Fibromyalgia sufferers experience widespread, chronic pain. And worse, because there is little that can be seen or measured, they also often suffer skepticism. A patient’s friends, family and even doctors may not understand the extent or severity of the pain.
Patients often have sleep problems, fatigue, migraine, irritable bowel, abdominal pain, pelvic pain and trouble concentrating. But they generally don’t have fever or redness and swelling of the joints – that is, they don’t have obvious symptoms to show. Frustratingly, there are no good medical tests for this condition. A formal diagnosis is based on a constellation of symptoms that meet the criteria for fibromyalgia.
Once a fibromyalgia diagnosis is established, traditional medical treatments include antidepressants and anti-seizure medications. Like so many medications, which treat the symptoms, they have side effects and do not get to the root of the problem.
In integrative medicine, we look more deeply into imbalances to improve the health of fibromyalgia patients.
Dense Nutrition and Supplementation is Key
Diet is a common cause or contributor to many conditions. For fibromyalgia, we suggest patients eliminate cow’s milk and gluten, eliminate all processed or artificial products, and increase intake of vegetables, whether raw or cooked.
Food sensitivities can cause insidious inflammation that contributes to the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Often, an elimination diet or food sensitivity testing is helpful in rooting out this cause of pain.
The sufferer’s vitamins and minerals may be low, especially magnesium, vitamin B12, vitamin D and iron. If these levels are on the low end of the normal range, patients may feel better once they achieve high normal ranges with supplementation. Intravenous vitamin therapies are also proving beneficial for severe depletion. Herbs and supplements that have anti-inflammatory properties can be recommended, too.
Stress Management is Beneficial
Life stress is another area we examine closely as patients may literally be “carrying the weight of the world” on their shoulders. Anger and anxiety increase stress hormones, which can make the pain worse. Evidence is growing for including psychological therapies, particularly cognitive behavioral therapies, mindfulness-based treatments, relaxation and biofeedback. With these interventions, studies have shown significant short and long-term benefit.
Medical Acupuncture Can Offer Relief
Acupuncture, both with and without electricity, can offer marked relief. Patients may also respond to osteopathic or chiropractic manipulation since misalignment can contribute to the muscle pain.
Exercise may provide relief. Cardiovascular fitness training – both aerobic and strength training – is effective. Some fibromyalgia patients also suffering from chronic fatigue may respond better to the gentle practices of yoga or Qi Gong. Try to find trainers who work with fibromyalgia patients.
Fibromyalgia, often debilitating, likely has multiple origins. Consider choosing a practitioner skilled in many treatment modalities. Patients can obtain significant relief and in some cases be cured. If you suffer from chronic pain and fibromyalgia, please don’t give up hope for relief. I have seen patients move forward into a happy and healthy life after receiving help and guidance to make the adjustments they need.