Do you often ache all over and feel exhausted? If you’ve been to the doctor and they haven’t been able to find anything specifically wrong with you then it’s possible you are suffering from fibromyalgia.
What It Is?
Fibromyalgia is characterised by chronic widespread pain as well as fatigue and tender points on your body. Its exact cause is unknown but is believed to involve psychological, genetic, neurobiological and environmental factors. Fibromyalgia symptoms are not restricted to pain; other symptoms include debilitating fatigue, sleep disturbance, and joint stiffness. The painful tissues involved in the symptoms of fibromyaligia are not accompanied by tissue inflammation. Therefore, despite potentially disabling body pain, patients with fibromyalgia do not develop body damage or deformity. Fibromyalgia also does not cause damage to internal body organs. Because the cause is unknown, single treatment options have not been discovered to treat the condition. What experts have found is that a combination of approaches is necessary and the most beneficial for positive improvements.
How Do I Treat It?
Western Medicine Approach
A formal diagnosis for fibromyalgia didn’t exist until 1990, but now there are three FDA-approved medications to combat the pain. Still, says Nancy Klimas, MD, director of the Allergy and Immunology Clinic at the University of Miami, “there is much more to treatment than a pill.” Strategies are needed to improve sleep, stretch and restore symmetry to muscles that have been shortened by spasm, and raise overall wellness through lifestyle changes.
Since the symptoms of fibromyalgia are diverse and vary among patients, treatment programs really need to be individualized for each person. Stress levels need to be looked at, diet needs to be addressed, general lifestyle factors also need to be taken into account. Recent studies have verified that the best outcome for each person results from a combination of approaches including regular gentle exercise, stress reduction, supplementation and patient education which involves themself in the treatment plan.
“It would be great if we could just give people a pill to fix their fibromyalgia,” says Mark J. Pellegrino, MD, of Ohio Pain and Rehabilitation Specialists and author of 13 books on fibromyalgia. “But there’s no magic pill. A balanced approach is important.” For some people with fibromyalgia, that balanced approach includes trying complementary and alternative medicine.
Acupuncture for Fibromyalgia
The purpose of acupuncture is to restore the normal flow of energy through the body using very fine needles at specific points in order to unblock trapped energy. Studies have shown that acupuncture can significantly improve the symptoms of fibromyalgia. It causes changes in blood flow and the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain and spinal cord, which can lead to pain reduction.
Massage for Fibromyalgia
Massage as a therapy for fibromyalgia aims to improve the flow of blood to the muscles, thus increasing the amount of nutrients available to the muscle and also eliminate waste products. It is also able to reduce heart rate, relax the muscles, improve the amount of movement you have in your joints, and increase endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. It can also relieve the stress and anxiety that can be associated with fibromyalgia.
Lifestyle Changes for Fibromyalgia
There are some simple things that you can do in your day to day life to make coping with fibromyalgia easier. It is vital to reduce your stress. Avoid overexerting yourself or emotional stress. Allow yourself time to relax. Stay active but don’t do too much. Regular exercise has been found to help but it is important to do only as much as you can handle. Walking and swimming are fantastic. Try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation. It is also important to get enough sleep. As well as getting enough sleep, practice good sleep hygiene. Go to bed and get up at the same time each day. Try to avoid daytime naps.
Herbs and Supplements for Fibromyalgia
The following herbs and supplements may help in the management of fibromyalgia:
• SAMe – S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) occurs naturally in the body and is necessary for proper immune function, maintaining cell membranes, the production and breakdown of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, and also helps in the formation of cartilage and DNA. Studies have suggested that SAMe can help with pain, fatigue, morning stiffness, mood, and clinical disease activity.
• Magnesium – is a mineral found naturally in leafy greens, nuts, seeds, wholegrains, and also in supplement form. It is needed for over 300 things in the body. It can help with fibromyalgia as it can help generate energy in the body’s cells. It can also help with pain and tenderness.
• 5-HTP – 5-hydroxytryptophan is though to work by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain. Studies have shown that 5-HTP can help improve pain, tender points, stiffness, anxiety, fatigue, and sleep.
• Vitamin C – reduces swelling and helps the immune system to work better.
• Coenzyme Q10 – improves the delivery of oxygen to the tissues and also has antioxidant activity.
• B vitamins – help you to cope better with stress.
• Melatonin – can help you get to sleep and give you better quality sleep.
• Zinc – is vital for correct immune system functioning.
The following herbs are traditionally used to combat stress and to strengthen the immune system:
The following herbs are traditionally used to reduce pain and nervous tension:
• Black cohosh
• Kava kava
Please note: If you are considering taking herbs or supplements, talk with a health professional. Never self-prescribe. Some supplements can have harmful interactions with prescription medications. Some are unsafe if you have certain medical conditions.
Nutrition and Fibromyalgia
The first thing to do is to eliminate food allergens in the diet as these may worsen the symptoms. Common culprits include dairy, soy, citrus, peanuts, wheat, fish, eggs, and corn. Some food additives may also cause a problem. A food detective test which we can do in house will help determine which foods are triggering your intolerance. An elimination diet, where suspected foods are removed from the diet and gradually reintroduced will be highly beneficial.
In the meantime, you should try and eliminate all inflammatory foods from your diet. These include refined foods, sugar, saturated fats, alcohol and caffeine. Eat a diet that is rich in vegetables, wholegrains, fruits, protein, and essential fatty acids. A detox may also be beneficial if you have been found to have an overgrowth of toxins or gut bacteria. These are irritants to muscle tissue and can worsen the condition. We can also test for internal toxicity via a simple urine test, called an Indicans test.
Where To From Here?
The best thing to do is to tackle this condition from several angles and with someone who can design a specific treatment plan for you. The way you experience fibromyalgia and the triggers worsening the condition may be completely different from the next person, and several different treatments options will be the most healing. Talk to us if you’ll like to discover a treatment plan just for you, where nutrition, acupuncture, supplements, massage and dietary testing may all play a part.