Understanding Fibromyalgia - Part 3 The Spleen and Dampness

In Part 1 and Part 2 we showed how in fibromyalgia red cells are deformed and cause problems in the microcirculation. This then causes the pain that is a central part of the constellation of symptoms in fibromyalgia. The Spleen often assumes centre stage in fibromyalgia by controlling the quality of red cells.

The Spleen and Dampness

There is another aspect of the Spleen that illuminates many of the other symptoms of fibromyalgia. One of the oldest sayings in Chinese medicine is that:

the spleen controls dampness
Food is rich in nutrients which will attract 'Dampness' if not properly digested

Food is rich in nutrients which will attract 'Dampness' if not properly digested

Food is by nature rich in nutrients. These then attract water to them by a process of osmosis.

A well-functioning spleen turns the nutrients into blood and the water levels are naturally adjusted. When digestion is poor then 'toxins' get produced and this attracts 'Dampness' (diarrhoea is an example).

Fibromyalgia symptoms often correspond to Damp-type symptoms. Sufferers describe 'brain-fog'; 'heaviness'; 'stiffness'; and it is no coincidence that often they also suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Having worked as a doctor for many years I now see people's description of their symptoms as unerringly accurate, and the Chinese did too. These sensations of 'heaviness' and 'fog' are precisely because patients really do have an excess of fluid: if you suffer from this you're not mad just Damp!

Which brings us back to the picture in Part 1:

Dampness affects the shape of red cells, this changes how they move.

Dampness affects the shape of red cells, this changes how they move.

'Dampness' is simply excess water and it affects the ability of the red cells to keep their shape. It does this through osmosis - by altering the amount of water that is in the cell.  This changes the shape and this then affects the ability of the blood to move properly. When the Blood gets stuck and 'Stagnates'  pain occurs (see Part 1).

Understanding the body in this way changes our perception of fibromyalgia. Instead of a group of disconnected symptoms it is simply a combination of Dampness (brain-fog, lethargy, heaviness) and Blood Stagnation (pain) caused by a weak Spleen. Because these symptoms are so poorly treated and understood by Western medicine, 'depression' often emerges too.

This understanding allows us to arrive at much better, much simpler treatments. Now we understand the pathology (disease process) and aetiology (cause) we can recommend treatment. It's worth noting that every persons disease is different, that's why it's worth seeing a 'Chinese' doctor, but the most common pattern will be problems with the Spleen.

Next week:

Nourishing The Spleen:

Six simple things you can change today to nourish your spleen


Dr Dan Keown runs clinics in Tunbridge Wells and London where he treats patients with acupuncture, moxibustion and cupping. If you would like to make an appointment please contact here