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Pain Relief for Fibromyalgia Sufferers …
How do Doctors Know if YOUR Pain is “Truly” Fibromyalgia?


About 10 million people in the United States suffer from fibromyalgia, a syndrome characterized by chronic widespread pain, sleep disturbances, fatigue and, often, psychological distress as a result. Of them, about 75-90 percent are women, according to the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA).

Fibromyalgia causes debilitating pain and fatigue for 10 million Americans -- with many confused by inconsistent information from various doctors and experts online.

Because people with fibromyalgia often “test” healthy according to typical medical diagnostic procedures, it takes an average of five years for a person to be correctly diagnosed. There are currently no laboratory tests that can detect it, so doctors rely on patient symptoms, medical histories and a “manual tender point” examination.

If a person experiences widespread pain in the body’s four quadrants for three months or more, along with tenderness or pain in 11 of 18 specific “tender” points upon pressure, a diagnosis of fibromyalgia is typically given. There is also a new set of criteria -- a “widespread pain index” that also measures symptom severity -- that the American College of Rheumatology recently approved as an effective new diagnostic tool.

For many years, people were told by their doctors that fibromyalgia was all in their heads, but with recent advances the medical community is beginning to accept the syndrome as a real medical condition … one that demands safe and effective treatment.

What is Fibromyalgia, and What are the Symptoms?

If you feel pain all over your body, are exhausted often, and have multiple places on your body where even slight pressure causes pain -- yet all the medical tests you’ve received came back normal -- you might have fibromyalgia.

The red dots indicate common tender points in people with fibromyalgia. Photo source: National Fibromyalgia Association.

Often, symptoms are triggered by a physical or emotional trauma, and include:

  • Widespread pain that occurs on both sides of your body and both above and below your waist. This may feel like shooting pain, throbbing or twitching in the muscles. Patients also often experience numbness, tingling and other neurological symptoms.

Multiple “tender points” where pain is experienced if slight pressure is applied (tender points are located at the back of the head, between the shoulder blades, and on the tops of shoulders, front sides of neck, upper chest, outer elbows, upper hips, sides of hips and inner knees, the Mayo Clinic reports)

  • Fatigue and sleep disturbances. People with fibromyalgia have difficulty achieving restful sleep. In fact, researchers have proven that fibromyalgia patients experience abnormalities during Stage 4 sleep, or deep sleep; in short, their brains are frequently active during this time, which makes it difficult to get uninterrupted deep sleep, according to NFA.

People with fibromyalgia may also suffer from the following “overlapping” conditions, some of which share similar symptoms:

  • Depression or anxiety
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Raynaud’s Syndrome
  • Neurological symptoms
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Lupus
  • Osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Endometriosis
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Headaches

What Causes Fibromyalgia, and Who is Most at Risk?

No one knows for sure what causes fibromyalgia, but recent studies show that those with the syndrome have overactive nerves, more brain activity in reaction to pain, as well as feel pain more intensely at lower levels. According to NFA:

“Most researchers agree that FM [fibromyalgia]  is a disorder of central processing with neuroendocrine/neurotransmitter dysregulation. The FM patient experiences pain amplification due to abnormal sensory processing in the central nervous system.

An increasing number of scientific studies now show multiple physiological abnormalities in the FM patient, including: increased levels of substance P in the spinal cord, low levels of blood flow to the thalamus region of the brain, HPA axis hypofunction, low levels of serotonin and tryptophan and abnormalities in cytokine function.”

It is common for the pain of fibromyalgia to run in families, and women are more likely to be affected. While fibromyalgia is usually identified between the ages of 20 and 50, it becomes more common as you get older.

Often, a traumatic illness or injury leads to the initial onset of symptoms.

Pain Relief and Coping Strategies for People With Fibromyalgia

While prescription drugs, including pain relievers, antidepressants and others, are often prescribed for fibromyalgia pain relief and symptom control, they may not be your best option. Not only do they not address the cause of the syndrome, but often increasing dosages of pain medication are necessary for relief, which may put the patient at risk of dependence, addiction or other side effects.

Even if medications are necessary, remember that they shouldn’t be your only option. As NFA states:

“One of the most important factors in improving the symptoms of FM is for the patient to recognize the need for lifestyle adaptation.”

Lifestyle changes that can benefit fibromyalgia sufferers include:

  • Eliminate processed foods and focus on a raw food diet. As The China Study, one of the most comprehensive looks at how your diet impacts your health, bore out, “a good diet is the most powerful weapon we have against disease and sickness.”

But what you may not know is that eating a diet solely of processed foods or cooked foods, even healthy cooked foods, will leave a major nutritional gap in your body because they contain no enzymes.

Raw plant and animal foods (such as raw milk) are loaded with beneficial enzymes for your body. (Enzymes are actually special proteins that act as catalysts for the chemical reactions that occur to keep your body functioning.) However, enzymes begin to be destroyed at temperatures above 110-115 degrees. So if your food is cooked, pasteurized or processed, it will contain no enzymes whatsoever.

Your body contains 2,500 or more different enzymes, and they are very important. Enzymes in your saliva, for instance, help break apart starches, while those in your stomach help break down protein. Enzymes in your intestines, meanwhile, are responsible for breaking apart all of your food, whether fat, protein or carb.
Many people find that switching to a predominantly raw food diet gives them more energy, slows down aging, improves your skin, boosts your mood, and fights a host of chronic diseases including fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, Crohn's disease and even cancer.

For some delicious, enzyme-rich raw food recipes, try out the book "Alive in 5": Raw Gourmet Meals in Five Minutes.

  • Exercise regularly: Although you may be tempted to not move around much when you're facing pain, a regular exercise program can actually help to relieve pain.

“There is increasing evidence that a regular exercise routine is essential for all fibromyalgia patients. The increased pain and fatigue caused by repetitive exertion makes regular exercise quite difficult. However, those patients who do develop an exercise regimen experience worthwhile improvement and are reluctant to give up, “ NFA states.

“In general, FM patients must avoid impact loading exertion such as jogging, basketball, aerobics, etc. Regular walking, the use of a stationary bicycle, and pool therapy utilizing an Aqua Jogger (a floatation device that allows the user to walk or run in the swimming pool while remaining upright) seem to be the most suitable activities for FM patients,” NFA continues.

Meditation, yoga, deep breathing and other alternative therapies can help you cope with fibromyalgia symptoms.

If you're currently in pain, remember to consult your physician before starting any exercise program, and start with a gentle form of exercise such as SheaNetics from What makes this program especially suited for fibromyalgia sufferers is the way it gently works your muscles while at the same time significantly soothing your mind.

  • Get a good night’s sleep: People with fibromyalgia often wake feeling unrefreshed, so the more you can do to make your nighttime ritual conducive to sleep, the better. Remember, it’s during sleep that you rebuild and restore muscle tissue, along with your mental energy, so take this important step to heart. Click here to read 17 Tips for Healthy and Peaceful Sleep.
  • Get support: Because people with fibromyalgia often appear healthy on the outside, it’s easy for others to forget that, on the inside, they’re suffering. Be sure to look out for yourself by arranging your work schedule in the best way you can to suit your needs (such as working from home a couple of days a week) and, on a personal front, don’t feel bad about saying no to obligations you don’t feel up to.

You should also keep an open line of communication with your partner so he or she understands what you’re feeling and why you may need extra help. There are also fibromyalgia support groups available that you may find comfort and advice from. The Arthritis Foundation and the American Chronic Pain Association are good starting points to find a support group in your area.

  • Listen to your body: Certain repetitive movements, sitting too long or other activities may make your pain worse. Keep a journal to help you record when your symptoms flare up most, and then take steps to avoid putting yourself in those positions. Always listen to your body and stop what you’re doing if it puts you in increased pain.

“Pacing of activities is important; we have recommended that patients use a stopwatch that beeps every 20 minutes. Whatever they are doing at that time should be stopped and a minute should be taken to do something else. For instance, if they are sitting down, they should get up and walk around--or vice versa,” NFA states.

  • Consider alternative treatments: Natural therapies may help to relive fibromyalgia pain and symptoms, making your life a lot easier and more enjoyable. NFA recommends the following complementary therapies:
    • Chiropractic manipulation
    • Physical therapy
    • Therapeutic massage
    • Myofascial release therapy
    • Water therapy
    • Light aerobics
    • Acupressure
    • Application of heat or cold
    • Acupuncture
    • Yoga
    • Relaxation exercises
    • Breathing techniques
    • Aromatherapy
    • Cognitive therapy
    • Biofeedback
    • Herbs and nutritional supplements
    • Osteopathic manipulation

While fibromyalgia is currently a life-long illness, a combination of the steps above can help to drastically improve your quality of life. Because fibromyalgia is complex, and the treatments that work for each individual patient incredibly varied, working with a health care practitioner experienced in the care of fibromyalgia may help you get the best results.

SixWise Ways!
SixWise Says ...

I can handle pain… until it hurts.

Some say that “pain is inevitable,” my experience: suffering is optional.

Yoga's meditative deep breathing and ancient eastern therapeutic poses that are all incorporated in portions of the program have been found to ease chronic pain significantly.

Happiness is merely the remission of pain.

Recommended Reading

Pain in the Wrist? FREE Trigger Point Self-Test and Self-Treatment Solutions

Physical Pain: 8 Non-Drug Tactics to Eliminate Back, Joint & Other Pain

Sources May 26, 2010

National Fibromyalgia Association

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