What is Fibromyalgia?

Have you heard the word fibromyalgia and wondered what does that mean? What is it like to live with fibromyalgia? What body parts are affected and what type of exercise is best? In this article, we will explore what fibromyalgia entails, and how to treat it. Let’s get started . . .

Fibromyalgia Definition: What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia refers to a condition in which pain and fatigue are chronically present in a person, especially pain in the muscles of the body. It is considered a chronic pain disorder that is long-lasting.

Many people also feel tenderness throughout their body — particularly in areas of the body known as the 18 tender points of fibromyalgia. Where are these points located? To find out, read: What are the Tender points of Fibromyalgia. First, let’s take a look at conditions that often occur simultaneously . . .

6 Occurring Conditions Associated with Fibromyalgia

People who live with fibromyalgia often have chronic conditions occurring at the same time which can make a living with fibromyalgia a challenge. Sometimes it’s just one condition. Other times, it is two or more health conditions that a person experiences. What conditions might these be? Here is a list of six that commonly happen with fibromyalgia:

  1. Vulvodynia

  2. Chronic fatigue syndrome

  3. Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ)

  4. Endometriosis

  5. Irritable bowel syndrome

  6. Interstitial cystitis

Each of these six conditions creates a different level of severity when combined with the primary symptoms of fatigue and muscle pain associated with fibromyalgia. Wait, there is more to the symptoms of fibromyalgia than just muscle pain and fatigue? Let’s take a look and find out . . .

21 Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

Muscle pain that often radiates throughout the body is the number one symptom of fibromyalgia. However, other symptoms have been connected to the condition. Including:

  1. Insomnia

  2. Challenges with sleep

  3. Challenges regulating mood

  4. Anxiety

  5. Depression

  6. Morning fatigue

  7. Muscle fatigue

  8. Muscle twitches

  9. Muscle cramps

  10. Headaches

  11. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

  12. Painful menstrual periods

  13. Numbness or tingling of hands and feet

  14. Restless leg syndrome

  15. Temperature sensitivity

  16. Sensitivity to loud noises

  17. Sensitivity to bright lights

  18. Fatigue

  19. Cognitive challenges

  20. Memory challenges

  21. Brain fog

Next, let’s look at what causes fibromyalgia. . .

Causes of Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia may develop on its own. Many doctors and organizations including the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases , hold the view that the exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown. That being said, there have been studies conducted that aim to find and identify potential causes and developmental factors that may lead to fibromyalgia. Such studies have explored three types of potential factors that may lead to the development of fibromyalgia:

  1. Biological

  2. Environmental

  3. Psychosocial

Let’s take a look at each of these types of potential causes . . .

Biological Causes

According to one study, three biological factors may lead to the development of fibromyalgia:

  1. Sleep disturbances

  2. Neuroendocrine system disorders

  3. Autonomic nervous system disorders

For more information on this read: 3 Biological Causes of Fibromyalgia

7 Environmental Cause

There are seven triggers in the environment that different studies and researchers have identified as being potential environmental factors in the development of fibromyalgia:

  1. Mechanical/physical trauma

  2. Injury

  3. Psychosocial stressors

  4. Acute illness

  5. Physical injury

  6. Surgery

  7. Car accidents

Now let’s learn about five possible psychological triggers . . .

5 Psychosocial Triggers

Here is a list of the five potential psychosocial triggers associated with fibromyalgia:

  1. Chronic stress

  2. Emotional trauma

  3. Emotional abuse

  4. Physical abuse

  5. Sexual abuse

These five physiological stressors have been documented in one study as having a potentially significant impact on the onset of fibromyalgia. Feelings of pain ensue throughout the body along with a heightened neuroendocrine system and overall nervous system reaction. . This is where the emotional issues and triggers can come into play. . .`

Emotional Triggers

Emotional factors are generally not considered to be a major part of what causes fibromyalgia. However, chronic stress does play a role in virtually all health conditions to one degree or another. Therefore, if a person comes down with fibromyalgia after experiencing one of the five psychosocial triggers, a person’s emotional state and ability to regulate their emotions should not be discounted in the severity level of fibromyalgia symptoms.

So what is the best treatment for fibromyalgia? Let’s take a look at what choices and options you may choose when seeking out holistic and natural treatments for fibromyalgia symptoms. Essentially — what steps can you take to help your body manage and heal naturally from fibromyalgia. . .

How do you Heal Fibromyalgia?

Although the exact cause of fibromyalgia has yet to be identified, as we just found out, scientists and different researchers have been working on identifying triggers connected to the onset of fibromyalgia and its flares and intensity level of symptoms.

When exploring the many options of holistic therapy and treatment options, doing so with the intention of a goal can be helpful. So, what is the goal?

The goal of a holistic fibromyalgia treatment plan is to help you make changes in your life so that you and your body can experience wellness—whatever that may look and feel like for you.

Holistic doctors and different therapy practitioners treat fibromyalgia primarily through nutrition, life_style changes, and wellness practices. This may include changing your diet, using essential oils, supplements or herbs, and detoxifying your system, as well as addressing any root health conditions that may be contributing to your symptoms of fibromyalgia. Exercise and mind-body techniques can also be important parts of treatment. First, let’s take a look at the medications typically used for treating fibromyalgia by conventional medicine. . .

Fibromyalgia and Medication

Fibromyalgia is most commonly treated with four types of medications:

  1. Pain medicines

  2. Antidepressants

  3. Muscle relaxants

  4. Sleep medicines

Although other medications have been known to be used to treat fibromyalgia since 2007, the FDA has approved three main drugs specifically for the use of treating fibromyalgia:

  1. Lyrica: This drug was the first approved in June of 2007. Before being approved for fibromyalgia, Lyrica was used to treat seizures and pain from damaged nerves.

  2. Cymbalta: This drug was the second drug to be approved by the FDA in June of 2008. It was originally approved for treating anxiety, depression, and diabetic nerve damage.

  3. Savella: Although third in line to be approved, this was the first drug to be created specifically for fibromyalgia and its symptoms.

These three medications aim to reduce pain, increase the overall quality of life and improve cognitive and physical functions. However, these medications are often highly addictive and can have many health risks and unwanted side effects — including:

  1. Dizziness

  2. Sleepiness

  3. Insomnia

  4. Blurry vision

  5. Weight gain

  6. Trouble concentrating

  7. Swollen hands and feet

  8. Dry mouth

  9. Nausea

  10. Vomiting

  11. Constipation

  12. Decreased appetite

  13. High blood pressure

  14. Increased sweating

  15. Increased risk of suicidal thoughts

  16. Increased suicidal behavior

  17. Increased risk for depression

  18. Increased heart rate

  19. Heart palpitations

Considering these health risks and potential side effects — it is important to note that the FDA has found that these medications are beneficial for reducing pain and increasing the quality of life only for a portion of people. Others do not experience any changes in the intensity of fibromyalgia. Because of these reasons, many people have started combining the use of such medications with natural and holistic treatment options or simply started creating a treatment plan with a combination of only holistic doctors and treatments.

Next, let’s explore natural treatment options . . .

Fibromyalgia Natural Treatment Options

Life_style Changes

There are many different life_style choices to implement that may help with fibromyalgia.

Sleep: One life_style change that may be very helpful is getting enough sleep. This can be a challenge for those living with fibromyalgia. With enough sleep, the human brain can function more effectively; and a more effective functioning brain can lead to a more stabilized nervous system.. This, in turn, may lead to lowered levels of pain and other symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Exercise: People often ask: What type of exercise is best for fibromyalgia? This is an essential question because exercise is a second life_style choice that can be helpful in managing fibromyalgia. For more information on the best type of exercise, read: What Type of Exercise is Best for Fibromyalgia?

Now let’s look at how self-care can be helpful . . .

The Power of Self-Care

There is power in self-care. Fibromyalgia can be frustrating and debilitating. It can also make you feel overwhelmed and emotionally drained.

To feel grounded emotionally and ready to manage the symptoms of fibromyalgia, try:

  1. Self-kindness

  2. Meditation

  3. Tai chi

  4. Yoga

  5. Float tank therapy

  6. Massage

  7. Acupuncture

  8. Hypnotherapy

  9. Journaling

Now, Let’s take a look at how what you eat can impact how you experience different feelings and symptoms of fibromyalgia . . .

Nutrition

What you put into your body plays a critical part in how you feel. By making changes in your diet, and adding supplements like vitamins, essential oils, and probiotics —you can take a proactive role in creating a part of your treatment plan that supports the management of fibromyalgia symptoms. A holistic doctor or nutritionist can help you with this.

Diet for Fibromyalgia.

Poor diet can be one of the major factors that contribute to the severity level of fibromyalgia symptoms. Eight problem foods often include:

  1. Gluten

  2. Diary

  3. Sugar and corn syrup

  4. Processed foods

  5. Food additives and dyes

  6. Artificial flavors and sweeteners Soy

  7. Nightshade vegetables

  8. Caffeine

When these foods are eliminated from a person’s day-to-day diet, many feel better and experience a reduction in their overall symptoms. Also, do not forget to take into consideration the possibility of food allergies or food sensitivities.

For more detailed information on diet for fibromyalgia and ideas on what you could be eating while treating fibromyalgia, check out our guide.

Now let’s look at the importance of taking the right kind of vitamins . . .

Vitamins for Fibromyalgia

People with fibromyalgia are often nutritionally deficient, especially with particular vitamins and supplements. As such, certain vitamins and other nutrients may be especially beneficial. There have been a few different studies that have looked into understanding which vitamins people diagnosed with fibromyalgia are often deficient in. Here is a list of helpful vitamins and nutritional supplements for fibromyalgia to help reduce deficiencies:

  1. Amino acids

  2. Magnesium

  3. Selenium

  4. Vitamins B

  5. Vitamins D

If you want more information on what doses of these vitamins should be taken, talk to a holistic doctor.

Healing Modalities for Fibromyalgia

Working with a holistic doctor is usually an important part of healing from fibromyalgia. A holistic approach to treating fibromyalgia focuses more on dealing with the root causes of the disease then masking the symptoms with medications.

Even though science is still working on identifying the exact cause of fibromyalgia, an appointment with a holistic physician is a good place to start for treating the triggers that may be causing or agitating the fibromyalgia symptoms that you are experiencing.

You may also use supporting therapies and practitioners including chiropractic, acupuncture, massage, talk therapy, nutrition counseling, and hypnotherapy — all of these can also be among the healing modalities that are helpful to some struggling with fibromyalgia. 

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Bradley L. A. (2009). Pathophysiology of fibromyalgia. The American journal of medicine, 122(12 Suppl), S22–S30. doi:10.1016/j.amjmed.2009.09.008. Retrieved March 28, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2821819/

“Fibromyalgia. (2019, March 04). Retrieved March 4, 2019, from https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/fibromyalgia

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Park, D. J., Kang, J. H., Yim, Y. R., Kim, J. E., Lee, J. W., Lee, K. E., … Lee, S. S. (2015). Exploring Genetic Susceptibility to Fibromyalgia. Chonnam medical journal, 51(2), 58–65. doi:10.4068/cmj.2015.51.2.58. Retrieved March 29, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4543151/

Park, D. J., & Lee, S. S. (2017). New insights into the genetics of fibromyalgia. The Korean journal of internal medicine, 32(6), 984–995. doi:10.3904/kjim.2016.207. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5668398/