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Fibromyalgia

What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia affects 5 million people, 80% of whom are women.

Fibromyalgia is characterized as chronic wide spread body pain and tenderness, most commonly in the soft tissue, lasting for more than three months. People with fibromyalgia can have a variety of other symptoms, the most common of which are extreme physical and mental fatigue, making it difficult to function in their everyday life, and insomnia or non-restorative sleep (sleep that is not refreshing). Other common symptoms are: mood changes, sinus problems, hypersensitivities (odors, light, pressure of clothing), and frequent colds and flu-like illnesses.

The cause of this medical condition is unknown. Some theories are that fibromyalgia is caused by an underlying viral infection, low levels of serotonin, a genetic inheritance, or a history of emotional or physical trauma and/or chronic stress. Some experts believe that it is not any one of these but a combination that causes this disease.

Since there is no definitive imaging or lab study to diagnose fibromyalgia, it is difficult to diagnose. Often patients are told that these symptoms are all in their head. The most definitive test to diagnose fibromyalgia is the presence of tenderness in 11 out of 18 trigger points throughout the body.

Conventional Treatment

The goal of conventional treatment is to minimize the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Common pharmaceutical medicines in use are:

  • Analgesics (pain relievers) – Such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), or NSAIDS (ibuprophen, aspirin, or naproxen), or the prescription pain reliever tramadol (Ultram). These aid in temporary relief of the physical pains.
  • Anti-depressants – these drugs are used in combination to improve the symptoms of fibromyalgia,= mainly pain and sleep. The use of this class of drugs is based on the theory that fibromyalgia is a
result of decreased levels of serotonin in the body. Some examples of these drugs are Prozac,
 Cymbalta, and Savella. Amytriptyline is used to help promote sleep.
  • Anti-seizure drugs – drugs used to treat epilepsy are often used to help reduce certain types of
pain. Gabapentin (Neurontin) is sometimes helpful in reducing symptoms, while pregabalin (Lyrica)
is the first drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat fibromyalgia. Some see
improvement using Lyrica; however, many cannot tolerate the side effects of this strong drug. Side
 effects include dizziness, nausea, skin reactions, and brain fog.

Homeopathic Treatment

Homeopathy is a safe, gentle, yet extremely effective treatment for fibromyalgia. While conventional medicine does not cure this condition, it aims to manage the symptoms.

Instead, homeopathic treatment addresses the “whole person,” by stimulating healing from a deep core level. This results in relief of symptoms due to a deeper level of balance. Homeopathy is especially helpful in treating fibromyalgia, as it is a compilation of many different ailments.

Homeopathy works by stimulating the body to re-balance and self heal. There are several scientific studies on the effective use of homeopathy to treat fibromyalgia, including a double blind, placebo controlled, randomized crossover design trial published in the British Medical Journal in 1989.(4) Another double blind, randomized, placebo controlled trial demonstrated positive results with the use of homeopathy to treat fibromyalgia that was published in 2004 in the journal Rheumatology.(5).

One theory is that fibromyalgia results from a past physical or emotional trauma. This validates what is seen in practice. There is often a very clear history of abuse, neglect, or extreme chronic stress in fibromyalgia patients. It is as if the symptoms are the physical manifestation of the emotional trauma. Often, people “stuff” or suppress painful memories or emotions, as a way of surviving. This does not mean that these emotions go away; they are just no longer in our conscious mind. Sensitive people will often have a physical expression of these symptoms. Use of homeopathic medicines to address both the specific emotional trauma and the specific physical symptoms of each patient produces remarkable results. We are truly treating the cause of the disease, thus freeing the patient of the symptoms that cause the suffering.

People who suffer from fibromyalgia should know that there are natural, alternative treatments that are helpful in addressing the symptoms of this chronic disease. In addition to homeopathic remedies, a healthful diet as well as therapeutic massage have provided great relief to those who wrestle with fibromyalgia symptoms and pain.

Other Treatments

  • Capsaicin is the active ingredient in chili peppers. It is used for the temporary relief of muscle pain.= When applied topically, capsaicin cream is found to deplete substance P, a neurochemical that transmits pain, resulting in less pain.
  • Magnesium and Malic acid – Studies show that when magnesium is used at higher doses (up to 300 mg magnesium and 1,200 mg malic acid per day), it can help manage symptoms.
  • 5-HTP can increase levels of serotonin in the brain. Studies show it can decrease symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Self-Care for Fibromyalgia

Fortunately, there are many things that someone with fibromyalgia can do to help diminish suffering.

Exercise – A little exercise can help, so getting started is the key. Yoga is one of the most beneficial types of exercise for people with fibromyalgia, as it integrates the physical and mental/emotional bodies. Knowing that symptoms are often a result of emotions, trauma or stress, yoga is an obvious answer.

Start with gentle stretching and breathing to awaken the physical body’s natural energy, helping you feel more alert and vital. Work up to longer intervals slowly and give your muscles time to recover between sessions.

Along with yoga, another excellent form of exercise is walking. Making a commitment to walk for 30-minutes a day is a great start. Walking is an extremely effective way to increase vitality by increasing circulation of blood and the secretion of endorphins (which are the body’s natural pain killers, mood lifters, and appetite modulators). Endorphins can also promote deeper sleep. The best-known way to aid in the secretion of endorphins is prolonged continuous exercise. Always begin any new exercise routine slowly and increase intensity only when you feel comfortable.

Avoid overly rigorous exercise without proper supervision. Also, avoid exercises that include jumping or weight lifting.

Diet – Modifying the diet can have a significant effect on the reduction of symptoms of fibromyalgia. It is simply decreasing the foods that harm and increasing foods that heal. Avoid foods that promote inflammation (dairy, sugar, and processed foods). The elimination of sugar has another benefit – more balanced blood sugar. Sugary foods results in a rapid rise and then crashing of blood sugar, which exacerbates existing fatigue of fibromyalgia patients.

Flavor enhancers like MSG (monosodium glutamate) and Aspartame can have an impact on symptoms. People with fibromyalgia tend to be more sensitive and tend to react more intensely to toxins in food and the environment. Aspartame and MSG are classified as neurotoxins. Even though these substances are not good for any of us, harmful effects are much more noticeable in a person with fibromyalgia – potentially exacerbating their symptoms. Pain, fatigue, and other symptoms will often resolve upon eliminating MSG and Aspartame from the diet.

Adding fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains give the body more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which help decrease inflammation and increase mood and vitality. A whole foods diet is higher in fiber, aiding in healthier elimination and natural detoxification.

All of the above are important in a disease free body. Even if you have trouble eliminating the harmful foods, do your best to add helpful foods. This will begin a shift of dietary habits in the long run.

References:

1. 1998-2007 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. All rights reserved. “Fibromyalgia”.

2. Caruso I, Sarzi Puttini P, Cazzola M, Azzolini V. Double-blind study of 5-hydroxytryptophan versus placebo in the treatment of primary fibromyalgia syndrome. J Int Med Res. (1990) 18 (3): 201-209.

3. Wahner-Roedler DL, Elkin PL, Vincent A, Thompson JM, Oh TH, Loehrer LL, Mandrekar JN, Bauer BA. Use of complementary and alternative medical therapies by patients referred to a fibromyalgia treatment program at a tertiary care center. Mayo Clin Proc. 80.1 (2005): 55-60.

4. Peter Fisher, Alison Greenwood, E C Huskisson, Paul Turner, Philippe Belon. Effect of homeopathic treatment on fibrositis (primary fibromyalgia). British Medical Journal 1989;299:365-6.

5. I. R. Bell, D. A. Lewis II, A. J. Brooks, et al. Improved clinical status in fibromyalgia patients treated with individualized homeopathic remedies versus placebo. Rheumatology 2004;43:577–582.