Fibromyalgia (FM) is a chronic condition, which causes widespread musculoskeletal pain and fatigue. It most commonly affects young to middle-aged women and its presentation is varied, often fluctuating in its clinical course.
What causes Fibromyalgia?
The cause is unknown but several theories suggest genetics may play a role as well as environmental triggers such as infection, psychological stress or physical trauma.
Longstanding stress affects the body in many ways, and in FM, this stress winds up the central nervous system and it begins to process pain differently – pain sensitivity increases and normal sensations like light touch become painful.
In the naturopathic world, there is a bit more conjecture about the cause of FM. There is suggestion that there could be problems with the gut (specifically SIBO), nutritional deficits (ferritin, B12, folic acid, vit D), hormonal imbalance, infection (lyme disease, parasites, enteroviruses), thyroid or adrenal problems and/or toxic build up.
What are the symptoms of Fibromyalgia?
Symptoms can include:
- sleep disturbances
- chest pain – costochondralgia – muscle pain where the ribs meet the sternum
- digestive issues – abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea
- irritable bladder – frequency, urgency
- generalised muscle and joint stiffness in the mornings
- headaches or facial pain
- jaw pain and clicking
- upper and/or lower spine pain
- thyroid and adrenal dysfunction
- numbness and tingling of the hands and feet
- restless legs
- sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures
- sensitivity to loud noises or bright lights, odours, weather patterns
- dryness of skin, eyes and mouth
- cognitive and memory difficulties – problems concentrating, fog, memory lapses, word mix-ups when speaking or writing, difficulty getting words out, clumsiness/dropping things
- dizziness and balance problems – difficulties in orientation when standing, driving or reading.
- low mood (depression) or anxiety.
How is FM diagnosed?
There is no blood test to confirm FM. Diagnosis is made after physical examination and a thorough history taking.
Diagnostic criteria includes:
- at least 3 months of widespread pain and tenderness,
- pain in at least 11 out of 18 recognised `tender points’
A naturopath may order the following tests to help find out the driving factor behind the symptoms:
- biological terrain analysis
- adrenal stress profile (including 24 hour cortical and DHEA levels)
- thyroid profiles – T3, rT3, antithyroid antibodies
- heavy metal analysis
- digestive testing eg for SIBO
What treatment is there for Fibromyalgia?
There is no one-stop shop program to cure Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) as it has complex causative factors. However, there are testimonies of some people having a partial, if not full, recovery from it with the right diagnosis and treatment.
Orthodox treatment consists of:
- medication – often a low-dose antidepressant is prescribed to help manage sleep and pain levels
- exercise – low impact and paced is best to help improve range of motion and flexibility in the muscles
- relaxation – meditation, yoga, deep breathing
- physiotherapy – myofascial release, stretching
- dietary advice
More alternative treatment options may include:
- acupuncture and energetic therapies
- supplements – B vitamins, magnesium, selenium, vitamin C, fatty acids, vitamin D, zinc, iodine
Overall, the most important thing to remember is that FM often requires a rounded approach. It requires thorough investigation into potential causative factors and one sufferer’s recovery and treatment may look completely different to the next person’s.
If you suffer from fibromyalgia, myotherapy may be a helpful in relieving your pain.