Is the pain and fatigue you’re experiencing in your imagination? Or do you possibly have fibromyalgia? And if you do, what can you do about it?
I once saw a photo of a headstone that said in bold gold lettering, “See, I told you I was I was sick.” It is not uncommon for people to suffer maladies that have few outward signs yet cause a great deal of internal stress. What if you’re experiencing horrendous pain that won’t go away? You don’t know what’s wrong, so you go to the doctor. He takes your history, examines you, orders x-rays and blood tests, but nothing shows up. After all this, the physician may even suggest that it must be in your mind. Is it a figment of your imagination? Are you a hypochondriac? Are you crazy? That’s basically what science has been saying for decades to those who suffer from what we now call fibromyalgia.
Welcome to the often misunderstood and confusing world of fibromyalgia. It’s an elusive disorder that, for some still not completely understood reasons, plagues mostly women between the ages of 20–50 years of age 75–90% of the time. However, it can strike any gender at any age. The cost of treatment and lost productivity is in the billions and painfully averages an annual out of pocket expense of over $5,000 per patient.
If you do have this curse of fibromyalgia, you are not alone. There are ten million other Americans with the same complaints. In fact, it affects approximately 6% of the worldwide population; that’s 42 million people. This number increases to 8% by age eighty years.
What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia attacks muscles and soft tissue leaving a wake of chronic pain and fatigue. As mentioned, presently there are really no definitive lab tests. Diagnosis is confirmed by a doctor and patient assessment of a syndrome of symptoms that includes fatigue, muscle pain, and joint pain, at least 11 of 18 positively identified specific tender points, depression, anxiety, headache, environmental sensitivities, and impaired memory that persists longer than three months.
In spite of extensive studies, no known individual cause has been identified, but we do know that this cruel condition is not a figment of anyone’s imagination. It involves pain amplification due to abnormal sensory processing in the central nervous system. One aspect that does seem to be measurable is that sufferers have low levels of serotonin, which accounts for some of the pain and sleep disruption complaints. Elevated levels of Substance P (SP) is another suspected culprit. Substance P is a small peptide or chain of amino acids that relays the signal of pain and inflammation to the central nervous system.
There are certain elements that seem to trigger Fibromyalgia: illness, injuries such as whiplash and concussion, chronic stress, diminished immune system, and a genetic predisposition.
The bad news is that science has no known cure. Management to relieve pain and increase function is the only current treatment. Historically, prescription medications have been employed to deal with depression, insomnia, and pain, which carry the possibilities of addiction and negative side effects. As more has been learned, a much more integrative and naturally directed approach is now routinely employed.
How can you naturally subdue fibromyalgia symptoms?
Magnesium and malic acid help increase energy and encourage muscle relaxation. St. John’s Wort and 5-HTP help fight depression, blunt anxiety, and elevate mood by raising serotonin levels. Melatonin and the herb Valerian are more natural ways of improving sleep. Antioxidants such as vitamin C, grape seed extract, and co-Q-10 help boost the immune system. For muscle and joint pain, try a topical application of Capsaicin. Many receive relief and increased function with physical therapy, Chiropractic care, various forms of therapeutic massage, acupuncture, exercise, and yoga. If you have Fibromyalgia, you might want to adopt a sensible lifestyle adaptation: pace yourself, change priorities, rest when it is needed, and learn to say no. For psychological and emotional support, biofeedback has proven helpful to many. Various forms of medical marijuana may become part of the protocol in the new bag of tricks.
Many people who have Fibromyalgia compare it to having a permanent bad case of the flu. If you have the choice, take the flu. But since you likely don’t have a choice, work to subdue the symptoms of fibromyalgia naturally so that you can function and live life to its fullest.