Fibromyalgia is defined as widespread chronic pain continuing for more than three months and associated with the presence of multiple tender points. Fibromyalgia affects an estimated 2-4% of the general population in the US.
Nearly 5% of patients in internal medicine or family medicine carry this diagnosis. Women are about nine times more likely to develop fibromyalgia than men. The first symptoms of fibromyalgia usually appear between the ages of 20 and 55.
Chronic pain in fibromyalgia is commonly associated with other problems, including irritable bowel syndrome (abdominal pain, intermittent bloating, constipation and diarrhea), fatigue, brain fog, numbness in hads and feet, headaches, sleep disturbances and poor tolerance of exercise due to lack of energy.
Patients with fibromyalgia also have a heightened sensitivity and hyper-awareness to touch, sounds/lights, vibration and smell.
Fibromyalgia is a pure clinical diagnosis that cannot be confirmed by specific laboratory tests or radiographic images. Quite often it is a symptom of an unrecognized illness. Therefore, defining the trigger or driving force behind the chronic pain can potentially result in a subsequent cure of this problem.
What are the illnesses commonly causing fibromyalgia?
Typically they include autoimmune diseases (lupus, various connective tissue diseases, or Sjogren’s syndrome), different forms of arthritis such as ankylosing spondilitis (this is a very commonly misdiagnosed condition in women with fibromyalgia), gout or pseudogout, food intolerances (gluten intolerance, soy intolerance, egg intolerance) as well as abnormalities in gut microflora (for example, yeast overgrowth) causing malabsorption of mineral and vitamins.
In addition, a subgroup of patients with fibromyalgia deals with chronic pain triggered by depression, psychological trauma or other functional brain diseases.
A true integrative approach to fibromyalgia includes…
…a combination of traditional and alternative diagnostic and therapeutic systems focused on maximal symptom relief with a potential cure for the illness.
A typical work-up consists of a thorough physical exam, blood tests focused on the identification of hidden autoimmune disease, arthritis, chronic infections, chronic inflammatory processes mineral and vitamin deficincies.
Other useful diagnostics incorporate food intolerance testing, comprehensive analysis of gut microogansms and the analysis of neurotransmitters in blood and urine.
Alternative diagnostic systems can also generate valuable information on the nature of fibromyalgia. These systems include but are not limited to electrodermal diagnosis (diagnostics based on acupuncture principles), analysis of brain activity (quantitative electroencephalogram) and analysis of skin gas discharge.
The therapy of fibromyalgia is a long, enduring journey. Do not expect to be cured within days or weeks. Traditional therapy is limited to a symptomatic pain relief with antidepressant and/or pain killers. Integrative therapy for fibromyalgia is based on a multi-step approach.
The first step typically includes elimination of obvious triggers or causative agents, for example, elimination of foods driving the inflammatory response, eradication of parasites, elimination of heavy metals, and treatment of chronic infections.
The second step includes corrective procedures such as correction of digestive abnormalities, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, abnormal intestinal microflora and correction of immunologic disorders.
The final step typically includes a rehabilitation program that incorporates neuroimaging biofeedback, craniosacral therapy, acupuncture and maintenance therapy with herbs and supplements, yoga or Pilates.