Fibromyalgia is one of the most misunderstood and misdiagnosed illnesses of our time. For years the prevailing opinion of medical community was that the pain originates in the muscles, hence the name fibro-fiber and myalgia- muscle pain. This, however was later disproved. There are many scientific theories of why people have fibromyalgia , however there is still no real scientific study explaining the cause. Fibromyalgia is not a disease. It is possibly a metabolic, hormonal and neurotransmitter imbalance affecting internal and external stimuli perception, which ultimately decreases pain threshold. There is no real damage which occurs with fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia results in lowered pain threshold which results in higher perception of pain. This higher perception of pain is either caused by increased level of adrenaline or this increase level of adrenaline is simply an outcome of fibromyalgia. Every patient with fibromyalgia is affected with chronic stress. This chronic stress is affecting our limbic system which is our emotional brain. It is believed that this dysfunction within the limbic system causes depletion of dopamine which in turn makes our body more sensitive to normal sensations which normally we are not aware of. The level of dopamine in our brain establishes our pain threshold.
How is fibromyalgia diagnosed?
Majority of patient suffering from fibromyalgia are not diagnosed immediately. The medical diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia diagnosis is the presence of classic tender points. The tender point are the places where muscle attaches to the bone. In reality these are the most sensitive spots which we normaly have in our body, however we don’t usually feel them unless strong pressure is applied to them. This criteria is very misleading and can not be the sole of fibromyalgia diagnosis. Any one with poor posture will have tenderness in all these points. In person with fibromyalgya the sensation from these tender points is heightened. This leads to constant increased awareness of these spots.
What are the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia?
Constant pains and aches , flu like condition, feeling chronically tired, confusion, skin flushing, itching, unexplained tingling and numbness, feeling to cold or to hot.
What are the causes of fibromyalgia?
Poor interrupted sleep, sleep apnea, dysfunctional beathing patterns, stress, anxiety and panic disorders, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, restless leg syndrome, history of trauma, hypermobility, multiple regional pain syndromes in the locomotor system.
What other conditions commonly coexist with fibromyalgia?
Patient with fibromyalgia frequently have other syndromes (headaches, TMJ pain, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic sinus infection,PMS and others) together with it . Although they may not be directly related, removing those generally improves fibromyalgia.
What other conditions can mimic fibromyalgia?
Lyme disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, underactive thyroid and arthritis. Chronic multiple regional pain syndromes.
Why is fibromyalgia so difficult to treat?
Primarily most of the patients with fibromyalgia are not diagnosed timely and not being properly treated ones the condition is established. This create a chronic state which is more difficult to treat.
Each patien’s clinical presentation with fibromyalgia is slightly different from another. There is however not even one patient with fibromyalgia who is totally emotionally balanced. Patients with fibromyalgia may or may not be clinically depressed. Stress management and identification of patients emotional problems is one of the most important factors in dealing with fibromyalgia.
Another important factor in management of fibromyalgia is the coexistance of myofascial dysfunction and regional pain syndromes.
Since most of the patient presenting with fibromyalgia are 40-60 age group it is obvious that there are some either functional or structural spinal pathology or frequently both which are present. Often times these patient have a history of trauma or multiple regional pain syndromes within their body. In my clinical experience 40% of all fibromyalgia patients have locomotor system dysfunction.
Much improvement can be achieved if these physical insults are removed. This removes some of already existing nonciception (pain) and allows patients to deal with their other symptoms. Most of my patients report improvement in range of movement, improvement in sleep and reduction of their hypersensitivity after the treatment. This approach is however missed by medical community because once the patient is labeled with fibromyalgia he/she is prescribed medications (lyrica, mirapex, requip) whithout any other intervention. These medication unfortunately are very poorly tolerated by patient. In more sever cases these medications and necessary measure, however since fibromyalgia is a multy-factorial disease not combining these medication with other treatments leads to dependency and chronicity.
What is your approach to treatment of fibromyalgia?
Treatment of fibromyalgia requires cooperation of different specialties. Most important is a cooperation between neuromuscular specialist, rheumatologist and psychologist.
We also use natural supplements to alleviate the symptoms of fibromyalgia:
- Calcium and magnesium – to relax the muscles
- 5-HTP and SAMe increase serotonin, leading to reduction of pain signals
- Sugar D -ribose to improve energy production within cells
- Neprinol- a specifically developed enzyme for patient with fibromyalgia and other arthritic conditions. It works by removing excess fibrin.
- Various meditation technigues work to reduce stress and hyperactivity of autonomic nervous system. We found paradoxical relaxation method by Edmund Jacobson to be most effective.
Fibromyalgia patients usually have neck and back and other pains within the locomotor system. The problems within the locomotor system could be either one of the causes or outcomes of the chronic fibromyalgia. Therefore removing dysfunction in the locomotor system, thus allowing for pain free motion is one of the beginning steps in treatment of fibromyalgia. Although this is not always works with all fibromyalgia patients in my clinical experience it does work for majority of patients with fibromyalgia.
There is however one most important aspect of treating fibromyalgia patients. It is trusting doctor patient relationship. Patients with fibromyalgia are frequently feel turned off and unempathized by other doctors as well as being helpless due to numerous unsuccessful treatments undertaken over the years. Establishing the patient doctor trust is the key component for successful treatment of fibromyalgia. The transference of patient from passive care to active self care is crucial. When physical treatment is successful in removing pain and increasing rage of motion patients feel relieve and gain trust. The new gained movement and pain relieve allows patients to reactivate their life style.This allows the practitioner to implement other treatment which are necessary for successful treatment of fibromyalgia.