Fibromyalgia is a generalized musculoskeletal pain syndrome associated with physical findings of multiple tender points. Sixty per cent of those with 11 or more tender points (the standard definition for fibromyalgia) did not have chronic widespread pain. The number of tender points rose with age and was significantly higher in women. Aches, pains, and stiffness all over, combined with numbing fatigue are all made worse by the disturbed sleep and depression which many persons with fibromyalgia suffer. It is thought to affect 3-6 million Americans, most of them women.—American Journal of Epidemiology. 138 (8):641 Oct. 15, 1993. This disorder affects between one and five per cent of the population, making it one of the most common rheumatological disorders.
Irritable bowel syndrome occurs in 34-50% of patients with fibromyalgia. This brings up the question as to whether this disorder might be due to “leaky bowel syndrome.”—Internal Medicine World Report, March 1-14, 1991, p.10.
Spinal fluid levels of homocysteine are increased and B-12 levels are decreased in fibromyalgia.—Stephen LeVine, PhD., Focus for Physicians. A viral infection which strikes primarily the respiratory and autonomic nervous systems may be involved in the development of fibromyalgia. Many patients give a history of upper respiratory infection followed or associated with neurologic symptoms prior to the onset of full-blown fibromyalgia.
Some physicians consider fibromyalgia to be one expression of low thyroid function. Indeed, there are features that are common to both, vitiligo, water retention, low body temperature, weight gain in many, cold sensitivity, dry skin, muscle weakness, arthritis, high blood pressure, slow heart rate, and constipation may be seen in both. These patients should be started on thyroid hormone, the smallest dose for two weeks, and then see if symptoms disappear before increasing the dose.
Many sleep in rooms poorly supplied with fresh air during the night. Any illness or disability from which they suffer can be made worse by poor oxygenation of tissues, and by rebreathing the wastes just excreted through the lungs. It has been discovered that low oxygen content of the blood and muscles may be a factor in the production of fibromyalgia syndrome. In an overnight sleep study of patients with fibromyalgia and healthy patients, the fibromyalgia patients had an oxygen saturation of 86.8 as compared to 90.7 in controls. It may be that part of the problem in fibromyalgia is low oxygen saturation in arterial blood.—American Journal of Medicine. 101:54-60;1996.
Other symptoms of fibromyalgia may include severe migraines or non-migraine headaches, Raynaud’s phenomenon, anxiety, dry eyes or mouth, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and substance abuse. Symptoms are worse in colder humid weather and if there is a history of injury within the year before the symptoms started.
Q It is important to eliminate factors that contribute to symptoms such as chilling of the extremities, stress, and inactivity. Physical fitness is an absolute must. This is not optional but is part of the cure. Get a good exercise book, or exercise tape, and begin a program at once. Low impact aerobics, walking, stretching, purposeful labour out-of-doors, trampolining, and the use of any other kind of exercise equipment placed on a porch, patio, or under the shade of a tree, can all be very helpful.
Q Receiving a massage is beneficial. Start out getting a gentle massage and gradually work up to receiving deeper massage and trigger point therapy.
Q Heat—Moist heating packs, hot showers, and hot baths can be helpful. A hot bath consists of a 20-40 minute treatment in which the body temperature rises between 100-101 degrees Fahrenheit three to five times a week as needed (if the cardiovascular system is strong enough).
Q Strengthen the immune system through a vegan diet. A gluten-free diet is often helpful for fibromyalgia. The gluten grains are wheat, barley, rye, and oats. Autoimmune diseases often respond to antifungal treatments—eliminate sugar and its relatives, animal products, yeast, refined carbohydrates, peanuts, mushrooms, and moldy foods. Also avoid caffeine, tea, chocolate, and cola drinks.
Q Learn effective stress management. Fibromyalgia may be caused by a psychological or emotional process. Set aside regular times for prayer and Bible study, giving everything into the hands of a loving Creator who cares for us and has our best interest in mind.
Supplements and Herbal Remedies
Nutrient supplements found helpful for fibromyalgia are malic acid, inositol, other antioxidants, hydrochloric acid, enzymes, essential fatty acids, anti-inflammatory supplements, magnesium, and choline. The immune regulators such as vitamin E, vitamin C, vitamin B-12, and vitamin B-1 may also be given a trial of several weeks to see if a benefit is derived.
Herbal remedies are numerous. Boswellia and white willow bark are helpful. All herbs commonly used for pain control, sleep, or depression can be used for fibromyalgia. Herbs for other symptoms one suffers should also be tried. Some may help one that would not help another.
It is best not to mix more than six to eight herbs at one time. In addition to other herbs, you should try pycnogenol, cat’s claw, echinacea, black cohosh, comfrey, white willow bark, feverfew, devil’s claw, yarrow, yucca, and marshmallow. Comfrey can be used in compresses. Garlic, tea tree oil, and grapefruit seed extract may be helpful to some. The hormone herbs such as liquorice root can help regulate the endocrine system, which can be under par in this disorder.
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