Fibromyalgia – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
Fibromyalgia is characterized by widespread inflammation of your muscles and Joints. Although several factors may cause this condition, low levels of serotonin and dysfunction of your immune system may also be involved. It commonly occurs along with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and the co-occurrence of the two ailments makes it even more difficult to treat fibromyalgia successfully.
Fibromyalgia is often mistakenly diagnosed in people who have chronic pain. A correct diagnosis is very important, because many symptoms that appear to be due to fibromyalgia may be due to other, reversible, causes. Before a definitive diagnosis can be made, your doctor must document 11 out of 18 specific trigger points (tender areas of the body). Also, you must have a history of generalized aches or stiffness in three areas of the body for least three months, as well as four of the following eight symptoms:
- Sore throat
- Muscle pain
- Pain in multiple joints
- Tender lymph nodes
- Impaired memory or concentration
- Unrefreshed sleep
- Postexertional malaise (extreme tiredness and lack of motivation after exertion)
The previous symptoms are the primary ones that help diagnose this condition, but other symptoms and factors are common in fibromyalgia:
- Muscular pain, aching, stiffness, especially in the morning
- Symptoms worse in cold or wet weather
- History of injury up to one year before other symptoms appear
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Headaches (migraine and non-migraine)
- Raynaud’s phenomenon (fingers turn colors and are painful when cold)
What You Need to Know?
Fibromyalgia is a very difficult condition to treat, and most conventional methods have been unsuccessful in reducing its symptoms. Alternative methods have had some success usually cannot cure the condition. Sleep quality is one of the most important aspects of fibromyalgia, and correlates with the severity of pain: The less sleep you get, the more you have.
Saturated animal fats and arachidonic acid from red meats and dairy products can increase the inflammatory response, so reducing these foods may help reduce your pain. It may also be helpful to eat a more vegetarian diet with oils high in omega-3 fatty acids (olive and canola oils, for example). Eating cold-water fish (such as salmon, trout, mackerel, cod, tuna, halibut, sardines, and swordfish) can supply you with natural omega-3 fatty acids and can lessen your body’s inflammatory and allergic responses.
Aerobic exercise can significantly reduce fibromyalgia symptoms over a course of 12 weeks. You should start out slowly and increase time and intensity slowly. Although it may be difficult to undergo exercise when you’re hurting, once you start doing it, your symptoms will improve.
Because insomnia, anxiety, and depression are all involved with fibromyalgia, meditation is helpful in reducing these symptoms and improving your overall condition.
Qigong is very beneficial for anyone with fibromyalgia because it enhances the immune system, requires movement (which helps reduce pain and stiffness), and reduces anxiety and insomnia.
Your Herbal Healing Action Plan for Fibromyalgia
Step 1: Undergo Acupuncture
I recommend acupuncture as the first step because I’ve seen it work better and more consistently than any other treatment. Principal points usually are found on the arms and legs, but you may require additional points specific to your underlying Chinese diagnosis. Always seek evaluation and treatment from a practitioner certified in acupuncture. You should notice improvement within six treatments, but you’ll probably need additional sessions to get the maximum benefits.
Step 2: Take 5-HTP, St. John’s Wort, Magnesium, and Malic Acid
Serotonin levels are usually deficient in people with fibromyalgia, so supplements that raise serotonin levels often can relieve symptoms. Along with the acupuncture, I recommend taking 5-HTP (50mg to 100mg daily), in combination with St. John’s wort(300 mg containing 0.3 percent hypericin content three times a day), magnesium (150mg to 250mg three times daily), and malic acid (1,200mg daily). You should notice improvement within one to two months.
Step 3: Take Appropriate Chinese Herbal Remedies
If the previous supplements do not help, there are several Chinese herbal formulas that can be used together to help reduce symptoms. Helpful formulas include Du Huo Luo in combination with either Gui Pi Tang or Huo Luo Xiao Ling Dan. Consult a practitioner qualified in Chinese herbal medicine to determine whether these formulas are the best for your particular problem. You should feel better within three to six weeks, but you may need to take the herbs longer, depending on your condition.
Step 4: Take a Conventional Medication to Help You Sleep
Because people with fibromyalgia typically have difficulty sleeping, or they do not sleep restfully, a conventional sleep medication is often beneficial. This can be an actual sleep medication, such as Ambien, Restoril, or Sonata, or a mild antidepressant such as amittiptyline (Elavil) or trazodone (Desyrel). Use sleep medications in addition to the previous steps if your sleep is disturbed.
Step 5: Take Valerian or Melatonin to Help Sleep
If you prefer a natural sleep aid, I recommend Valerian (200mg to 400mg) or melatonin (0.3mg to 1.0mg). I have not found these natural aids to be as effective as the conventional medications in fibromyalgia patients, which is why I recommend them at this step. However, if you don’t want to take conventional medications, or those drugs have not worked, these remedies are worth a try.
Step 6: Take Prescription Medications for Other Fibromyalgia Symptoms
If you still have considerable pain and other symptoms, conventional medications may help. Start with amitriptyline (Elavil) or cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril) in small doses to improve pain and sleep. Pregabalin (450mg dose) can reduce pain and increase sleep in 30 percent of patients. The next step is a mixed-neurotransmitter reuptake inhibitor, such as Effexor or Wellbutrin. (Do not take these medications with 5-HTP or St. John’s wort (see Step 2) because of increased side effects.) For continued pain, I suggest Ultram, because it’s not as addicting as narcotic medication. If you also have restless legs syndrome (your legs jerk spontaneously, usually at night), I recommend Klonopin, 0.5mg at night. For anxiety, buspirone (BuSpar) is my first choice.
Step 7: Take SAMe
If you still have pain or only partial relief, try SAMe, a compound from Germany. You can take it with the other supplements at a dosage of 800mg to 1600mg per day, but the top quality brands are expensive, which is why I don’t recommend it sooner. It may be four to six weeks (sometimes less) before you see benefits.
Step 8: Use the Nambudripad Allergy Elimination Treatment (NAET)
Sometimes, food allergies may be playing a role in causing fibromyalgia symptoms or making them worse. If the previous steps haven’t helped you, I suggest undergoing the Nambudripad Allergy Elimination Treatment. It combines acupuncture, kinesiology, chiropractic, herbs, and nutrition to desensitize you to foods to which you are allergic. It may take several months to work, depending on how many foods are causing you problems.
Step 9: Take Bovine Cartilage and/or Colustrum to Enhance Your Immune System
If you still have symptoms, take bovine cartilage (2g to 3g three times a day) and/or colustrum (500mg to 2000mg daily). These are immune system modulators that reregulate the immune system and help it work better. Colustrum is a nutrient-rich milk precursor that contains immunoglobulins (antibodies that counteract allergens), antimicrobial proteins and carbohydrates. You can use them in addition to the previous steps, or take them alone if the previous steps haven’t helped. However, they may take several months to work.
Step 10: Take Guaifenesin
Guaifenesin (such as Humibid), an expectorant used in many over-the-counter cough remedies (such as Robitussin), is supposed to help reduce the symptoms of fibromyalgia. But if you decide to try it, you must take high doses, and it usually takes several mon to be effective. Unfortunately, it can-and usually does-cause a much more serve increase in pain in the initial few weeks or months of treatment. You’ll need a prescription for 600mg twice daily.