By Evelyn Cho, RMT, R.Ac

What is it?

Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread body pain, accompanied with other symptoms like fatigue, insomnia, inability to concentrate and emotional distress.  In addition, there is often a co-existing disorder such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus. Women are far more likely to be affected than men, and symptoms usually onset between ages 20-50.

From a medical perspective…

Current research isn’t clear about the cause of fibromyalgia. There have been noted correlations of its onset after infections, physical trauma and psychological stress or abuse. Genetics also seem to play a role. There is currently no cure. Treatments include medications and lifestyle recommendations to minimize discomfort and improve general health. The most common drugs prescribed are pain relievers, anti-depressants, and anti-seizure medication.

From a Chinese medicine perspective…

Chinese medicine identifies 8 distinct types of fibromyalgia. A complicated case can involve more than 1 type simultaneously, or have different symptoms come and go.  Once the type is determined through diagnosis, a specific strategy is employed to combat the symptoms and root cause. With proper maintenance and lifestyle changes, health is within reach.

Type 1: Immune system hypersensitivity

Key symptoms: stiff muscles, mental fog, weak immune system, wandering pain, pain lingering in joints and upper back, fatigue, sensitive to weather changes

Type 2: Poor gut flora balance

Key symptoms: Irritable bowel syndrome, multiple food intolerances, chronic fungal infections, water retention/bloating, feel worse in hot/humid conditions, generalized headache and brain fog

Type 3: Emotional stress

Key symptoms: Insomnia, pain worse with stress or lack of rest, pain improves with activity, nerve pain

Type 4: Chronic inflammation

Key symptoms: pain worse in the morning, sharp/stabbing pain at night, pain feels like a tender bruise

Type 5: Extreme fatigue/exhaustion

Key symptoms: muscle weakness, poor wound healing, pain worse after activity, shortness of breath, burning/throbbing/aching pain, body feels heavy, restless leg syndrome, not waking rested (regardless of how many hours you sleep)

Type 6: Poor blood circulation

Key symptoms: muscle spasms, twitching/restless leg syndrome, feeling of cold, itching and tingling sensations

Type 7: Thyroid dysfunction

Key symptoms: night sweats, waking at night, low back pain, pain worse with standing, poor memory, adrenal fatigue

Type 8: Hormonal imbalance

Key symptoms: feel cold, can’t warm up, low back pain, night time urination, depression/fear


Treatment type and frequency vary widely, and are customized for each case. Usually a combination of acupuncture, breathing exercises, herbal teas, and lifestyle recommendations are made.

Have a question? Schedule a complementary 15 minute consultation with Evelyn