Extreme fatigue? Disturbed sleep? Pain in the muscles? Those are just some of the symptoms associated with Fibromyalgia, an extremely difficult to diagnose autoimmune disease. Fibromyalgia comes with many painful and unpleasant symptoms, and shockingly, this condition may affect up to 10% of the population. According to an article in the Postgraduate Medicine journal last year, doctors are reporting that fibromyalgia is becoming more pervasive every year.
If you’re in that 10% of the population, you know what it’s like and can attest to how debilitating this condition can be. It’s simply not fun. Even more challenging, is the reality that you could have fibromyalgia, but your doctor does not recognize it. Fortunately, although this has been a common problem, it may be changing. Many healthcare professionals who have developed approaches to help patients with chronic illnesses now believe that fibromyalgia is a legitimate condition, and many are also using non-drug treatments that have been found to be quite effective.
Why Does Fibromyalgia Occur?
One of the reasons why fibromyalgia may occur in the body is called central sensitization. This is where the central nervous system becomes hypersensitive to pain. Even a touch on the shoulder could cause a pain sensation that travels through the body and feels equivalent to being touched by a hot poker. Central sensitization is a disorder of the regulation of pain mechanisms in the body.
The discovery of the body’s cannabinoid system is something that has helped scientists understand fibromyalgia more. This system affects the central nervous system; it’s the reason why some fibromyalgia patients use different types of cannabinoid products on the market. However this is not yet supported by many studies, unlike other inflammation fighting natural compounds.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Here’s a list of the most common symptoms of fibromyalgia:
- Extreme fatigue that doesn’t go away with a good night of sleep
- Disrupted sleep
- Pain in muscles from light touch, usually at the shoulder, back and hip
- Impaired cognition (memory problems)
- Mood disturbances
- Morning stiffness
- Brain fog
One study found that 89% of patients with fibromyalgia also suffered from depression and 42% experienced anxiety.
How Fibromyalgia is Treated
There are many treatments that can be expected to be offered for fibromyalgia. Most likely though, your doctor won’t suggest all of them at one time. However, on the list that follows, you will see that there are many things you can do to get started on your own.
It’s best to start these after you have had a consultation with your doctor or other medical practitioner, preferably one who specializes in treating the disorder.
Natural Support Options
Researchers have found that stress will aggravate key fibromyalgia symptoms such as anxiety, neuroticism and its mastery. Thus, any method that reduces stress can reduce pain levels in the body.
Eating a diet high in omega 3 fats, vitamins and antioxidants has been found to be helpful. Here are other nutritional tips:
- Stay away from artificial sweeteners and MSG; one medical journal noted that patients who stopped eating food with aspartame as the sweetener stated that their fibromyalgia symptoms went into remission, but started up again when they began eating those same foods again. The medical journals have also reported evidence that low glutamate (MSG) and in the diet can make a big difference.
- Magnesium blocks a receptor in the body called the NMDA receptor that is causing the nerves in the brain to become super sensitive and excited, so make sure you don’t have a magnesium deficiency, and work to correct it.
- Zinc plays an important role in modulating the excitation of the nerves. If there’s a zinc deficiency it’s easy for this excitation of the nerves to occur, called excitotoxicity.
- Curcumin, the bioactive ingredient in Turmeric, has been shown in thousands of studies to combat the negative effects of inflammation in the body. Inflammation can manifest as muscle and joint pain, brain fog, digestive issues, and many other uncomfortable symptoms. Taking curcumin daily is one of the best ways to help keep the inflammation at bay.
- Vitamin B6 deficiency causes higher levels of glutamate and reduces levels of GABA in the brain, too. This causes central nervous system excitotoxicity as well.
- Deficiency of omega 3 fats can also cause excitotoxicity. So add some olive oil, avocados, nuts, and wild-caught salmon to your diet.
Making these changes can make a big difference in how you feel and how much pain you are able to reduce on a daily basis.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
This type of psychological treatment involves changing the way you think about different things in life, and helps you start connecting the dots between emotional triggers and physical symptoms.
Psychologists may also prescribe tricyclic antidepressants, serotonin –norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors and gabapentin, which have been found to help reduce pain by 30% in some cases. Make sure you’re educated about the possible side effects of any antidepressants you are prescribed.
Laser treatment on the tender points located on the body
In this type of treatment, a high intensity laser device may be used. In one reported case in the medical literature, treatments dramatically reduced one female patient’s overall pain, improved the quality of her sleep and allowed her to exercise in the next 10 days after the treatment. She had failed to respond to prior conventional treatments.
Try some of these options, focusing on natural lifestyle changes if you are exhibiting symptoms of or are diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Take steps today and start feeling the positive effects. Remember that consistency in terms of daily lifestyle habits is key, so don’t give up if you have only started and have not felt a big difference yet. Even little changes will eventually help you get your symptoms better under control.