Fibromyalgia (FM) is an intriguing and complex syndrome, and remains a medical enigma. Symptoms include widespread musculoskeletal aches, pain, stiffness, soft tissue tenderness, general fatigue, and sleep disturbances. Severe migratory pain and profound fatigue are the two major problems that make FM a mentally and physically debilitating condition.
Doctors still don’t know why it happens, though research has revealed some clues. Most researchers agree that it is a disorder of the brain’s central processing and the neuro-endocrine/neuro-transmitter regulatory systems.
While analgesics and other drugs are used for treatment ( in conjunction with exercise and physiotherapy ), the lack of successful, long-term results have made complementary therapies useful adjuncts in the overall care of the sufferers. For example, a Mayo Clinic study showed acupuncture to be helpful ( though some other studies showed otherwise ):
“I think the bottom line is that fibromyalgia symptoms probably do respond to acupuncture, although I wouldn’t expect that acupuncture works for everyone, nor is acupuncture a cure for the syndrome,” says Dr David P Martin, lead investigator of the Mayo Clinic study. “What is perhaps most important is that there are relatively few to no side effects to acupuncture performed with modern disposable needles, in stark contrast to some medications which do have serious side effects.”
The role of complementary therapies in fibromyalgia probably reflects the situation with many other medical conditions where modern medicine cannot offer satisfactory treatments or cures. Qigong, and other energy-healing methods, should be tried more often, especially since no chemicals or needles are involved.
Another medical enigma is chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), a condition that is similar to FM and continues to baffle doctors. While pain is the dominant symptom of FM, fatigue is the hallmark of CFS. In practice, many physicians do not distinguish the two.
CFS is diagnosed by three criteria:
- Severe chronic fatigue of six months or longer duration with other known medical conditions excluded by clinical diagnosis;
- Concurrently have four or more of the following symptoms: substantial impairment in short-term memory or concentration; sore throat; tender lymph nodes; muscle pain; multi-joint pain without swelling or redness; headaches of a new type, pattern or severity; unrefreshing sleep; and post-exertional malaise lasting more than 24 hours;
- The symptoms must have persisted or recurred during six or more consecutive months of illness and must not have predated the fatigue.
The cause of CFS remains unknown, despite vigorous search. Currently, it is believed that CFS represents a common endpoint of disease resulting from multiple precipitating factors, including infective agents, immune-defects, neuro-endocrine imbalance, and neuro-transmitter malfunction ( specifically, disturbances in the autonomic regulation of blood pressure and pulse causing neurally mediated hypotension ).
Like FM, symptoms vary considerably over time, and managing CFS can be as complex as the illness itself. There is no drug specific for CFS, and definitely no cure. As such, even the US government’s CDC ( Center for Disease Control ) recommends a combination of conventional and alternative ( complementary ) therapies!
You would have realized that fatigue or severe lack of energy/exhaustion are common symptoms of both syndromes, and that neuro-endocrine and neuro-transmitter problems are high on the suspicion list of both ( as causative or contributory factors ).
So today, I shall introduce psycho-neuro-energetics (PNE) – the science of the inter-relationships of the mind, the nervous system and the energies in your body; how the workings of your mind affect the energy balance and health of your organs; and conversely how your energy status reflects on your state-of-mind, emotions, behaviour, character, and health.
In Mind Over Matter, ( see www.superqigong.com ) I had explained about neuro-endocrinology (NE) and psycho-neuro-immunology (PNI). Through the brain, the mind uses neuro-transmitters and hormones to influence and command cells and organs, and thus no cell or organ is free from the mind’s control. The mind also uses energy to influence all the cells and organs, and also to influence events beyond the body.
THE MIND, STRESS AND DISEASE
Mental stress is very much under-estimated as a cause of our ill-health. Many physical illnesses have stress as the underlying cause, or major contributing factor. Cancer, heart disease, hypertension, stroke and diabetes are some of these. With better understanding of the mind and how it ultimately controls the functions of the rest of the body, more and more diseases and syndromes will be blamed on mental stress.
Modern living and the adoption of secular goals have made humans so stress-prone. The abandoning of spiritual values means everybody is never satisfied with what they have, and profit-and-success-driven mentality means everyone is working harder to achieve more and more, often at the expense of other more important things in life. While such attitudes are good for the personal or corporate bottom-line ( read profits or wealth ), the toll on the individual is tremendous. This is more obvious in the west, where secularism is more widely embraced. With religiosity and spirituality still being relatively important here, our concerns are slightly different from theirs, but becoming less so.
In the west, the main causes of stress are work, family, health, finance, and security ( in that order ). That work brings in most stress is not surprising, as the employees always have workloads, targets, and bosses to contend with; while bosses themselves have profits, performance indices and shareholders on their shoulders. The business world is so competitive and stressful that stress management programs are now held by many companies to help their staff.
I often conduct such programs for corporations, and found that for Malaysians, the main causes of stress are the same, except that family problems are less than that of health or financial issues. My advice to the participants has always been to change their mindsets, their goals, their values, and to be more spiritual. And of course I include qi-breathing and qigong exercises as stress-busting techniques as well.
Being spiritual does not just mean being more religious ( many religious bigots and fanatics cause everyone more stress by their actions ), but being wiser and more godly. If the paramount attributes of God are Love, Mercy and Compassion, then the spiritual person will exude love, mercy and compassion in his ( or her ) personality. Such a person brings peace to himself and to everyone around him.
Stress within relationships ( at home and at work ) add to the burden further. Again, the lack of religious and spiritual commitment results in more unfaithful marriages and intolerant partners. When you don’t even fear God, then you need fear nothing else. You can have affairs, commit adultery, be corrupt, cheat, make others suffer, and do all sorts of things which will ultimately catch up with you and cause so much stress, but it is always too late to regret. If you are religious and spiritual, you are more likely to be more understanding, tolerant and compassionate, and your relationships should last through the most difficult crises.
Nowadays, couples with children have to leave their kids under the care of maids ( or grandparents if they are lucky ) since both have to work to cope with the ever-spiraling cost of living. Even if the children go to school or college, they have little time with their parents who are always out at work or busy with their many business or social meetings which extend till late night. And when the parents do realize, they find out that their children have become strangers who don’t take their advice anymore. They just don’t understand one another. More stress!
Healthcare is eating up the budget of many countries ( and individuals ) as the modern stressful lifestyle contributes heavily to the diseases listed above. This causes more stress on the patient, family, and employer. What is surely not fully realized is the mental distress borne by many of us who do not yet have physical symptoms or overt health problems.
The role of stress in causing disease is now better understood, especially with the emergence of NE, PNI and psychosomatics. Dr Ryke Geerd Hamer, a German doctor, has brought this concept to the extreme. After many years of extensive research, he concluded that most diseases, including cancer, are brought about by extreme stress or shock for which we are totally unprepared for.
Twenty years ago, he had received a call in the middle of the night. His 17-year old son Dirk had been shot while on holiday in the Mediterranean. Three months later, Dirk died and shortly after, Dr. Hamer, who had been healthy all his life, but who was utterly devastated by this catastrophe, found he had testicular cancer. Rather suspicious about this coincidence, he set about doing research on the personal histories of cancer patients to see whether they had suffered some shock, distress or trauma before their illness ( for the full story, see www.newmedicine.ca ).
According to him, cancer is a biological response to an unusual situation, and when the ‘shock’ situation is resolved, the body sets about returning to normality. Most importantly, if we can in any way be prepared for the stressful event, we will not become ill.
His ideas were of course controversial, and got him into trouble with the medical authorities. As a result, his license to practise medicine was withdrawn, and he has been in and out of jail. Dr. Hamer believes very strongly that the present methods of dealing with cancer are barbarous, cruel and completely unnecessary. This opinion does not make him many friends among his colleagues.
I am relating this story to highlight the thousands of cases he researched that showed the very strong connection between stress and cancer. Even if we reject his conclusion, we cannot reject this fact that there is a strong correlation between the two. And since stress is a state-of-mind, then modifying this mindset should be able to modify the risks of the stress translating to disease.
THE MIND, STRESS AND FATIGUE
Most of you will be familiar with the feeling of being drained of energy whenever you are stressed or depressed. Negative emotions shut out the mind’s command over the energies that it normally controls. The qigong master must be in total control of his emotions to be able to control his qi. Positive emotions, like happiness, on the other hand, enhance this control. To smile and be happy are pre-requisites to practising qigong!
At the molecular level, we know that all cellular activities important for survival and good health are energetic processes. So, even scientifically, it is expected that anything that disrupts the availability of energy to the cells can cause disease. But science only talks about caloric and photonic energies, which are not enough to explain why people get fatigued, even if they drink glucose or have so much of stored energy ( fat deposits ) available.
If the availability of qi ( life-force ) is brought into the equation, then a lot more can be explained. And it will certainly explain why acupuncture and qigong can help in fibromyalgia and similar syndromes. Perhaps when science catches up with qi and metaphysics, we will have better understanding of the mysterious syndromes, and have more hope of relief or even cures for the millions of sufferers.
The mind can have absolute control over the workings of qi, but much less influence on the metabolic production of energy ( from sugars and fats ) in the body. I believe we can solve many health problems by combining our knowledge of neuro-endocrinology, psych-neuro-immunology, and psycho-neuro-energetics. The answer lies in understanding what the different kinds of bio-energy can do for you. Energy Medicine is indeed the next frontier of medicine!