Fibromyalgia is a common and complex chronic pain disorder that affects the muscles throughout the body and results in an all over pain. Many people describing “I hurt from head to toe”.
The term fibromyalgia comes from “fibro” which means fibrous tissues, “myo” meaning muscle and “algia” meaning pain. Thus, the term literally means muscle and fibrous tissue pain. People with fibromyalgia often describe it as flu-like symptoms that leaves them exhausted and unable to think clearly. While others with this disorder have trouble sleeping and often wake up stiff and sore. The symptoms can be debilitating at times and is estimated that 10 million Americans are effected with fibromyalgia aged 18 or older. With the average age of first diagnosis being 35 to 45 years old.
- Pain and tenderness
- Loss of sleep
- Concentration or memory problems
- Muscle cramps and weakness
- Numbness and tingling in hands/feet
- Morning stiffness/tightness
- Anxiety or depression
There is no known cure for fibromyalgia and many of the medications to reduce the symptoms can have side effects. But there are many effective non-drug treatments available. These treatments are safe and effective at managing fibromyalgia symptoms. Physical Therapy, Hand Therapy, myofascial massage and trigger point release are effective ways to manage fibromyalgia. The key to treating fibromyalgia effectively is to reduce the painful muscles while getting the body moving safely and without increasing the pain or discomfort.
Exercising with Fibromyalgia
Some of the more common exercises for fibromyalgia include light aerobics and yoga. Exercises should be light, gentle, combine stretches, careful strengthening and relaxation techniques to improve your mind, body and sleep. Yoga is one of the best forms of exercising as it combines all these types of movements into one workout. Body awareness through proper movement patterns are critical in managing fibromyalgia symptoms.
The painful muscle tightness that are seen with fibromyalgia occur due to the muscle fibers tightening resulting in a restriction of blood flow to that part of the muscle. This causes a build-up of toxins in the muscle and through a chemical reaction results in further tightening of the muscle. This can lead to chronic painful areas in the body. Massage, myofascial release and trigger point release are hands-on techniques that can loosen tight muscles and improve the circulation to the muscle.
Treatments to manage fibromyalgia should be focused around keeping your muscles healthy. When you suffer from fibromyalgia, the pain you feel are your muscles lacking proper nutrients.
Lack of nutrition to the muscle can occur not only from your eating habits, but also because our food supply today does not have the same nutrition that it once had. The poor nutrient content in our food comes from the over processing, genetic engineering, over farming, pesticide and hormone use. While a lack of nutrients is a factor, the increased demand for nutrition is also an important consideration. This can occur from stress, either physical or mental. Viruses, toxins or wastes in the body can overburden the immune system causing fatigue or illness. This stresses the body and the muscles. The level of toxins that we are exposed to in our society also causes stress to the muscles resulting in an increased demand for nutrients to flush out the muscles.
In addition to a balanced and healthy diet, there are nutritional supplements that you can take to help with your fibromyalgia symptoms.
- Magnesium – helps convert food into energy. Magnesium can also help to relax muscles and aide in sleep.
- 5-hydroxytryptophan(5-HTP) – is a natural amino acid. It helps your body produce serotonin. This chemical helps regulate your mood, relieve pain, morning stiffness, fatigue and anxiety.
- Omega 3 – has excellent antioxidant properties. Reduces neuropathic pain. Lowers blood pressure and is believed to help with depression and arthritis symptoms.
- Turmeric – is a natural anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and pain reliever.
- Melatonin – can help to regulate your body’s night and day cycles to improve your sleep.
- Valerian – helps alleviate insomnia and anxiety.
- Acetyl L-Carnitine- May help to ease pain and decrease fatigue.
Sleep is Critical
Sleep is very important to our bodies. It allows for our minds to rest and our bodies to recover. It’s very important to get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep especially if you are experiencing chronic pain or fatigue. However, if you’re still feeling sluggish even after getting the hours you need, there may be other factors to consider.
Your body’s natural response to stress causes your breathing and heart rate to speed up and your blood pressure to rise. Yoga uses relaxation techniques that can make you calmer and less stressed. It also uses a combination of physical poses and controlled breathing designed to lower and regulate your heart rate. Decreasing stress will lower cortisol in the body and help you to burn fat easier. Not only are you feeling less stressed, you are getting more fit and tone as well.
Taking an occasional mental break is helpful. One of the main reasons for fatigue is overwork. Overwork does not just mean your job; it also refers to family and social obligations. Keep your energy high by keeping your stress low. Taking 10-20 minutes to shut down your mind and body can drastically boost your energy. So, take a power nap, try meditating or just find a quiet area to do an activity that calms your mind. You’ll find yourself feeling more energized and more productive if you do.
Fibromyalgia is a real and painful condition. It limits a person’s ability to be active and robs them of the ability to enjoy life to the fullest. You need to find a balance of exercise, nutrition and stress relief for proper management of your symptoms. Always check with your doctor before taking any supplements to be sure they don’t conflict with your current prescribed medications.