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An Interview with the Doctor on Fibromyalgia

Do you have chronic, achy muscle or ligament pain, stiffness, or weakness? Have you experienced depression, anxiety, poor tolerance to stress or headache? Perhaps you’ve had digestive complaints, problems with sleep quality or lacked mental focus. If so, you may be suffering from Fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia, also called non-articular rheumatism, and myofascial pain syndrome, occurs in 1 out of 30 people, and seems to be on the rise. Some suggest it has no identifiable cause (or cure,) most patients, treated with a comprehensive approach, enjoy complete resolution of symptoms.

Q: Since my car accident I’ve had body-wide muscle pain, that won’t go away, and think it’s Fibromyalgia. What can I do?

A: Fibromyalgia can often follow an injury or a chronic physical or emotional stress, but usually does not have a predisposing event. It is slowly progressive, typically occurs in women more than men, and can be mistaken for many other conditions like Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Polymyositis, Polymyalgia Rheumatica, even hypothyroidism. For this reason, you must be evaluated, by a doctor, for a proper diagnosis before starting any natural or conventional treatments.

Q: I’ve heard that sleep aids or antidepressants can help, and what about guaifenesin?

A: Since patients with Fibromyalgia, almost always have a sleep disorder, sleep aids can help. Antidepressants are often effective because they increase blood serotonin, which can improve sleep. However, antidepressants can sometimes aggravate the sleep disorder that accompanies Fibromyalgia. Preliminary reports on guaifenesin seem promising, although it’s ineffective in many cases. Drugs such as pain killers (NSAIDS) are also used, and although provide relief for some, must be used long term, which causing gastrointestinal bleeding & ulcers.

Q: Can acupuncture help with the pain?

A: Absolutely. At least 5 clinical trials support the use of Acupuncture in improving the symptoms of Fibromyalgia. However, long term outcome studies have not been performed to determine if the improvement from Acupuncture is permanent or temporary.

Q: What about nutrients? What has been shown to be helpful?

A: A popular theory is that the pain from Fibromyalgia is caused by mitochondrial dysfunction and poor respiration at the cell level- a process which is dependent on nutrients like magnesium, malic acid, & CoQ10. For this reason, some patients notice improvement when using these nutrients. Restricting pro-inflammatory foods, such as animal products (except for fish) can sometimes also be helpful.

Q: What about Chiropractic care? Can it help with the pain?

A: Manipulation is one of the best therapies to restore proper musculoskeletal health for even those of us without chronic pain. A Chiropractor, Naturopath, & most Osteopaths are trained to perform manipulation, and can tune-up your spine when indicated. Naturopaths can also perform other physical medicine techniques such as using an ultrasound or an electrical stimulation machine, both of which have been useful in the treatment of Fibromyalgia.

Q: I’ve been told a detox would help. How can I start?

A: “Cleansing” is what ties all the other therapies together, as few people achieve cure without the cleansing component. A detox cleanse can be as simple as adding some new foods to your diet, or comprehensive with dietary approaches, special activities, and use of plant medicines, nutrients, or natural hormones, that are selected especially for you, based on test results.

What’s most important is that you see a doctor who will properly diagnose your condition, and assure your plan is individualized & comprehensive (without being overwhelming,) ensuring your success.

Kasra Pourandeali, ND is the Director of the Northwest Center for Optimal Health, and the President of the Washington Association of Naturopathic Physicians.