Do You Suffer From Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia, a contemporary diagnosis describing chronic widespread musculoskeletal pain and fatigue, was first introduced in 1970s. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that Fibromyalgia affects about 4 million people in the United States, the majority being women. The cause of fibromyalgia remains poorly understood. Proposed causes have included hereditary factors, stress, hormonal imbalances, illness, trauma, and a seemingly endless list of other possibilities. Largely due to the vast number of potential causes, western medical practitioners have struggled with treating this clinical syndrome, relying heavily on medications to treat pain and fatigue symptoms. As a result, many patients have turned to alternative medical treatments like those offered at Southwest Georgia Center of Medicine for relief.

How is Fibromyalgia Diagnosed?

To understand how the diagnosis of fibromyalgia is made, it is important to first understand how the body is divided by medical practitioners.  Typically the body is viewed as four different sections, the left and right sides and above and below the belt line.  The American College of Rheumatology has determined that only people who have discomfort in each of these four areas can be classified as having the condition.  In addition, the pain is typically present for more than 3–4 months.  This institute has also identified 18 different trigger points throughout the body and people suffering from fibromyalgia must have pain in at least 11 of them.

Symptoms Associated with Fibromyalgia

While long lasting pain that seems to affect several areas of the body is the main symptom of fibromyalgia, our patients have reported experiencing some of the following symptoms:

  • Muscle spasms
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Headaches
  • Achy sensation that is usually worse in the morning
  • Digestive problems
  • Problems tolerating minor changes in heat and cold
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Difficulty remembering day-to-day tasks
  • Frequent feelings of having to go to the bathroom

Fibromyalgia isn’t the only condition that has been found to cause the symptoms listed above. Two other conditions produce similar symptoms, but have much different causes: lupus and chronic fatigue syndrome.   These conditions can be thought of like the rungs on a ladder - the higher you go, the more severe they get.  On this ladder, fibromyalgia would be the bottom rung, chronic fatigue syndrome would be the middle, and lupus would be at the top.

With these conditions being more common in females and producing symptoms that mimic each other, it can be hard to differentiate them.  However, lupus is believed to be caused by an autoimmune disorder and fibromyalgia seems to be related to stress and disturbances with a person’s metabolism.

The relationship between fibromyalgia, stress, and metabolism can be confusing.  Basically, a person who is under chronic stress creates conditions that result in less blood flowing to certain areas in the brain.  Typically, the lack of blood flow effects an area of the brain called the pituitary gland, which is extremely important in secreting a specific set of hormones to regulate metabolism and stress responses.  When these hormones are not secreted properly, the many symptoms associated with fibromyalgia begin to appear.

Since the majority of people tend to experience pain throughout the muscles in their bodies, it is important to discuss the changes that occur there.  The key factor that is thought to be responsible for the muscle discomfort experienced with fibromyalgia is ground substance.  Ground substance is exactly what it sounds like, a material that is found in almost all of the structures in the body and is responsible for the tissues strength, healing, and regeneration.  When one of these tissues is typically damaged, this substance is converted into whatever is required to stimulate the healing process.  Due to a lack of healing and conversion, this substance builds up in its tissue causing the trigger points, muscle tightness, and pain associated with fibromyalgia.

While disorders such as lupus have an extensive list of procedures, including blood work and x- rays to make a correct diagnosis, it has been difficult to establish definitive criteria for fibromyalgia.  Currently, physicians are able to examine the many tender points that were mentioned earlier for pain, but many doctors have concluded that this isn’t enough to make a diagnosis.  Many patients have presented to Columbus Physical Medicine Center frustrated from being told by other doctors that they are imagining their pain and that it isn’t real.  As a result, many of these patients have also been told that there is no current treatment for this condition.  Thankfully, this isn’t true.  Just as certain doctors specialize with heart disease, cancer, and broken bones, other doctors are trained to treat fibromyalgia.  Our doctors at Columbus Physical Medicine Center have seen excellent results in our patients suffering from fibromyalgia through a combination of holistic treatments.

Our 3-Step Approach for Fibromyalgia

  1. We perform extensive gut barrier testing to eliminate “leaky gut” disturbances. Leaky gut is a pathological condition where the gut lining becomes damaged allowing undigested proteins, harmful bacteria, and other wastes into the sterile bloodstream. This creates chronic inflammation and immune overactivation leading to fibromyalgia symptoms.
  2. We evaluate and balance the patient’s hormones. If estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone get out of balance, the body cannot heal properly, and, eventually, metabolic disease develops.
  3. Sleep is the final key to healing and recovery for fibromyalgia sufferers. Sometimes sleep apnea is to blame. For others, pituitary dysfunction must be addressed to get good sleep. We also use drug-free physical medicine to treat the painful symptoms and provide relief until the body has a chance to heal.

What Can You Do to Improve Your Fibromyalgia?

While our doctors at Columbus Physical Medicine Center are crucial to helping people recover from fibromyalgia, it is important to remember that you only spend a small amount of time with them.  While you are away from the office, the additional things you do to help you heal can have a dramatic effect on the treatment outcomes.  In fact, our doctors have witnessed substantial differences in the time required to heal and end results of the treatment process between people who actively engage in their own care.