Understanding Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia may be healthcare’s most poorly understood condition. It is a condition that is characterized by generalized pain, tenderness, fatigue, brain fog, headaches, digestive problems like irritable bowel or constipation, reflux, and poor sleep hygiene. It is diagnosed through deduction. Typically blood tests and other diagnostics are negative, leaving the only possible cause of these symptoms to be fibromyalgia.

It is classified as a rheumatic condition, though it does not cause muscle, bone or joint destruction. Most research now points to this condition as carrying a strong familial component, with females being nearly twice as likely to suffer from it. Those that have fibromyalgia are also 2 to 7 times more likely to have other medical co-morbidities like auto-immune dysfunctions like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. 1

  There are several very common mistakes in the management of fibromyalgia. First, there is a “one cause, one treatment” approach that many practitioners employ to combat a patient’s symptoms. Many physical therapists treat fibromyalgia with therapeutic exercises, manual therapy techniques like massage, myofacial release, cranio-sacral treatment, and modalities like electrical stimulation, ultrasound, or LASER. While these treatments can abate some of the symptoms, they never fix the problems. Pharmacological management typically aims to address the symptoms and not the syndrome as well. The thinking that one thing can significantly produce a positive outcome would be naive.

The next mistake in management of fibromyalgia is there is a lack of understanding of what systems are involved in the process of the disorder, and what should be done to treat it. There are multiple systems in the body that are malfunctioning that are creating the symptoms experienced in fibromyalgia. When the research is examined, these are typical systems involved:
* The immune system.
* The digestive system.
* The endocrine system (thyroid and adrenal glands).
* The liver.
* The brain.

There are also several side conditions that are typically present as well, and they are:
* Anemia
* Blood sugar imbalances
* Hormone imbalances
* Infection

The primary goal or treatment should be to “fix” mechanism, so that at the end of treatment you need very few medications or supplements. When functioning optimally, the body does not require much assistance.

The first thing both patients and practitioners should know is that fibromyalgia is just a word or a label, and there are health care practitioners that can manage each of these systems, and conditions and lead those suffering in the grips of chronic pain to a brighter tomorrow.

1. Stephens, Stephanie. “Great Pains.” Today In PT 12 Nov. 2012: 22+.