FIBROMYALGIA / ADRENAL FATIGUE
A DRUG-FREE SOLUTION
Although we might not be subjected to the same types of stressors as Dr. Selye's animals were, the stressors we are subject to today are both severe and plentiful. While we tend to think of "stress" in terms of things like worrying about financial matters, marriages, or parenting difficulties, it encompasses much more than that. What about DIETARY STRESS? Most people today are living a HIGH CARB LIFESTYLE that leads to a wasteland of CHRONIC INFLAMMATORY DEGENERATIVE DISEASES. How about physical stress? This could be illnesses themselves, CHRONIC INFECTIONS, VEHICLE ACCIDENTS, injuries of all types, trauma, ABUSE, strenuous or repetitive work, over-training in the gym --- particularly doing to much cardio work (see our CARDIO-VS-STRENGTH posts), and even VACCINATIONS. The point is that there are any number of ways that people develop stress reactions.
Why is this important to know? Because stress creates significant responses in the Adrenal Glands. This is why Fibromyalgia was, and still is in certain circles, known as ADRENAL FATIGUE. And because the Adrenal Glands are part of the bigger ENDOCRINE SYSTEM (THYROID, SEX HORMONES, HYPOTHALAMUS, etc, etc), their intricate nature is that throwing one area off kilter is going to throw others off as well. According to a recent overview on the Endocrine System as it relates to the Adrenal Glands (Fibromyalgia by Endocrinologists Kaltsas and Tsiveriotis), "there is substantial data indicating that the HPA axis (Hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis) functions abnormally in fibromyalgia."
In this article, they deal fairly extensively with something called Sympathetic Dominance. In SYMPATHETIC DOMINANCE (yes, it can be measured --- HERE), the "fight-or-flight" part of your brain and nervous system is engaged much more than it should be (often times, all the time), causing a very specific set of symptoms. In fact, later on these authors make the statement that, "Sympathetic hyperactivity... or parasympathetic underactivity has been described in fibromyalgia." We saw this plainly in a brand new study from the Journal of Clinical & Experimental Rheumatology (The Relationship Between Sympathetic Activity and Pain Intensity in Fibromyalgia) that was looking for "anti-adrenergic agents" (drugs against the Adrenal System). If you are really interested in seeing what's going on with your Adrenal Glands, you need to have an ASI Saliva Test run (Adrenal Stress Index).
According to the Grecian study mentioned a moment ago, some of the more common symptoms and comorbidites (concurrent diseases) associated with Fibromyalgia include INSOMNIA, CHRONIC PAIN of all sorts (including Hyperalgesia and Allodynia), stiff muscles, swelling, paresthesia (numbness, tingling, and any number of abnormal sensations), Abdominal Pain, Weather Sensitivity, Mental Fog (often referred to as "Fibro Fog"), INTERSTITIAL CYSTITIS, Chest Pain not related to the heart, IBS, Pelvic Pain, VERTIGO, DEPRESSION, Memory Loss, any number of Mental Health Issues, HEADACHES, MIGRAINE HEADACHES, MCS, ESTROGEN DOMINANCE, OBESITY, SEXUAL DYSFUNCTION, RESTLESS LEG SYNDROME, TMJ, RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS, Lupus, SLEEP APNEA, POLYMYALGIA RHEUMATICA, and the whole gamut of AUTOIMMUNE DISORDERS.
In fact, the whole I-don't-sleep-well thing is related to Fibromyalgia in more ways than one. A study from last month's issue of National Reviews; Rheumatology (The Role of Sleep in Pain and Fibromyalgia) had some interesting things to say about sleep and Fibro. "Sleep deprivation in healthy individuals can cause symptoms of fibromyalgia, including myalgia, tenderness and fatigue, suggesting that sleep dysfunction might be not only a consequence of pain, but also pathogenic. Epidemiological studies indicate that poor sleep quality is a risk factor for the development of chronic widespread pain among an otherwise healthy population. Mechanistically, sleep deprivation impairs descending pain-inhibition pathways that are important in controlling and coping with pain." Did you catch that? An inability to sleep is not only a sign of Fibro, but can actually cause Fibro as well!
Despite all of this (and just like we see with NON-CELIAC GLUTEN SENSITIVITY and FOOD / SUGAR ADDICTIONS), there are still those out there --- physicians included --- who believe Fibromyalgia to be a "made up" disease. Granted, in similar fashion to "ARTHRITIS" in years gone by, Fibromyalgia has become a "bucket" diagnosis. You know; not sure what's going on? Throw it in the bucket labeled "Fibro" and move on to the next patient. We realize this is still a problem when you have the a major neurosurgeon's journal (World Neurosurgery) publishing articles like Is Fibromyalgia a Real Pathology? which is exactly what happened only two months ago.
As a side note to this issue of Fibromyalgia, you'll see over and over in the scientific literature that it is not considered to be "INFLAMMATORY" because it is not characterized by local Inflammation. While I can buy this, rest assured that it is certainly characterized by systemic Inflammation. In case you are interested in learning the difference, take a look at THIS POST.
We can sit here all day and talk about Fibromyalgia, but we need to get down to where the rubber meets the road. What can we do to fix it? Or at least address it --- as opposed to using drugs to cover its symptoms? You might think that the medical community and BIG PHARMA might be more interested in this, but then again, that would cut into their profits. Profits you say? This month's issue of Pain Practice (The Comparative Burden of Chronic Widespread Pain and Fibromyalgia in the United States) concluded that, "Fibromyalgia subjects were characterized by the greatest disease burden with more comorbidities and pain-related medications, poorer health status, function, sleep, lower productivity, and higher costs." But that's the point isn't it? The only "costs" that Big Pharma is wanting to cut are their own. They want you, private insurance companies, and the government (Medicare / Medicaid) to spend maximum dollars for this and other problems.
SOLVING THE FIBROMYALGIA PUZZLE
According to the 2013 position paper by Kaltsas et al, "A wide range of drugs has been used in the treatment of fibromyalgia including antidepressants, sedatives, muscle relaxants and antiepileptic drugs. NSAIDS and opioids, although often prescribed for fibromyalgia, are not an effective form of treatment. Since therapeutic responses are rarely durable, physicians should not be surprised when the initial efficacy of a medication is abolished." In other words, take all the ANTIDEPRESSANTS, Sedatives (SLEEPING PILLS and VALIUM), MUSCLE RELAXERS, NSAIDS, anti-seizure drugs, and NARCOTICS you want, but according to decades of research, they're not going to be overly effective in the first place. And if they are considered "effective", those effects won't last long because as the study says, they are not "durable".
It was just last month that the American Family Physician published a study (Common Questions About the Diagnosis and Management of Fibromyalgia) saying that, "Opioids should be used to relieve pain in carefully selected patients only if alternative therapies are ineffective." Alternative Therapies.... There are those within medicine that ABSOLUTELY DESPISE those words. But what do they really mean? In other words, what kinds of "Alternative Therapies" are available for those struggling to cope with Fibromyalgia that your doctor is surely not telling you about? While certainly not comprehensive, the list below constitutes a number of popular 'alternative' therapies for Fibromyalgia.
- NUTRITION: Although the medical community largely denies that nutrition is a primary factor for any physical ailment (if they did, they would practice differently than they do), I would argue that it must be number one on anyone's list. It starts with eating WHOLE FOODS. Skim through my posts on the PALEO DIET to see why it is hands down, the best dietary approach for getting a handle on chronic diseases, including Fibromyalgia. And as for GLUTEN, if you have Fibro and are still consuming Gluten, stop it already! After talking about getting Obesity under control, the February, 2015 edition of Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology (Fibromyalgia and Nutrition: What News?) said this. "Moreover, it seems reasonable to eliminate some foods from the diet of FM patients, for example excitotoxins. Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity is also increasingly recognized as a frequent condition with similar manifestations which overlap with those of FM." For those who aren't aware, the term excitotoxins (MSG and ASPARTAME) was first coined by Mississippi Neurosurgeon / Professor, RUSSELL BLAYLOCK. As for NCGS, follow the link for some brand new mind-bending information. Please read our posts on INFLAMMATION, because while Fibromyalgia is not itself considered to be locally inflammatory, it is typically driven by NEUROINFLAMMATION.
- CHIROPRACTIC: While CHIROPRACTIC ADJUSTMENTS are certainly not a solution for Fibromyalgia; for numerous people with, they are invaluable.
- AEROBIC EXERCISE / STRETCHING: I am not even going to cover this bullet point because it is widely considered to be the single best "alternative" therapy for effectively dealing with FM. This is why Yoga has proved beneficial. A quick word about STRETCHING. Be sure that whatever you are doing is low impact --- you don't need to be training for a marathon.
- BALANCE TRAINING: This month's issue of Rheumatology International (Is Balance Exercise Training as Effective as Aerobic Exercise Training in Fibromyalgia Syndrome?) answered the question asked by the study's title. Although aerobic exercise (swimming, walking, etc) proved to be the more effective of the two for dealing with Fibromyalgia, balance training was effective enough that the authors concluded it, "should be included in comprehensive programs." If you are interested in doing this, Tai Chi or Ball Exercises are a good way to get started (HERE and HERE).
- STRENGTH TRAINING: Just last month the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies published a study on this topic (Muscle Strengthening Activities and Fibromyalgia: A Review of Pain and Strength Outcomes) concluding that, "The majority of the studies demonstrated encouraging increases in strength, along with significant reductions in pain. Muscle strengthening activities (resistance machines, bodyweight, exercise tubing, dumbbells) can be a safe and effective mode of exercise for FM patients, particularly when progressed from low intensities." Follow the second link above for information on this, or take a look at THESE POSTS.
- ACUPUNCTURE: A Brazilian study (Acupuncture in Fibromyalgia: A Randomized, Controlled Study Addressing the Immediate Pain Response) published in Portuguese in the December, 2014 issue of the arthritis journal Revista Brasileria de Reumatologia, had this to say about patients given acupuncture as compared to sham acupuncture for their Fibro (cherry-picked from the abstract). "The variation between the final and initial VAS [the Visual Analog Scale is essentially a pain scale, 1-10] values favored the actual procedure, which is considered a large effect. The statistical power of the sample for these results was very relevant (94.8%). Acupuncture has proven effective in the immediate pain reduction in patients with fibromyalgia, with a quite significant effect size." Having been certified to do acupuncture back in 1991, anything I've done along these lines since then has been done with a Mens-O-Matic Microcurrent unit.
- WHOLE BODY VIBRATION: WHOLE BODY VIBRATION (WBV) is a very interesting technology because it stimulates the body as well as the brain. Although this particular study (Whole Body Vibration Training in Patients with COPD: A Systematic Review), which was published in last month's issue the journal Chronic Respiratory Diseases pertained to COPD (WBV helped it), one of the sentences in the study's abstract had this to say. "In recent years, several studies have shown that whole body vibration training (WBVT) may be a beneficial training mode in a variety of chronic diseases and conditions such as osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, or chronic low back pain." Whole Body Vibration is so cool because it provides such a wide range of benefits and allows people who might not otherwise be able to engage in other physical activities to do so.
- LOW LEVEL LASER: If you want to see why COLD LASER provides benefit for almost every health issue or PAIN SYNDROME you can imagine, just follow the above link. A study from the May, 2013 issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (Effects of Class IV Laser Therapy on Fbromyalgia Impact and Function in Women with Fibromyalgia) concluded that, "There were significant interactions for pain and for upper body flexibility with the LHT [Laser] improving significantly compared to SHT [Sham]. This study provides evidence that LHT may be a beneficial modality for women with FM in order to improve pain and upper body range of motion, ultimately reducing the impact of FM."
- MASSAGE: The medical journal PLoS One published a meta-analysis in February of 2014 on Massage Therapy and Fibromyalgia (Massage Therapy for Fbromyalgia: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials) with this conclusion. "Massage therapy with duration of over 5 weeks had beneficial immediate effects on improving pain, anxiety, and depression in patients with FM. Massage therapy should be one of the viable complementary and alternative treatments for FM."
- HOMEOPATHY: Despite the recent hubub by the FDA about either banning or severely restricting HOMEOPATHY and homeopathic remedies (after all, the FDA sits squarely in Big Pharma's back pocket --- HERE), we learn that it seems to provide some benefit for those dealing with Fibro. Last August, the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine published a study (Homeopathy in the Treatment of Fibromyalgia: A Comprehensive Literature-Review and Meta-Analysis) that actually had some nice things to say about homeopathy as it pertains to Fibro. "The results of the studies as well as the case reports define a sufficient basis for discussing the possible benefits of homeopathy for patients suffering from fibromyalgia syndrome."
As always, I would recommend a systemic holistic (natural whole-body) approach to dealing with Fibromyalgia. HERE it is (because you absolutely cannot forget about GUT HEALTH). And one last thing. According to the scientific literature, it's not that natural therapies don't work. It's that the experts don't understand how they work. Case in point, the abstract of an Italian study published in the December, 2013 issue of Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology (Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Fibromyalgia: A Practical Clinical Debate of Agreements and Contrasts). After telling us what Fibromyalgia is, they reveal the truth drug-based and non-drug-based therapies.
"Many therapies have been proposed over recent years with mixed results, including various pharmacological therapies for the treatment of symptoms; but there is still no effective drug treatment for the syndrome itself. Non-pharmacological therapies are an important part of the treatment, and there is evidence supporting a number of interventions, including aerobic exercise, strength and stretching training, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and patient education. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) techniques have not yet been fully acknowledged by scientific medicine because little is known about their mechanisms of action and usefulness."
Look carefully folks. The drugs ("pharmacological therapies") don't work ("still no effective drug treatment"). If you are still locked into the whole 'drug' route for dealing with Fibro, you need to formulate a plan to change things. Why? Because, "Non-pharmacological therapies are an important part of the treatment, and there is evidence supporting a number of interventions." Who gives a rip if they don't know the exact mechanism for alternative therapies? We don't really understand the mechanism of action of a significant percentage of the drugs on the market today. The one thing we do know is that they ARE DANGEROUS. The bottom line is that while the bullet points above might not provide solutions or relief for all Fibro sufferers, a quarter century of experience tells me that most of you will get positive results by following this or a similar protocol --- without any of the nasty (and UNIVERSALLY UNDER-REPORTED) side effects of the drugs.