Fibromyalgia is not a disease. It’s simply a group of symptoms. For many years patients with this complaint were told it was all in their heads, or told they were depressed and placed on antidepressants. This was because there were no tests that validated the problem: nothing obviously was wrong. But as an increasing number of people presented with the same group of symptoms it could no longer be negated or ignored. A name was invented. It was then possible to come up with a diagnosis code. A diagnosis code meant insurance would pay for it. And then, for the first time, it became an authentic medical condition.
One common denominator of Fibromyalgia is pain when pressure is applied to specific points on the body. What pain upon pressure indicates is inflammation. There are various drugs for inflammation, but they treat the symptom not the underlying cause. Pain is a warning sign, the body’s way of saying, “We need to talk because I can’t deal with this intolerable situation any more.” By ignoring your body’s repeated attempts at communication, by treating the symptoms and not the cause, you’re setting yourself up for additional problems in the future. If your poor body is being ignored and abused, if it’s attempts to discuss the situation with you repeatedly repulsed, it will find another way to get your attention. And chances are you’re not going to like what it resorts to.
Fibromyalgia and pain in general are some of my favorite complaints to help people with. They’re often pain free in a fairly short amount of time. The first thing we do to reduce inflammation is get them off sugar, processed and damp foods (see my article on damp foods). A toxin free diet is also essential (see my articles on vegetables and protein). Candida is typically a component. It can create uncontrollable cravings for sweets, empty carbs or alcohol. But with correctly prescribed supplements we can usually get the cravings under control. We also have to stabilize blood sugar and be sure digestion is working correctly to assimilate food.
Often there are other reasons, in addition to inflammation, complicating the scenario. It might then become necessary to treat circulation issues, fatigue, hormonal, organ or glandular imbalances. Sometimes osteo or rheumatoid arthritis, bone degeneration, nerve pain, or pain from old injuries needs to be addressed in our work together. Each person is different. So my job involves extensive detective work.
A byproduct of Fibromyalgia, and other pain, is frequently insomnia and depression. Inflammation can make any position in bed intolerable for any length of time. Needless to say this isn’t conducive to sleep. And if the body is physically depressed it has an effect upon mood. Another contributing factor of depression is viewing a dismal future with the expectation of Fibromyalgia persisting or intensifying. Pain can also impair mobility and the inclination to exercise, which adversely effects pain level and mood. As pain diminishes, with diet changes and treatments, sleep improves and depression abates. Though occasionally there are additional issues to address with sleep and mood.
It might sound complicated and scary, since it involves some dietary changes, but rapidly diminishing pain is great incentive to evolve. As my patients’ energy, moods, mobility and quality of life increases so does their desire to continue their life style changes.
As opposed to drugs that are only treating the symptoms, it isn’t necessary to take the herbal and nutritional supplements forever. As we give the body the tools to heal, through food, Acupuncture and Tui Na (Chinese Medicinal Massage) dependence on supplemental support diminishes, as does the need for regular treatment.
That said, if a person has a propensity for certain health issues, those issues might periodically reoccur. Which is why I take the time to educate my patients about any supplements I’ve prescribed and place labels on their bottles as a reminder of what they were initially taken for. Patients then have a functional herbal medicine cabinet, as opposed to some bottles of pills with no idea how to use them. We aren’t treating the symptoms with these formulas, just giving the body the food it needs to heal. But an important tool of healing is education: knowing exactly why you are taking or doing something.
Last week I attended an excellent seminar on Stealth Pathogens. Even in Holistic settings, one unfortunate assumption is patients won’t change their diets. It’s called non-compliance. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is nutritionally lacking. Therefore, as practitioners we’re told its necessary to prescribe additional supplements essential for healing and maintenance. I disagree. If people are aware of the reasons for eating a certain way they can make informed decisions about their diets, which obviously and directly effect their health. This is the reason for my articles, my talks, and the time I take with my patients teaching them how food can heal. I’d rather prescribe food than more pills. It’s not about patient compliance. What works is patient empowerment: providing information to the patient and respecting their informed choices what ever they may be.
So, if you have Fibromyalgia, or other pain issues, read my articles and try some dietary changes. If getting off sugar is a losing battle, it’s a biochemical imbalance. It has nothing to do with your will power. So don’t beat yourself up. It just means you need some professional support. If you’re working on your own and the pain isn’t gone or drastically reduced in a month it means there’s other factors involved and you need professional help to figure it out.
Patients have also asked me to share some case histories in my articles, so here goes:
One of my patients had a dream. She wanted to go on a walking tour of rural England. Unfortunately, she was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Walking was becoming increasingly difficult. After treatments; including Acupuncture, Tui Na, working on her diet, and herbal formulas she was able to go on her dream vacation, walking comfortably from town to town.
Another patient had wanted a little farm all her life, including a horse, cats, dogs and goats. After many years of working and saving she purchased her heart’s desire. But pain, diagnosed as Fibromyalgia, was making it increasingly difficult to care for her animals. She thought she would have to give them up. The treatment protocol reversed the debilitating pain that had prevented her from doing what she loved. After her initial treatments she came to see me monthly to facilitate the demands she was placing on her body. She was able to enjoy her animals and her life once again.
In every case I’ve worked on, including Fibromyalgia, patients feel better until old dietary habits creep back in. Its human nature, but not a bad thing since it enables them to identify what causes their pain. They then have incentive to remedy the situation.
Health & Happiness,
Nancy Burton, L.Ac. (Licensed Acupuncturist)
534 Washington St. Ashland, OR 97520
For an appointment call: 541-646-0134