Fibromyalgia Patients Seek Acupuncture – New Finding

12 May 2013

New research shows that patients with fibromyalgia are likely to seek acupuncture treatment and other forms of complementary or alternative medicine (CAM). Published by the University of Montana, the research focused on whether or not pain motivated patients to seek CAM therapies such as acupuncture, massage, chiropractic, yoga, Tai Chi and cognitive behavior therapy. The results showed that over 70% of patients with fibromyalgia sought CAM therapies. The research concluded that “interference in daily activities from pain increases the use of CAM….”

Acupuncture is used for fibromyalgia syndrome pain treatment.

Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by chronic pain and is due to neuroendocrine dysfunction. Fibromyalgia pain is non-nociceptive. This type of pain is not due to the activation of pain receptors as in burns and injuries. Non-nociceptive pain is due to destructive changes in the nervous system. The pain originates in the peripheral or central nervous system and pain is generated by nerve cell dysfunction. Migraine headaches, irritable bowel syndrome pain and fibromyalgia related pain are all forms of non-nociceptive pain.

The treatment of fibromyalgia with acupuncture and herbal medicine within the Chinese Medicine system predates its acknowledgment within biomedicine. Ancient writings and modern Chinese Medicine research document acupuncture’s beneficial effects for the treatment of fibromyalgia. Recently, a study demonstrated that acupuncture reduces pain sensitivity for fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) patients. In addition, these patients demonstrated significant reductions in anxiety and depression. As a result, the overall quality of life score improved for fibromyalgia patients receiving acupuncture treatments.

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New MRI Study–Acupuncture Benefits Vision

New MRI research demonstrates that acupuncture benefits vision by stimulation of an acupuncture point located on the leg. Investigators compared stimulation of acupuncture point GB37 (Guangming, Bright Light) with a non-acupuncture point in close proximity. GB37 elicited complex brain activity in the visual cortex whereas the non-acupuncture control point exhibited a completely different response when measured with MRI equipment. Based on these findings, the researchers postulate that the neural signals elicited by acupuncture point stimulation may reflect important pathways by which acupuncture exerts its therapeutic effects.

Acupuncture benefits the eyes. GB37 has been used for the treatment of eye related disorders for over a thousand years. The advent of functional MRI imaging has allowed for researchers to measure the specific regions of the brain activated by acupoint stimulation. Clear evidence from this study demonstrates that GB37 acupuncture needle stimulation activates areas of the brain responsible for vision. Researchers carefully noted that the activation of the visual cortex lasted longer than expected following the acupuncture point stimulation. They also referenced this lasting effect as the “sustained effect of acupuncture” and note that future study designs should take into account acupuncture’s ability to make lasting changes. The researchers note that some studies seek to measure an instant on and off effect rather than measuring the duration of acupuncture’s physiological effects.

The researchers note that sham acupuncture controlled studies may mistakenly conclude that non-acupuncture points adjacent to true acupuncture points have similar neurological effects. Although the brain activity varied greatly between the non-acupuncture control point and the stimulation of GB37 in this study, the researchers note that it is the lasting effects of GB37 stimulation which are remarkable. This caveat suggests that even had the sham non-acupuncture point had similar effects on the brain, that the ability of a true acupuncture point to create lasting neural signals is, at the very least, equally important in determining the efficacy of a true acupuncture point.

Treatment of eye disorders with acupuncture is often accomplished with the use of local points, distal points and micro-system points such as auricular acupuncture and scalp acupuncture. This study sought to measure the effects of the distal point GB37. A classic point for the treatment of eye disorders, GB37 is commonly used for the treatment disorders such as opthalmalgia (eyeball pain), night blindness, itchy eyes, impaired vision, headaches, knee pain and atrophy of the lower leg. According to Chinese medicine theory, GB37 is a Luo-Connecting point of the Gall Bladder channel. GB37’s classical acupuncture functions are to regulate the Liver, clear vision, benefit the eyes and to dispel wind-damp pain related conditions.  GB37 is 5 cun directly above the tip of the external malleolus on the anterior border of the fibula.

Liu, Jixin, Jiaofen Nan, Shiwei Xiong, Guoying Li, Wei Qin, and Jie Tian. “Additional evidence for the sustained effect of acupuncture at the vision-related acupuncture point, GB37.” Acupuncture in Medicine (2013).

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Treating the Healthy…What a Concept

The Chinese medical text written around 600 years ago known as the Nei Jing, expressed that treating the sick in ancient China was like going into battle before making the weapons.  The concept back then was more about treating the well to prevent disease, not treating the sick.  This is important, even though it’s an ancient concept.

Historically, one Chinese doctor would care for a village and that village would care for the doctor.  They would clothe him and feed him, or whatever was necessary to ensure the doctor was fit to help the people prevent illness.  The greatest doctor’s of the region, however, were chosen to be the Emperor’s private physician.  This was a blessing and a curse for the doctor.  It became a matter of life and death, because if the Emperor became ill the doctor would be executed.

We can see on the other hand, that Western medical doctors are rewarded for curing the sick.  Of course, if there is less sickness there is also not as much need for a “healthcare system”.  This would also mean that people would live even longer, be healthier and happier and more than likely, be saving a whole lot of money.

Western medicine tends to thrive on sickness and dramatic situations of saving lives.  It is nice to know there are competent doctors out there when there are emergencies;  nonetheless, health doesn’t have to be dramatized and there doesn’t have to be a medical hero.  I know, your thinking how boring it would be without shows like ER, House or better yet, Grey’s Anatomy.  Albeit, there is something to be said about preventative medicine.  It might mean, taking better care of yourself, watching what you eat, or getting regular acupuncture treatments and maybe an herbal formula to help with any imbalance.

Again, I know, giving up fast food, coffee, sugar or alcohol just sounds like a drag or totally impossible.  It’s change, and we just don’t like change.  It may even mean getting a job with less stress or exercising a few times a week.  But hold on!  Reality is… choices and values.  It doesn’t mean you throw in the towel, become a vegan, quit your job and become a yoga teacher.  It just means, that you have to re-evaluate the importance of your health.  Maybe start by doing things in moderation.  Do you know what is making you sick?  Do you care?  If you do, the answer is probably right in front of you.

Good health is the key to a longer, happier, less stressful and more eventful life.  So, the next time your monthly insurance payment, of hundreds of dollars, is quickly yanked from your account, and you are feeling like crud, and have no energy, consider the idea that preventative medicine may be what the doctor ordered.  This is about you caring for yourself.  Don’t leave it up to someone else.  Treat yourself well, you only have one body in this life, so find an acupuncture physician and start a preventive health care regime.  They will help you optimize your full potential of total well being.



I want to share this great article by one of my favorite Chinese Herbalists, Dr. Fratkin.

Jake Paul Fratkin, OMD, L.Ac.

Good, I caught your attention. Too many students and graduates of TCM herbal programs in the US are married to the classical formulas, and are completely ignoring clinical applications and developments that have been going on in China since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949.

Case in point. An acupuncture student in my city, not a patient, recently told me that she had been battling a cold for the last 5 days. I asked her what formula she was on, and she told me Xiao Chai Hu Tang (i), given to her by an herbal teacher at her college. I was mortified. This approach may have offered a great amount of comfort 1800 years ago, but herbal medicine has developed by leaps and bounds since then, especially in the last 50 years. I recently had the opportunity to read a private document produced in China that detailed the top 50 best-selling Chinese patent medicines in China. The number one best-seller was Gan Mao Ling. If our acupuncture student is typical of TCM students in the United States, this would mean that hundreds of millions of average Chinese people have a much better grasp on how to treat the common cold than herbal teachers in this country.ii

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