Fibromyalgia

 
Fibromyalgia is a disease characterized by fatigue, sleeplessness, and body aches associated with muscle pain. People suffering from fibromyalgia describe frequent exhaustion and just plain "hurting all over", either chronically or in "flare-ups". Even after numerous tests, your doctor may not find anything wrong with you. Does this sound familiar? If so, you may have fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia involves widespread pain associated with muscles, ligaments, and tendons. For some myalgia sufferers, the pain can be intense in multiple points where even the slightest pressure causes pain. In addition, fibromyalgia causes extreme fatigue and affects women more than men. There appears to be a psychological component, as many cases often begin after a physical or emotional trauma.
 
 

Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

 
The pain associated with fibromyalgia is often characterized as constant, dull muscle pain. People with fibromyalgia often have sleep disturbances and awaken tired, even though they have gotten plenty of sleep. Restless leg syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, headaches, IBS, and lupus have also been linked to fibromyalgia. For some people, this disease is unbearable and frustrating, as it is generally considered a controversial and confusing condition.
 
The causes of fibromyalgia have not been elucidated. It has been suggested that factors such as genetics, infections, or physical and emotional trauma play a causative role. Holistic medicine practitioners take stress and hormonal balance into account as well. Current thinking centers around a theory called central sensitization. This theory states that people with fibromyalgia have a lower threshold for pain because of increased sensitivity in the brain to pain signals. This theory implies that the causes and effects of fibromyalgia are thought to be bidirectional. In other words, structural imbalances can cause a tightening of muscles, while tight muscles can lead to structural imbalances. Similarly, poor sleep can lead to tightening of muscles, and tight muscles can lead to poor sleep. You get the idea. There is a whole host of conditions and triggers feeding into fibromyalgia syndrome.
 
 

How can we treat Fibromyalgia?

 
The FDA recently approved medications (Lyrica, Cymbalta, and Savella) for fibromyalgia patients, thus recognizing the struggle in the medical community and validating the need of the fibromyalgia patient.
 
Holistic practitioners approach fibromyalgia by taking the whole body into account. Alternative medicine sees this condition as something that strikes at their patient's core, where there can be many underlying conditions to uncover. Things from sleep, to diet, to stress, to undetected viruses, to how we think and feel about ourselves can contribute or cause this chronic debilitating disease.
 
There are several key steps to a holistic approach in treating fibromyalgia. Refreshing sleep is a primary requirement to give your muscles and nervous system a chance to heal. Talk with a doctor about deeper sleep problems such as apnea. Under the supervision of a physician, try 5-HTP to improve serotonin pathways or sublingual melatonin to reset your sleep cycle (for best results, use under the care of a qualified practitioner). Other botanicals like chamomile, passionflower and valerian, whether in homeopathic tinctures or teas, have been used safely for millennia.
 
For women, hormonal balance is key: making sure your adrenal, thyroid and ovarian hormones are balanced can make a huge difference in fibromyalgia. You can explore phytotherapy, or talk with your doctor about bio-identical hormone replacement therapy. Herbal supplements such as black cohosh, red clover, kudzu, passionflower, chasteberry, wild yam, and Ashwagandha may support hormone balance.
 
Immune health is also important. Your doctor should always rule out infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, yeast or parasites. Another avenue to explore is possible allergies or sensitivities triggering or exacerbating your symptoms. The big ones often seen in fibromyalgia patients are gluten, sugar, preservatives, and other food additives.
 
Nutrition is integral - providing your body with whole, fresh foods is a part of a holistic approach. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables, lean meats and healthy fats is the best way to support a stressed out immune system. A daily multi-vitamin made from a whole food source is also recommended.
 
And lastly, but definitely not least, is emotional support. Fibromyalgia has a high likelihood of having an emotional component. In fact, a study done in the 1990's known as the Adverse Childhood Event (ACE) Study proves it. This study found specific evidence for how negative childhood experiences can influence our health. The problem comes when we hold onto these memories, which rarely serve us as adults. There are many options available to help people untangle difficult emotions - talk with your doctor.
 
There are several other natural treatments available that may be helpful to fibromyalgia patients, including detoxification, exercise and yoga, and mind-body work. Fibromyalgia is a condition that has many underlying factors, and if you start to work through these, you may find relief and hope.
 
 
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