives. Fibromyalgia affects the mind and body. People suffering from fibromyalgia may also suffer from increased sensitivity to pain, problems sleeping, headaches, poor concentration ‘fibro fog’, depression, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), painful periods, muscle stiffness, twitchy legs or poor circulation with tingling or swelling in the hands and feet.

Fibromyalgia can be difficult to diagnose as there is no standard medical test and the some of the symptoms are common to other conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome or ME. In many sufferers, there are no obvious outward signs of the condition which can lead to frustration and despair.

The causes of Fibromyalgia are not well understood. In some people it appears to develop spontaneously, in others it may be triggered by a physical injury, an infection, an emotionally stressful event or an underlying condition such as arthritis or depression. It is believed that both genetic and environmental factors contribute to the development of the condition, so you have a greater risk of developing fibromyalgia if one of your parents or siblings suffers too.

It is believed that abnormalities in pain-processing and release of neurotransmitters (including serotonin and noradrenalin) in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) lead to fibromyalgia sufferers having lower pain thresholds.

Conventional treatments for fibromyalgia include medication, such as antidepressants and pain killers, talking therapy and life style changes, such as exercise to reduce pain.

What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)?

Also known as ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis), CFS is a condition in which the patient experiences persistent and severe fatigue that affects everyday life and is not relieved by sleep or rest. Symptoms may also include: musculoskeletal pain, headache, sleep issues, anxiety and depression.

The causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are also poorly understood. Suspected causes include certain viral infections, hormonal and immunological imbalances, nervous system dysfunction, stress or emotional trauma.

Like fibromyalgia, CFS may also run in families

Acupuncture for Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Acupuncture works by stimulating your nervous system causing the release of neurochemical messenger molecules and changes to your body’s biochemistry. These changes influence your body’s homeostatic and natural healing mechanisms, and help promote physical and emotional wellbeing. Stimulation of specific acupuncture points has been shown to affect areas of the brain that are known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress, as well as reducing anxiety.

Acupuncture may help relieve pain of fibromyalgia and symptoms of chronic fatigue by:

  • Altering the brain’s chemistry, releasing endorphins (your body’s natural pain killers)
  • Changing how the body processes pain
  • Reducing inflammation and swelling
  • Improving muscle stiffness and joint movement by increasing local blood circulation
  • Increasing melatonin secretion and aiding sleep

Acupuncture has also been shown to be helpful in treating headaches, concentration problems, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, circulation problems and other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue.

From a Chinese Medicine viewpoint the diagnostic signs and symptoms of fibromyalgia are often similar to those for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (or ME) and, whether or not the condition is post-viral, the imbalances underlying the signs and symptoms can be diagnosed and treated according to the principles of Chinese medicine.

Many fibromyalgia clients find that massage, particularly of the shoulders, helps relieve fibromyalgic pain.

Treating Chronic Fatigue, CFS , ME & Fibromyalgia

“I have treated many patients with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. Taking a detailed case history is important. Very often fibro and CFS patients have a history of infection, such as glandular fever. In some cases their symptoms developed after a bad insect bite or a bad bout of gastroenteritis. In these cases it seems likely that the cause of fibro or chronic disease was a parasite such as Lyme disease or Giardia which had not been diagnosed. In my experience, chronic fatigue may also result from food intolerances or sensitivity to environmental factors, such as mould. Acupuncture in conjunction with the relevant medical treatment and/or lifestyle changes can really help.

Patients I have treated with acupuncture and massage for fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue have reported a reduction in pain, muscle stiffness and stress, improvement in their concentration and energy levels and improvement in other associated symptoms. If you have any questions about how acupuncture can help you, please do not hesitate to call me to discuss your situation.”

Research Fact Sheets

For more information see the British Acupuncture Council Research Fact Sheet below.