What Exactly is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is pain that has no observable source, such as injury or infection. The pain can appear to be mostly in the muscles, the bones, the joints, or even the skin, which can become hypersensitive to touch. In many cases your whole body hurts.
Yes, It’s Real!
Fibromyalgia is sometimes considered to be an “invisible illness.” Nothing shows—not to your friends who say you look just fine and not even to a doctor doing multiple tests. Sometimes doctors, in frustration, say that you must be “imagining” or “creating it” somehow. However, despite the fact that there is no actual injury or inflammation, fibromyalgia is definitely physical and not imagined in any way.
The National Fibromyalgia Research Association estimated years ago that 6-12 million Americans or have some degree of fibromyalgia (approximately 90% off sufferers are women). That’s a lot, and it’s starting to look like an epidemic.
What are Some of the Other Symptoms?
Fibromyalgia often, but not always, occurs in tandem with severe fatigue, brain fog (sometimes called “fibro fog”) and/or multiple chemical sensitivity. Other symptoms can include:
- Sleep disturbances, which can be both cause and effect of the pain
- Irritable bowel syndrome, or digestive disturbances and pain; this is essentially fibromyalgia of the bowel
- Numbness and tingling
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Mood swings, depression and anxiety
The pain of fibromyalgia often worsens with even a small amount of exertion, and it takes a lot longer to recover after exercise compared to a healthy person.
You’ve Been Diagnosed with Fibromyalgia…So What’s Next?
After going to any number of doctors, you are diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Finally, a diagnosis! But what does this really buy you? The word “fibromyalgia,” like many medical terms, is a restatement in Greek or Latin of your symptoms. Fibro refers to “connective tissue,” myo refers to “muscles,” and algia means “pain.” But since conventional medicine has little or nothing to offer you for it, the diagnosis isn’t very useful. We have to delve further…
How is Fibromyalgia Diagnosed?
Fibromyalgia is often diagnosed by ruling out other causes of pain. In some cases, the diagnosis comes from having a certain number of painful trigger points or pain in combination with swollen lymph glands and fatigue. But if you hurt all over and no obvious cause can be found, you have fibromyalgia regardless of whether you have the proper number of sore trigger points or other symptoms.
Much more useful is testing that can help determine what might be causing the fibromyalgia in your case.
What Can Cause Fibromyalgia, and Why Does it Matter?
The cause is important because, whatever the cause is in your case, it is still the source of the problem. As with all chronic conditions, the cause can be different for different people, and there may be–in fact, usually are–multiple causes.
Some of these are:
- Toxins, such as chemicals, can trigger fibromyalgia.
- In some cases, the problem is allergy or hypersensitivity to a substance, and the body reacts as if the substance is toxic.
- Another trigger is metals such as mercury from metal dental fillings.
- The battery effect occurs when two or more different metals are present in the body, usually in the mouth in the form of dental work. This resultant battery can irritate the nerves and make them hypersensitive.
- Structural/skeletal problems, such as a neck that is out of alignment and the resulting head that is too far forward, cause a tightening of the surrounding muscles to try to stabilize things. This is felt as pain. Since all nerves in the body originate in the head and neck, the whole body can hurt from this.
- Physical trauma, such as a car accident or a fall, can cause pain long after the actual injuries have healed. In some such cases, structural problems from the accident are the cause.
- Microorganisms—such as viruses, bacteria, molds and yeast, or mycoplasma—can get fibromyalgia started. In some cases, the person gets the flu but never really gets better; the aches and fatigue persist. Lyme disease, caused by a bacterium, often has fibromyalgia as one of its symptoms.
- In some cases, the culprit is immune dysfunction. This happens when something that doesn’t belong in the body combines with your body’s cells, and the immune system attacks these altered cells. Silicone breast implants are one of the causes of immune system problems, and there is a high incidence of fibromyalgia in women with such implants.
What Can Be Done for Fibromyalgia?
Practitioners at CAM are experienced in figuring out the root cause or causes of your fibromyalgia. The first step is to identify and address these root causes, often by removing the toxin or dental work, treating the infection or adjusting your skeletal structure via chiropractic work.
In some cases, poor nutrition can be a contributing factor, which can result from making less than optimal food choices, poor absorption of nutrients or food allergies and sensitivities. All of these can be identified and corrected. In many cases a specialized dietary and supplement regimen is an important part of healing. Healthy oils, for example, support the nervous system and balance inflammatory chemicals, called “prostaglandins.”
Other treatments include acupuncture and slow gentle exercise, such as Tai Chi. Some kinds of bodywork can be beneficial, although some people with fibromyalgia find even gentle massage to be too painful.
Where Can You Go for More Information?
We’ve got some great news! Dr. Kellas and Dr. Dworkin published a book, Ending Fatigue, Pain and Reactivity: Unscrambling Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia & Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. The protocols and explanations in the book are based on many success stories at Center for Advanced Medicine (CAM).