Characterized by widespread pain, fatigue, and cognitive difficulties, fibromyalgia (FM) is a complex disorder of the central nervous system (CNS). It affects the brain’s messaging system causing those who have it to experience heightened sensitivity to pain. A fibromyalgia flare-up can last for months at a time and cause debilitating physical and emotional distress. Symptoms can vary from person to person and often suggest other conditions, making it a very difficult diagnosis. Despite all that has been learned about fibromyalgia over the last two decades, people with FM can go years without a proper diagnosis.
Fibromyalgia is associated with many other conditions like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis), sleep dysfunction, infections like Lyme disease or E-BV (Epstein-Barr Virus), digestive problems such as SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth), or Celiac Disease and other food allergies that can cause leaky gut. It can lead to autoimmune disorders like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or autoimmune arthropathies. People suffering from FM may also exhibit reactions to environmental toxin exposure, like mold or heavy metals, which can be diagnosed through specialty labs looking at stool, urine, breath, and bloodwork.
Once you receive a fibromyalgia diagnosis, there are various treatment options and lifestyle habits to consider. My approach to treating fibromyalgia is multifaceted; I look at digestion and diet, sleep, hormone imbalances, injuries (psychological and physical), infections, environmental exposures, genetics, and more.
For example, I often find that fibromyalgia is related to a deficiency in delta-wave deep sleep; medications like Xywav, which promotes deep-wave sleep have been helpful in reducing chronic pain. If you don’t get enough deep delta wave sleep your body can’t recover, and chronic pain can be an issue. (We find that this is common in those with fibromyalgia.)
A common area of pain is the cervical spine. Treatments like physical therapy, acupuncture, or injection therapies like prolotherapy, perineural injection therapy (PIT), or PRP (platelet-rich plasma) therapy may be helpful. You may also consider having your jaw evaluated for TMJ by a dentist specializing in temporomandibular joint problems, which can often cause referred pain in the head, neck, and shoulders.
Another treatment to consider is Low-Dose Naltrexone (LDN). When chronic pain is a result of neuro-inflammation (brain inflammation), LDN can help by reducing the upregulation of the microglia that cause this inflammation.
If you have leaky gut from a food allergy, then inflammation of the intestinal tract leads to nutritional deficiencies and toxicity; I’ll want to look at dietary changes and supplementation. Supplements that may be helpful include D- ribose, fish oil, glutathione, and IV magnesium with B complex and Vitamin C (also known as Myers cocktail).
Because FM affects the CNS, it can influence your experience of pain and emotional sensations; therefore it’s very important to consider my patients’ emotional health which is often not addressed in chronic pain. There are many stress-reduction therapies that can be done from the comfort of your own home including yoga, mindfulness-based meditation, breathing exercises, and even a therapy called Emotional Freedom Technique which involves tapping acupressure points and utilizing positive affirmations. However, if you feel overwhelmed by symptoms, look for a psychotherapist who specializes in working with people with chronic pain. Dealing with chronic pain is emotionally exhausting; seeking help can be a vital lifeline for many.
As with other chronic illnesses, treating fibromyalgia is not a straightforward process; it requires a multifaceted treatment approach with close collaboration in order to help you recover or better manage your illness.
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