Fibromyalgia is a complex and multi-faceted disorder. In treating patients over the years who've come into the office with this diagnosis, I have observed a wide variety in the signs and symptoms that get lumped under this label. Helping these patients takes considerable clinical discernment as there is no single presentation (and therefore treatment) that correlates with a disease process to explain their symptoms.
A diagnosis is only as good as the treatment that comes from it. Many a patient breathes a sigh of relief when a doctor gives them a definitive diagnosis that labels the symptoms they have been experiencing. Why wouldn’t we? We inherently fear what we can’t explain. The problem with this ritual is that without a viable treatment that stems directly from the diagnosis, the diagnosis is unsatisfactory at best and damaging at worst. Fibromyalgia, which can literally be translated as soft tissue pain, fits squarely in this category.
Assigning the diagnosis of fibromyalgia should ground and focus a patient into a course of action that will produce an effective treatment plan, but I have seldom witnessed a patient receive substantial relief from any mainstream allopathic therapy once on the fibromyalgia roller coaster. To be clear, this is not meant to be a criticism of the methods of allopathic care which can provide some palliative relief for these patients. Where the diagnosis of fibromyalgia becomes damaging however, is in how patients can be pigeon-holed into a label which effectively stops both patient and doctor alike from investigating other causes for their symptoms. In this way, I believe most fibromyalgia patients are being mismanaged and therefore improperly treated by allopathic and holistic practitioners alike.
There are many factors where a person’s health can be compromised in a way that collectively produces the net effect of what is diagnosed as fibromyalgia. Let us discuss several root issues that should be examined and treated (if discovered) before accepting the label of fibromyalgia. Starting with the basics, fibromyalgia is marked by pain and inflammation, an overactive nervous system, fatigue, and often a hormonal component considering the majority of cases diagnosed with fibromyalgia are women.
To eliminate chronic inflammation would be a top priority. A diet high in processed foods, dietary sugars and fructose, vegetable oils and trans fats are all well established to be highly inflammatory. A patient with fibromyalgia often presents with an addiction to sugar/carbs, high insulin levels, and who often skips meals which initiates a profound stress response on the body.
Dietary sources of inflammation coupled with chronically high stress levels has your adrenal glands hypersecreting cortisol until they tire and adrenal fatigue, and then finally, adrenal exhaustion sets in. This weakened state makes it is very difficult for your body to keep inflammation in check. A patient with fibromyalgia often presents with an irregular and often bottomed-out cortisol rhythm.
Chronic undetected infections put a further strain on the body which can result in long-term musculoskeletal and neurological problems. Chronic Lyme, Epstein-Barr, HCMV, Herpes can lie dormant but rob your body of resources in a constant struggle as your immune system keeps them at bay. Focal infections from an abscessed tooth or root canal are probably the most insidious and often produce more severe one-sided symptoms. If all your pain is worse on that same side as a tooth that has received a root canal, the possibility of a focal infection should always be ruled out by a knowledgable holistic dentist. While we’re on the subject of dentistry, heavy metal toxicity from dental amalgams rates high on the list as an underlying cause of the symptoms grouped together as fibromyalgia. A patient with fibromyalgia often presents with a mouth full of mercury and root canals, and one or more chronic infections holding their body hostage.
Emotional stress and trauma also weaken the body as resentment, anger, grief, and worry eat away at the body-mind. Negative beliefs that you can not get better, or worse, do not deserve to get better paralyze all attempts at successful treatment. Feeling unvalued or unloved is hurtful to our emotional heart and debilitating to our immune system. A patient with fibromyalgia often presents with unresolved emotional traumas that keep the nervous system in a state of sympathetic dominance, occasionally (or more often than not) resulting in restless nights.
Speaking of sleep, a lack in quality or quantity can itself trigger inflammation, pain, fatigue, and impaired neurological function. Deep restful sleep is when your body releases all sorts of anti-inflammatory mediators, processes stress through dreams, and rests the soft tissue of the body to prepare for the challenge of the next day. Subconscious vigilance when we should be resting takes away one of our most profound forms of medicine. A patient with fibromyalgia often presents with sleep deprivation or a truncated sleep cycle.
Hormonal imbalance is another likely suspect. The picture painted above of a tired, stressed out, malnourished, and burdened individual, in women, mirrors a hormonal state called estrogen dominance. In brief, estrogen dominance is when a cycling or menopausal woman has elevated levels of estrogens (chiefly estradiol), low levels of progesterone, or both. This relative imbalance causes several other imbalances but the most profound is a lack of progesterone, which, as a women’s natural calming hormone, is unavailable to relieve stress and pain. This is most apparent in any woman who says they felt great while pregnant (when progesterone is dominant) and cruddy around their menstrual cycle (when estrogen is dominant). A patient with fibromyalgia often tests with clear estrogen dominance on hormone lab work.
A corollary problem to hormone imbalance is depressed thyroid function due to elevated cortisol (high stress) and estrogen dominance as does ingestion of soy foods through the action of isoflavones which mimic estrogens in the body (excess estrogen decreases thyroid function). This is pertinent when you realize that thyroid hormone is responsible for the manufacture of energy within the cells, and in the specific case of fibromyalgia, the muscle cells. This lack of nourishment and subsequent loss of muscle fiber resilience results in the development of trigger points which are traditionally thought to be the cause of fibromyalgia when in actuality they are the result of one or more of the aforementioned imbalances.
Although the limits of my profession do not allow me to use the word cure (only medical doctors are allowed to legally cure), my right of free speech enables me to express what I have come to know as the cure for fibromyalgia. In short, the cure for fibromyalgia is in liberating yourself from the diagnosis keeping you in limbo. A label that empowers has merit, but one that leaves you with only a momentary sense of relief sidetracks you from the real underlying issues that must be addressed if you are to be a healthy and whole person on every level. Never let a diagnose lull you into a state of complacency. Take responsibility for your health for it is solely your responsibility, not your doctors’. Make the changes necessary to become a healthier and happier person and you will get more than a cure from a disorder, you will be profoundly, and deeply, healed.