The fibromyalgia syndrome is becoming an increasingly common complaint. It usually involves chronic, widespread muscle and joint pains, fatigue and poor sleep. It is estimated that, currently, some 7 million people, mainly women suffer from the problem in North America.
It is my experience that gentle manual therapy can help an individual function better for short periods of time. However, only by being aware of the wide-reaching manifestations of the fibromyalgia syndrome can one begin to understand the challenges and rewards of seeking a comprehensive treatment strategy to help manage one’s life as a sufferer.
Depending on the professional bias of health-care practitioners who offer solutions, a fibromyalgia sufferer may wonder whether there is ever going to be any potential meeting of minds on the causes of the problem. A ‘syndrome’ is, by definition, not a ‘diagnosis’, but a combination of symptoms without a presently known root cause. However, it is my experience as a therapist, that specific ‘diagnoses’ are often overrated. The following compilation of information is aimed at providing a rational for considering a combined, holistic program to manage the problem.
One theory considers fibromyalgia to be associated with physical stresses on the central nervous system that then creates widespread muscular dysfunctions, etc. This is where craniosacral and myofascial therapy helps reduce the physical and bioenergetic stress on the body’s tissues.
NECK TRAUMA AND FIBROMYALGIA
Buskilia, et al (1997) 1 describes a study of over 100 patients with neck injuries compared to some 60 patients with leg injuries who were evaluated for the presence of severe pain (fibromyalgia syndrome) 12 months after injury. The findings were that “almost all symptoms were significantly more prevalent or severe in the patients with neck injury. The fibromyalgia prevalence rate in the neck injury group was 13 times greater than the leg fracture group.”
Another theory suggests that fibromyalgia is the end result of a genetically acquired condition, where the kidneys are unable to discharge enough phosphate ions out of the body. A treatment protocol that uses a drug called Guaifenesin is suggested. As a physical therapist, I would be able to help monitor the gradual reduction of the areas of body pain through ‘body mapping’.
FIND A DOCTOR TO OBTAIN A DIAGNOSIS 2
“The first thing to do is to make sure that you have fibromyalgia. You do not need a specialist to make the diagnosis of fibromyalgia – since fibromyalgia causes such diverse symptoms as fatigue, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, irritable bladder, numbness, leg cramps, headaches, and palpitations, your doctor will want to ask you about these and other symptoms as well. After your doctor is satisfied that your symptoms and history suggest fibromyalgia, an examination will follow.”
SLEEP, IMMUNE SYSTEM & FIBROMYALGIA
Fibromyalgia and sleep problems go together. It is becoming well known that poor sleep contributes to a weakened immune system. For years there have been increasing numbers of people who have found magnets helpful in dealing with their sleep problems and chronic pains. Recently a group of researchers in the U.S.A. have confirmed that sleeping on a magnetic mattress slept better than on mattresses made from standard materials and had significant pain relief 3.
1. Buskilia D., Neuman L., et al. 1997. Increased rates of fibromyalgia following cervical spine injury. Arthritis and Rheumatism, 40(3): 446-452
2. St. Amand, R.P. & Market, C.C. 1999. What your doctor may not tell you about fibromyalgia: the revolutionary treatment that can reverse the disease. New York, Warner Books, 392pp.
3. Colbert, A.P., MD, et al. Magnetic Mattress Pad Use in Patients with fibromyalgia: A randomized Double-blind Pilot Study. J. of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation 13 (1999) 19-31.