Few widespread health maladies have the ability to camouflage their root cause as well as fibromyalgia. It’s known to mimic symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome, osteoarthritis, post-traumatic stress disorder, lupus and a host of other disorders. Somewhere, hidden among all the symptoms, is a root cause and an elusive cure.
First recorded in 1904, fibromyalgia has grown into a modern era scourge affecting as many as 6 million Americans. Women are nearly nine times more likely to become afflicted than men, but no one is immune.
So what is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is named after the pain commonly reported in sufferers’ muscles, ligaments and tendons (Fibro = fibrous tissue, myo = muscle, and algos = pain). Research shows fibromyalgia is a syndrome which launches an all out attack on the central nervous and musculoskeletal systems.
Intense muscle pain caused by systemic inflammation is a very common description. One patient gave an account of her pain like “having arthritis in your muscles or charlie horses all day”. More than half of all fibromyalgia sufferers complain of chronic or migraine headaches. Extreme fatigue, sleep disorders, sensitivity to medicine, irritable bowel syndrome, memory loss, difficulty exercising, dizziness, non-cardiac chest pains, stiff joints, numbness and tingling sensations in extremities are also frequently reported.
Diagnosing fibromyalgia can be a supremely frustrating experience for patient and doctor alike. Since so many symptoms mimic those of other common disorders, making a diagnosis often comes down to a process of elimination.
Fortunately the American College of Rheumatology published standards to assist physicians with fibromyalgia diagnosis in 1990. The doctor simply applies pressure to 18 different trigger points found along the base of the patient’s neck, backbone, in front of the hip and elbow, and at the rear of the knee and shoulder. If the patient indicates at least 11 of the 18 sites are tender to the touch in addition to widespread pain a diagnosis of fibromyalgia may be warranted.
What causes fibromyalgia?
Some studies suggest individuals with fibromyalgia were genetically predisposed. Others indicate fibromyalgia is a dormant disorder that is triggered by a viral or bacterial infection or a traumatic injury. For example, one woman said she lived a normal life until she was struck from behind while driving. The severe whiplash sustained in the accident was the beginning of a new period in her life dominated by fibromyalgia pain.
That’s the long answer. The short answer is, we don’t know yet – exactly. However, enough evidence has accumulated to show fibromyalgia is typically preceded by a pattern of imbalances. These imbalances may be excessive stress levels, hormone imbalances, inadequate nutrition, poor sleeping patterns, and the list goes on. Discover what imbalances triggered your bout of fibromyalgia and you have the key to recovery in your hand.
How to treat fibromyalgia
There are no set guidelines for treating fibromyalgia since the underlying imbalances vary from one person to the next. What works for one person may not work for someone else, although heat seems to offer nearly universal short-term pain relief.
Drug treatments for fibromyalgia range from analgesics and anti-depressants to hormone replacements. Cortisone treatments may give some temporary relief at $400 per shot too. But long time readers already know my thoughts on these trouble-laden conventional medicine approaches.
A number of alternative medicine pain treatments have found growing acceptance from fibromyalgia patients seeking pain relief without the expense and dangerous side effect risk found with many conventional medicine treatments. Fibromyalgia patients have found practices as diverse as acupuncture, acupressure, Qigong therapy, chiropractic care, and massage therapy to be helpful. A good diet and sticking to a sleep routine is important too. Magnesium has been proven to help muscles relax and 400mg-600mg taken before bed refreshes muscles as you sleep.
The answer to fibromyalgia I found
I’ve studied pain, particularly back pain, for many years. Yet fibromyalgia is one of those chronic pain ailments that left me scratching my own head for quite awhile – until I was introduced to a guy named Greg Fors.
Actually, it’s Dr. Greg Fors, a board-certified neurologist. But I won’t hold that against him because he’s a truly brilliant old school physician. Why brilliant? Because he’s one of the rare breed of doctors who understands that solving a problem requires finding and fixing the underlying cause. Not just covering up the symptoms with drugs or fleecing your patients with unnecessary surgery.
Anyhow, Dr. Fors released a 398-page healing resource awhile back called Why We Hurt: Your Total Self-Care Guide for Backaches, Headaches, Shoulder Pain, Arthritis and Fibromyalgia. It truly gets to the bottom of why we acquire chronic pain ailments, including fibromyalgia. And as a chronic pain survivor himself, Dr. Fors also tells you in his book what he found for himself: how to fix the problem.
After I read his book I was so impressed I decided to give it away free on our company’s main website because the information inside is simply too important for fibromyalgia sufferers. If you’re suffering from fibromyalgia or any other kind of chronic pain, this book can help.
I don’t know how many free copies are left, so I suggest requesting your own free copy right away. If we’re out, try calling my office to see when we’ll have more available.
Questions and answers about acupuncture. National Cancer Institute.
Good Living with Fibromyalgia. Atlanta, Ga.: Arthritis Foundation; 2006.
Wolfe F, Smythe HA, Yunus MB et al. (February 1990). “The American College of Rheumatology 1990 Criteria for the Classification of Fibromyalgia. Report of the Multicenter Criteria Committee”. Arthritis Rheum. 33 (2): 160—72
Schweinhardt P, Sauro KM, Bushnell MC. (October 2008). “Fibromyalgia: a disorder of the brain?”. Neuroscientist. 14 (5): 415—21.
Written By: Updated: March 10,2010