Coping With Fibromyalgia, Naturally
What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a syndrome, or set of symptoms, characterized by widespread pain and fatigue. The name itself defines the disorder when broken down into parts “fibro” refers to the fibrous tissues such as ligaments, tendons and fascia; “my” concerns muscles; and “algia” means pain.
It is the second most common rheumatic disorder, affecting many more women than men. According to statistics reported by Johns Hopkins, up to 90% of patients complaining of these symptoms to their physicians are women. Diagnosis is difficult because there is no definitive test to confirm fibromyalgia. Rather, many other diseases are typically ruled out first, often frustrating the patient and the physician.
What Are the Symptoms?
Most people who are eventually diagnosed with fibromyalgia will report pain in the upper and lower halves and on both sides of their bodies. The pain is described as constant aching such as occurs with the flu; or, at times, it can be sharp and incapacitating. Doctors will look for “trigger points” in certain areas of the body (neck, spine, shoulders, low back and hips), which are quite painful to the touch.
Patients often report chronic fatigue. This is now theorized to be due to a disruption of the sleep cycle robbing them of the deepest, healing sleep stage known as “delta-wave” sleep. Headaches, both tension and migraines, as well as jaw pain are often persistent.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is prevalent in this population. Around two thirds of people with fibromyalgia also have alternating constipation, diarrhea, gas and intestinal pain. Due to an increased sensitivity to pain and other stimuli amongst sufferers of fibromyalgia, researchers were led to examine abnormalities in the central nervous system. They found that fibromyalgia patients had a decreased amount of a substance (somatomedin C), which gets its start from the pituitary gland mostly during sleep.
What Are the Treatment Options?
Treatment goals should focus on decreasing pain and improving sleep. With the latest research identifying sleep problems being a probable cause for a portion of fibromyalgic symptoms, many patients are finding some relief by improving the quality of their sleep.
Some natural sources of improving sleep include herbal teas, supplements, homeopathy, moderate exercise, psychotherapy, hypnosis, acupuncture and chiropractic. These treatments are also helpful with decreasing the pain associated with fibromyalgia. Choosing chiropractic care can give the fibromyalgia patient a sense of control and empowerment.