No body, but no body, has the flu or feels like they have the flu for months or years on end. That is what it feels like to be one of the 6 to 10 million Americans who suffer from the chronic pain of Fibromyalgia. And who knows how many others suffer the same around the world. They range in age from about 30 to their 60s and are predominately women. In the past this has often granted them a pat on the head from their physician and a trip to the psychiatrist’s office because there has been no clear cause. Fibromyalgia is called a syndrome rather than an illness due to the fact that the multiple and varied symptoms lack the clear markers of a disease such as changes in organ function or blood.
The real problem is that there really isn’t any specific test at this time for Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome either, for that matter. Some researchers do believe that they are one and the same illness. But back to fibromyalgia, since that is our focus in this article.
First and foremost, though this may seem to be obvious, please engage the services of a primary physician to oversee your care. That would be someone who is a reasonably good diagnostician and not reluctant or fearful of consulting with other doctors or accepting their opinions. This is important because Fibromyalgia comes with a cluster of maladies that may send a patient off to a variety of specialists.
That may further compound and compartmentalize the problems. When you are fortunate to have one medical doctor oversee or monitor all of what is currently available there is less likely to be a redundancy in procedures or a conflict in the multiple medications prescribed by diverse medical specialists. If you are one of the many with fibromyalgia you will know what this is all about. If not, just hang on to your hat as the symptoms roll out.
Fatigue, as a symptom, is number one on the hit parade list. This is not just the kind of tired that makes you think that a nap or going to bed for the night is a good idea. It is the kind of exhaustion that says, “I never want to get out of bed again and even then that is too soon.”
Sleep deprivation. With all the time that is spent in bed, how can anyone still have trouble falling asleep? Sleep is elusive. After hours of tossing and turning, having just barely gone to sleep, people with fibromyalgia may wake up several times during the night or early in the morning feeling as if they haven’t slept at all. No wonder exhaustion is the word of the day. Deep restorative sleep is needed for the muscles to rebuild during the night.
For some of the victims of this insidious malady, employment is no longer an option. Often these are women that are Type A personalities, who have had top of the ladder positions. Oh yes, often the high stress and well paying positions have long since faded from their agenda like a washed out pair of jeans. These people are not malingerers! They are just stuck in the muck and mire of their own debilitating, exhausting pain.
Depression takes over daily thought and keeps these sufferers from moving beyond their own walls. They feel as though they are prisoners in their own bodies. Some days, just the thought of having to deal with personal hygiene such as showering or figuring out what to do with a toothbrush becomes an ordeal. The water spray of a shower hurts the skin on the body. Soaking in a tub is better but only somewhat soothing.
Memory has been fading over the years as the anxiety has been ever increasing. They feel as though they are sitting on teeter-totter or see-saw and no matter what they do, they can not bring the board into balance. Their entire life is out of balance.
Fibro Fog is the term that is often used when they can’t remember something that is simple or obvious that they should know. Fibromyalgia patient fears that their brains and value left as the water went down the bathtub drain. Let’s also add heart palpitations to the mix.
Headaches come in a variety of sizes and consequences from mild, which come and go, to monster migraine headaches that have their own arsenal of medication. Then of course, there is the neck pain that is a whole new epidemic unto itself. Often it contributes to the headaches, but who knows which came first?
Vertigo or dizziness can be added to top things off, as if things were not bad enough. Now terrified to drive, even if they had the energy to get up and go, this energy is drowned in a flood of awful fearful thoughts about hurting oneself or others in a car wreck. The projection can come fast and furiously with images about vehicles piling up and hurting others all over town. The mental exhaustion takes its’ toll and these individuals surrender to the bed or couch for another day of being a prisoner in their own home.
And the list goes on with motion sickness as another symptom. This can make for impossible traveling. Here is a little item that the divers and boaters use for motion sickness that is available most any where in the world; it is an inexpensive over the counter tablet, Meclizine with the brand name of Bonine. So traveling locally or globally is in the realm of comfort and possibility. It works wonders.
Intestinal Disturbances have a couple of more ugly items that will usually find themselves on the list. These can be bouts of diarrhea followed by constipation, flatulence or even leaky bowels. By the time these symptoms are done, your body is on to another set of symptoms perhaps in another location entirely.
Today may be a sinus infection, tomorrow it is leg cramps and restless legs syndrome. Here comes a bladder infection that usually follows with an endless series of yeast infections and Candida. Feel free to create your own list of maladies since not everything that men and women have endured has been reported or discussed.
The American College of Rheumatology has maintained that prior to making a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia there has to have been muscle pain for at least 3 months. There is a simple, but crude test that is made to determine if you are one of these souls. There are 18 individual tender sites on the body that cluster around the neck and back. A positive diagnosis is made if pressure is applied to an individual and they respond to 11 of those 18 painful spots. Then you will be considered positive for fibromyalgia.
The truth of the matter is most people wait a lot longer than three months before they get a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. They drag themselves from physician to physician presenting multiple issues and all the while looking very good on the outside. What appears to look good on the outside may not speak to what is going on internally. These individuals may also not relay the full tale of what, where and when they have been treated or if they have been self medicating with herbs, vitamin supplements and alcohol.
Sometimes these women and men just can’t remember their own medical history. They often have been in discomfort for many years not just a few months looking for a sympathetic ear while physically in agony, chronically depressed and living on a chemical cocktail that is often not monitored properly and could cause a variety of side effects that may be harmful or lethal over time.
The issue of chronic pain and depression are taken very seriously by Pedro Montoya, PhD, and his research team in Spain. They are gravely concerned regarding the negative effects and the influence on brain processing of physical and sensory information an illness such as fibromyalgia may have over time. Another research group has been looking at our hereditary influence.
They believe that the presence of a chemical alpha1-Antitrypsin (AAT) circulates in high serum concentrations and is found in most the body tissues. It has a very important job as an anti-inflammatory agent, as it must react to most attacks on the body. If there is a deficiency of AAT, it may be due to heredity. The person was diagnosed with fibromyalgia if given intravenous infusions of purified human AAT controlled the symptoms in a very small study.
Recently researchers have turned up several interesting factors that may play a part in the development of Fibromyalgia. One that led the field for many years because of the fatigue factor is serotonin. It plays such an important role in fibromyalgia because this marvelous chemical is not only found throughout the body, but is instrumental in controlling pain and regulating sleep. Blood tests indicate that people with Fibromyalgia have low serotonin levels.
The pain that is reported is muscle and ligament pain, not joint pain as in an arthritic individual. The lack of sleep reflects a very, very serious problem. When deprived of deep restorative sleep, the body can’t recover from the previous days’ activity. It doesn’t matter how many hours a person lies in bed unless they get deep uninterrupted sleep, they will be unable to restore and rebuild their body.
As researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. started to look deeper into spinal cord fluid of people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and related illnesses (i.e. fibromyalgia), they found a set of 16 proteins that were not in healthy people.
Of the 50 individuals examined, there were 5 proteins that were in every person tested, but in not one of the controls or healthy people tested. James Baraniuk, MD, lead researcher, admitted that perhaps the study was small; however, it was a start, a place to begin to look at a biosignature for the diagnosis of fibromyalgia.
Dr. Robert Bennett of Oregon Health & Science University in Portland posits that there is also a link between the chronic psychological stressors and the group of inflammatory disorders. It may appear far fetched that stress affects the production of fluid in the central nervous system. Many years ago Hans Selye, a pioneer in the field of stress research, wrote about what would and could affect each and every person.
He charted how to predict how much stress and how long it would take to make to make someone ill. Good and happy events such as weddings, graduation, and promotions were also classified as stressful events, along with deaths, divorce and financial reverses.
Today we are in the process of developing many of the tools to prove his theory. Some of them are already available and can tell us the story of glucose or cortisol hormone levels in our blood. Stress can and does cause those levels to rise or drop and play havoc with many systems in the body.
Taking an entirely different tack, we have R. Paul St. Armand, MD, a practicing physician and endocrinologist by profession. He is one of the few men and his three daughters who all carry fibromyalgia syndrome. He proposes that fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, systemic candidiasis are all one and the same things, “energy deficient syndromes,” and may have a hereditary cause.
These conditions all result as phosphates build up within the cells in the body. There is a failure of the phosphate ions to be excreted from the urine so they then becomes trapped in the bloodstream, to then gets stored in the bones, tendons and muscles. When the build-up is great enough, it will interfere with the energy production within each of our cells. This is where everything gets very, very complicated.
The phosphate ion is needed to help to convert the calcium that comes from storage and all of this take fluid. There is a portion of the kidneys that just doesn’t pump properly. As that happens, over time the excess fluid will be stored in many areas throughout the body which over time causes pain.
Specifically, this is the very pain that is experienced at the surface of the body and at the 18 pressure points. Dr. St. Armand’s protocol for cleansing, balancing, and restoring individuals is to divest themselves of all salicylates, aspirin, mint and various other herbs while going on a regimen of Guiafenesin to help flush out the body.
So now that we know what is under the medical spotlight, what do we do about it? Can we drug it into submission? Well, we can not do that exactly. There are a range of anti-depressant, sleep and pain medications, muscle relaxants anti-seizure medications that have been prescribed often off-label for this malady. This means it was given with the hope and blessing that it would help people with fibromyalgia. Of course lots of aspirin and Tylenol also have been taken for help.
For the first time there is a medication that has been approved Food and Drug Administration just this year for fibromyalgia, called Lyrica.
What about your diet? For some people limiting carbohydrates to whole grains has been an important change in their daily eating habit. Pain often limits activity and women tend to become carbohydrate resistant as they celebrate more birthdays. Eat more of those colorful foods. Think of a rainbow red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple as you select salad and vegetables and fruit to cook.
Try new foods, flavors, fish, seasonings, nuts, poultry, beans, and eat them raw if you can. Turmeric is the new in seasoning and is good for every part of your body, from brain to connective tissue and skin. It just adds color and very little flavor so use it freely.
Exercise! “Just do it.” Thank you Nike, but let’s do it in moderation. You may have been a marathon runner, but that was a thing of the past. Start with a simple pedometer that will let you know how many steps you have taken. Yes, the ones that you have taken around your home as well as those on your walk all count.
A good pair of walking shoes is all that is needed to go for a short walk. So how far did you really walk today? Most people don’t have any sense of the distance they walk daily until measure their steps daily with a very simple pedometer. Yes walking is still a great exercise.
If you are feeling well enough, a low impact weight training workout about three times a week that allows your muscles to heal between workouts is fine. Find a trainer that understands the problems and works with you to build strength and stamina.
Qi Gong is a wonderful series of Oriental exercises that helps to develop physical, emotional and spiritual balance. It is excellent for helping people learn to focus, calm, and distress. Yoga in any form would also fit here.
Water aerobics is wonderful, but because water often feels so delightful, it is easy to overdo and increase pain rather than gain the relaxation and flexibility that is desired. Don’t forget that less is much better for you.
Hypnosis is a wonderful addition for ones for tool box. The Hypnotherapist teaches self-hypnosis to each individual so they can manage to deal with their own discomfort. Insomnia can now be managed simply and easily with hypnosis. As can many of the other major symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Acupuncture can often be a very good alternative to many medications. It has been known to relieve pain, particularly at specific sites.
THREE EASY BREATHES. Wow, this was a lot of material. What a lot to digest, while staying in touch with the body. It is important to know what you need from a position of calm and clarity.
Take THREE EASY BREATHES before you do another thing. Breathing is not optional. Breathing is always on the top of your to do list! This will allow for the clarity to make decisions that are right for you. So Breathe, three easy breathes releasing tension, toxins and negativities so you can stay calm relaxed and think clearly as you settle into a wonderful adventure.
Dr. Sandra Landsman may be contacted at:
810 Saturn Street, Suite
Jupiter, Florida 33477 U.S.A.
561.575.0547 Mobile 561.512.1002