It is a disease with no known cause and a difficult diagnosis that causes chronic pain and fatigue. We offer you a guide to know how to deal with your symptoms.
Fatigue and pain are some of the life-altering symptoms of people with fibromyalgia. There are natural resources that help reduce them by promoting psychophysical balance.
A patient with fibromyalgia peregrina consults in a medical consultation for an average of seven years until he receives a diagnosis. But this does not help much, as conventional treatments hardly relieve symptoms. For this reason, many resort to natural and complementary therapies.
HOW MANY PEOPLE DOES FIBROMIALGIA AFFECT?
In Spain, between 900,000 and 1,600,000 people suffer fibromyalgia, 80% women . Symptoms begin around the age of 37 and the most frequent are tiredness and pain –especially in certain sensitive points throughout the body–, sleep disorders, dizziness, painful periods, anxiety, depression and concentration and memory problems.
In addition, it is relatively frequent that a person with fibromyalgia is also diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome , endometriosis, interstitial cystitis, irritable bowel syndrome, temporomandibular joint dysfunction, or chronic vulvar pain.
Spanish health authorities did not recognize fibromyalgia until 1997 , four years after the World Health Organization did, but that does not mean that it is a new disorder. Hippocrates already described in the 4th century BC. C. cases of diffuse musculoskeletal pain.
The first definition of fibromyalgia as a clinical entity was made by Gowers in 1904: he called it “fibrinolitis.” Until the end of the 20th century, it could be diagnosed as neurasthenia, reunite, and psychosomatic or endocrine disorder.
The increasing recognition of fibromyalgia has to do with a greater scientific knowledge of the disorder and with the advancement of women in their rights. However, according to a report by Benigno Casanueva, an expert in fibromyalgia, 75% of doctors have not received specific training on the disease and it is not yet officially recognized that it can cause occupational disability, a reality in the most serious cases.
A DISEASE WITH NO KNOWN CAUSE
Not all patients suffer symptoms with the same intensity and, in general, the course of the disease is unpredictable, as it alternates periods of relative remission with outbreaks or crises . Most people can manage it and continue with their normal activities, but some feel unable to work and enjoy the day to day.
The cause of fibromyalgia is still unknown . The researchers suggest that there may be a viral or bacterial infection, a serious traumatic accident, or an emotional crisis at the source.
To diagnose it, the doctor conducts an interview and checks for increased sensitivity to pain in most of a series of 18 points spread throughout the body, called myofascial points .
There are no detectable abnormalities by blood tests, ultrasounds, or other tests, but it is believed to decrease the production or efficacy of neurotransmitters that regulate pain sensitivity, especially serotonin, somatomedin c, substance p, and norepinephrine.
EFFECTIVE NATURAL AIDS TO REDUCE PAIN
Conventional medicine considers fibromyalgia an incurable chronic disease and treats it basically with pain relievers, anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants and antidepressants.
But more than half of patients are dissatisfied with its limited efficacy and common side effects. They often seek help in natural medicines that propose individualized treatments aimed at recovering the physiological and emotional balance .
1. TAICHÍ Y CHIKUNG
Research suggests that tai chi – with its precise, slow, circular movements that act on the energy meridians – may benefit fibromyalgia patients. A study carried out in 2010 by Dr. Chenchen Wang’s team at Tufts University (United States) concluded that practicing tai chi for 12 weeks reduced pain and improved sleep and mood .
The forcefulness of the results led the New Journal of Medicine to recommend that patients’ curiosity about tai chi and similar disciplines such as yoga be encouraged. Another trial had shown a year earlier that chikung – more based on concentration and breathing exercises – also relieved symptoms.
2. LYMPHATIC DRAINAGE AND CONNECTIVE TISSUE MASSAGE
They can increase the pain threshold and quality of life in fibromyalgia. These and other techniques that perform gentle manipulations appear to improve toxin removal and nutrient delivery to tissues. To this are added the psychic benefits due to physical contact and relaxation.
It is effective in reducing discomfort , although the response of each person varies greatly: some feel great relief and others hardly notice the difference.
A number of authors recommend both hot and cold baths : Englert advises cold chambers (from –67ºC to –150ºC) to increase the pain threshold; Gutenbrunner, the frequent sauna (12 sessions in 6 weeks), and Yurkuran, 20-minute baths at 37ºC.
Baths in sulphurous water with salts have also shown some efficacy . The most effective hydrotherapy treatments are received in spas, but cold or hot pack applications, jets, showers and baths can also be carried out at home. However, too hot or prolonged applications sometimes aggravate symptoms. An expert should be consulted.
5. NUTRITIONAL THERAPY
Certain supplements have been used to reduce vulnerability to pain and strengthen the nervous system:
- Magnesium . It has been suggested that deficiency of this mineral in the diet may predispose to fibromyalgia. There are studies with conflicting results on the therapeutic utility of magnesium. In any case, ensuring that enough is obtained through the diet can only be beneficial, as this mineral is essential for the balance of the nervous system and good muscle function. Rich foods are nuts, whole grains, legumes, and vegetables and fruits in general. In supplement, an optimal dose is around 300-600 mg daily.
- S-adenosylmethionine . It is an amino acid compound that reduces painful areas and improves mood. Although some studies support its effectiveness, its therapeutic utility in fibromyalgia is disputed. Furthermore, it is relatively expensive and is not free from side effects and drug interactions.
- 5-hydroxytryptophan . It is obtained from the seeds of the African plant Griffonia simplicifolia. Its usefulness is based on its ability to promote the synthesis of serotonin, whose deficiency plays a key role in depression and insomnia. It also increases the level of endorphins, with a stimulating, euphoric and analgesic effect. According to several studies, the indicated dose is 100 mg three times a day.
THE HOMEOPATHIC APPROACH
In a 2004 study from the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona (United States) observed improvements in individualized homeopathic treatment, such as reduced sensitivity to pain and tendency to depression, and increased quality of life and general health .
The success of homeopathy largely depends on the professional’s ability to personalize the treatment. There is a great diversity of homeopathic remedies, but some are often indicated in fibromyalgia: Rhus toxicodendron, Arnica montana and Bryonia alba.
Other therapies have been successful in some cases . For example, meditation reduces anxiety, according to KH Kaplan, from the University of Massachusetts (United States), and magnet therapy can relieve pain.
A QUIETER LIFE
Of course, a person with fibromyalgia cannot and should not use all available therapeutic resources . It would be one more cause of stress that does not suit you. The most sensible thing to do is to choose the therapies that are the most accessible, attractive and easy to incorporate into your daily routine.
It can be tested successively, discarding those that do not produce effects within a maximum period of three months. But above all, it is beneficial to realize that symptoms can be managed and reduced.
After all, the disease only requires living a calmer and healthier life , and most measures are indicated to increase the well-being of anyone, even if they are healthy.
THE AID OF THE MEDICINAL PLANTS
If taken regularly, some plants can reduce inflammation and stimulate the immune and endocrine systems.
- Hypericum (Hypericum perforatum) . There are no studies on its indication in fibromyalgia, but its mild antidepressant effect may be useful. If medication is already taken, consult a doctor.
- Ginseng (Panax ginseng) . This stimulant helps to adapt to stressful situations. It can serve against fatigue and anxiety. Not suitable in case of insomnia.
- Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) . It is suitable if you suffer from sleep disorders or a feeling of not resting. The daily dose is between 450 and 900 mg of aqueous extract. It can also be added to hot bath water half an hour before sleeping.
HOW TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF EVERYDAY TO EARN WELLNESS
The best treatment for people with fibromyalgia is that they can be delivered through daily self-care. This is the basis of your well-being, which can be enhanced with therapeutic recommendations.
- Reduce stress . It is necessary to decrease the workload and responsibilities (learning, for example, to say “no” without feeling guilty), as well as the causes of emotional stress. It is advisable to carry out a technique that involves relaxation (tai chi, yoga, breathing exercises, meditation …), walking, listening to music or reading.
- Get enough sleep . There is no need to skimp on sleep. If you already sleep 8 hours a night, it may be beneficial to take a short nap. It is advisable to reduce the rhythm and intensity of the light progressively, and always go to bed and get up at the same times.
- Daily exercise . Gentle aerobic activity (such as brisk walking, running, swimming, or cycling, requiring both pulmonary and cardiac effort) is very effective in controlling symptoms. At first they may feel discomfort, but then they lessen. Aquatic gymnastics in a heated pool is highly recommended.
- Diet changes . They are essential. There are several hypotheses about which are the most effective modifications, but almost all experts agree on the need to eliminate the additives –especially monosodium glutamate and aspartame– and to reinforce the presence of vegetable, whole and fresh foods. A higher consumption of omega-3 fats is also often recommended due to its anti-inflammatory effect (for example, taking flax).
- Accessories . Dr. Thomas Dykman advises supplementing with aloe vera extract gel, lyophilized fruits and vegetables, and supplements of multiminerals and multivitamins. Other authors recommend a vegan diet (without dairy or eggs) with plenty of fresh, raw food. Antioxidant compounds, such as anthocyanins in purple fruits, seem to have a positive effect in some patients, who manage to sleep and rest better.