Fibromyalgia. It’s a diagnosis that was barely recognized 30 years ago, yet now it seems that we all know someone who suffers with this ailment. Fibromyalgia sufferers appear to be in constant search for some type of treatment that is going to alleviate their symptoms. But what exactly is fibromyalgia, and how is it affecting so many of our friends between the ages of 20 and 50? Is there a “magic bullet” that will provide a cure?
Fibromyalgia is characterized by diffuse pain and tenderness in the muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues. It may be diagnosed after having at least three months of widespread pain involving specific locations of the body. This is a chronic condition, with 80-90% of affected people being women. Over 10 million people in the United States alone suffer with fibromyalgia.
The pain of fibromyalgia may be mild; however, often it is severe. The pain is localized to particular “tender points”. These points involve soft tissue, rather than joints. Tender points may involve the neck, chest, shoulders, elbows, low back, buttocks, thighs, and knees. Most people with fibromyalgia feel achy and stiff upon awakening. The pain may be present all day, or may improve during the day only to worsen at night. Often the pain may feel achy or burning in nature. Certain factors may exacerbate the pain, including stress, anxiety, physical activity, and cold or damp weather.
There are many other associated symptoms, including depression, anxiety, fatigue, and headaches. People may also experience problems with memory, concentration, exercise tolerance, and numbness in hands and feet as well as irritable bowel syndrome and intestinal bacterial overgrowth. In most people with fibromyalgia, sleep difficulties are present. There is a problem in getting to sleep or staying asleep, and many people do not have restful sleep.
The cause is unknown, and testing is often unremarkable.
Fibromyalgia may be incited by an abnormal pain response in the brain, sleep disturbances, infections, toxin exposure and emotional or physical trauma; however, none of these theories have been proven.Treatment
Fibromyalgia, it seems, is a complex diagnosis, with many different symptoms and presentations. There is no “one-size-fits-all” treatment; rather, alleviating the myriad of symptoms requires not only an individualized approach, but also a holistic approach which takes into account mind, body, and spirit. A tailored wellness program is necessary, as some fibromyalgia sufferers may respond to certain therapies.
The primary goal of treatment is to relieve pain and bothersome symptoms. Initial therapies involve lifestyle modification. Healthy eating is essential, as is avoidance of caffeine. An eating style which will decrease inflammation is necessary. This includes eliminating most white foods, including sugar and artificial sweeteners, as well as flour and baked goods. Oftentimes an elimination protocol will help identify foods which may worsen symptoms. Filling your plate with vegetables and fruits of many different colors is important. Food is often the best “medicine” available!
Another lifestyle change which helps with fibromyalgia symptoms includes a physical wellness program. At least 30 minutes of daily light activity, with no particularly strenuous activities is recommended. Techniques such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, and relaxation exercises are beneficial. Also to be considered in a physical wellness prescription, are complementary treatments including acupuncture, biopuncture, massage, Reiki, CranioSacral, and chiropractic therapies.
Oftentimes, medications – both prescription and herbal – provide relief. Prescription medications such as Lyrica, Cymbalta, and Savella may be effective.
Several herbal supplements have been shown, both in studies and anecdotally, to help with fibromyalgia pain. These include S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe),
5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), Echinacea, magnesium, fish oil, and vitamin D3. A qualified health practitioner should be consulted for specific doses, instructions, and brand recommendations regarding these supplements.
It is easy to become overwhelmed by all of this information, thereby taking a “shotgun approach” where many treatments are tried concurrently, often with no improvement. Ultimately, it is important to remember that a personalized, holistic approach developed in conjunction with your health professional is vital to success in treating this condition. Dr. Andrea Iannuzzelli is a Board certified physician specializing in Internal Medicine and Nephrology. She is recognized as a results oriented practitioner who uses a holistic approach for conditions such as chronic pain, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue, Epstein-Barr and Autism Spectrum Disorders and Metabolic Syndrome. For more information, please call (856) 505-0311 or visit www.medizenwellness.com.
As seen in Camden County Woman and Burlington County Woman