Fibromyalgia is a common chronic painful condition. Are you getting the right help?
Fibromyalgia is one of the most common chronic pain presentations worldwide. While medical researchers were originally under fire for their difficulty understanding it, they have worked hard to learn how this disease affects people and how they can make a difference through better diagnostic criteria.
Thanks to research breakthroughs over the last three years, we now have new diagnostic criteria that allows better differentiation between fibromyalgia and other illnesses. Even more importantly, a clearer origin story about what causes it in the first place is starting to emerge.
Today, around 3-6% of the world’s population have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. It is most prevalent in women, who make up an estimated 75-90% of the people affected.
One of the key symptoms of fibromyalgia and its diagnosis is the assessment of tender points, more commonly referred to as trigger points. They are regions of tenderness where even light pressure can cause pain.
While the presence of trigger points is used to diagnose fibromyalgia, many people experience pain that can more accurately be described as a “dull ache” in areas around their body. If a doctor sees this pain continue for more than three months in a patient, he or she will consider a firmer diagnosis of fibromyalgia.
Many people with fibromyalgia also suffer concomitant symptoms such as fatigue, trouble sleeping, depression, anxiety and an inability to focus or pay attention, often referred to as “fibro-fog”.
The origins of the illness are yet to be agreed upon. One theory suggests sufferers' brains and nervous systems may be misinterpreting or hypersensitive to normal pain signals. This may be exacerbated by inflammation in the brain that is caused by a variety of dietary and environmental factors over time.
There is firm evidence implicating long-term stress and traumatic events as contributing factors in the development of fibromyalgia. Clear links exist between fibromyalgia and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Fibromyalgia is a good example of a hypersensitive inflammatory condition that can benefit from a functional medicine approach.
The majority of fibromyalgia patients, for example, suffer from digestive symptoms similar to the discomforts of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). One study alone found 73% of fibromyalgia patients reported gastrointestinal symptoms.
While more research is clearly needed into the links between digestion and fibromyalgia, our naturopaths can use functional medicine tests to explore the causes of your digestive problems. This opens a range of options for treating your condition that go beyond pain management.
We can use a number of other functional medicine tests to shed light on the underlying causes of your fibromyalgia, such as food sensitivity tests, DNA tests and organic acid tests. Our naturopaths use the results of these tests and other investigations to prescribe a focused dietary and herbal medicine regime for you.
Depression and anxiety also often accompany fibromyalgia. We offer counselling and other forms of talking therapy to help you manage your symptoms and improve your long-term outlook.
Acupuncture and homeopathy can also help manage the stress and post-traumatic disorder that so often accompany fibromyalgia.