Definition of Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning we have to rule out anything a lab might pick up in order to give you that diagnosis. The word means “pain in the fibers and muscles”, or “arthritis of the muscles.” It is not limited to this, however; pain may also occur in the ligaments, joints, and soft tissues.
Other symptoms that come along with fibro include fatigue, morning stiffness, depression, brain fog, IBS, tension headaches, and insomnia.
Causes and Treatments of Fibromyalgia
I wrote here about the connection between fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue; often the two occur together. While causes of fibro are incompletely understood, some combination of these treatments usually prove effective:
- Reduce inflammation. There’s some debate as to whether fibro is an inflammatory condition, but it responds very well to short courses of low dose hydrocortisone (as prescribed by Fibromyalgia and Arthritis Centers of America—whom I partner with). Cortisone addresses the symptoms of inflammatory pain quickly, but it is also important to reduce ongoing sources of inflammation, such as food allergies and environmental allergies.
- Support the adrenals. The adrenal glands are the those that produce cortisol naturally. If supplementary doses of cortisone effectively decrease pain and symptoms, this means you’re not producing enough on your own. This makes sense, as usually fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue patients do not cope with stress well, and often they can point to a specific time in their pasts when their capacity to deal with stress suddenly declined dramatically. Here’s the theory behind this.
- Address past trauma. Along these lines, there is a huge correlation (around 48%) between fibromyalgia and abuse of any kind: physical, emotional, and/or sexual. This is because the stress that leads to adrenal fatigue can take many forms, not just the chronic life stressors that we usually think of when we use the word “stress”. If trauma is a component, it absolutely must be addressed in counseling.
- Get to sleep. Insomnia and fibro are like a catch-22. In deep sleep, your body releases Growth Hormone (GH), which helps to repair muscle injury. If you never reach deep sleep, those muscles cannot adequately repair themselves, leading to accumulation of injury and thus, pain. Natural sleep aids may do the trick, but if they don’t, I’m not opposed to prescribing a sedative for a short period of time, in order to interrupt this vicious cycle.
- Heal the gut. Around 100% of fibromyalgia patients have dysbiosis in the gut, which is a huge contributing factor to IBS. It’s really important to remove food allergies and treat candida overgrowth if either are present too, because these can certainly perpetuate the vicious cycle.
If you have or suspect you have fibromyalgia, chances are over-the-counter pain meds aren’t working for you very well. This is one condition where it’s absolutely necessary to treat the whole person!
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