Annapolis Integrative Medicine
1819 Bay Ridge Avenue
Annapolis, MD 21403
Fibromyalgia: How Do You Treat It?
Fibromyalgia syndrome affects at least six million Americans, causing more disability than rheumatoid arthritis. The prevalence is rapidly increasing, likely having increased by 200-400% in the last 10 years alone. Fibromyalgia remains a condition without a fully understood cause, in which patients report chronic widespread pain and a variety of other common complaints including fatigue, sleep disorders, cognitive deficits, irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, Raynaud’s syndrome, and a wide array of other symptom patterns that do not make sense unless one is familiar with the syndrome.
There are many reasons for widespread pain and fatigue, many of which commonly result in a mistaken diagnosis of fibromyalgia. It is important to see a physician experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of fibromyalgia. Medical problems such as undiagnosed hypothyroidism, nerve problems, medicine side effects and autoimmune diseases can be mistakenly called fibromyalgia leaving people going down an ineffective tunnel of treatment and testing.
Unfortunately, even when an accurate diagnosis of fibromyalgia is made, a patient is often told the only thing you can do is to take one of a few prescription drugs. But if these medications are not effective or produce intolerable side effects, the patients are told there is not much else to do other than rest, take it easy and take pain medication.
The good news is there are actually a lot of other things you can do to significantly improve the well-being of people with fibromyalgia.
First, getting a good full night of restorative sleep is absolutely critical. Many people with fibromyalgia will say it has been years since they have had a decent night’s sleep. Using a combination of lifestyle changes, relaxation techniques, herbal formulas and prescription medications can get people sleeping which is often the first step in getting well.
Correcting the common nutritional and hormonal deficiencies of this condition is critical. And it is important to see a physician who recognizes that the “normal” laboratory reference ranges for nutrients and hormones may not be optimal especially for people who are struggling with their health. Optimizing thyroid, testosterone and estrogen status may go a long way to restoring health and vitality.
Gastrointestinal problems are often present and must be addressed, both to enhance nutrient absorption and to reduce inflammation and discomfort.
Bacterial and yeast overgrowth is common as are food allergies, including the under recognized phenomenon of celiac disease and gluten intolerance. There are relatively simple ways to treat these issues that make a big difference for people.
And finally pain must be controlled. For many patients pain becomes a sort of vicious cycle, with pain causing muscle spasm, sleep disruption and inflammation, which only causes more pain. There are both natural and prescription methods for effectively addressing chronic pain.
To sum it up, fibromyalgia is common, but once addressed can be treated effectively so people can return to having a life they love.