The fibromyalgia patient really has nowhere to go. Rarely is the “fibro” patient managed properly relative to the pathophysiology of the condition. The medical model is far too simplistic – considering fibromyalgia a muscular or “psychological” problem – and doesn’t in any way address the functional changes for any length of time associated with or resulting from the “disease” (in other words – what is causing the pain!). So no matter what is done in the medical model the patient doesn’t feel better.
The fibromyalgia story is a painful, confusing, demoralizing one. Mostly affecting females, it debilitates the patient physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. The patient deteriorates slowly – gut, brain (can’t think, forgets why they went into a room, can’s say the words they want to say), energy. NO ONE BELIEVES THEM because they look fine, and besides the doctor says they are fine. After all “all of the tests” are normal. The fibromyalgia sufferer knows they are not fine – but no one can “find it”. They are not disabled yet. They start to experience all of the symptoms. Finally enough tissues are destroyed in various systems of the body that some tests are positive, but are they the cause? They go on drugs (frequently the wrong ones), some of their blood work stabilizes and now they are told they are fine again, but they’re not! They still feel terrible, confused, and scared.
After medical intervention fails they try “natural” medicine. Then is starts, the search for the magic herb, or vitamin, mineral, diet, or procedure. They try one after another after another, but nothing ever stabilizes them. It’s the dart on the wall method, and it is doomed to fail, and it does. The fibromyalgia patient’s spirit is broken. Neither the MD or the alternative care practitioner understand the physiology of “fibro”. They don’t understand that multiple mechanisms are involved. The patient dream? They are on the quest for the perfect drug, hormone, or supplement. This is a dream. This “condition” is far more complex than that.
Chronic diseases – especially “fibro” – are all the result of multiple vicious cycles occurring in the body. Vicious cycles that damage tissues and require an approach that addresses the different systems of the body that have broken down and are combining together to create the seemingly confusing constellation of symptoms that have come to be called fibromyalgia.
Some of the more prominent systems involved in contributing to the pain involved are the brain, immune system, misdiagnosed thyroid conditions, various blood sugar abnormalities, hormonal problems, undetected autoimmune diseases, iron related conditions and more. More frequently than not several of these systems are involved at the same time and need to be “unwound”.
Often times we get confused as clinicians and only look for the triggers. Many doctors mistake the triggers – that event which sets off the internal vicious cycles – as the cause. This approach is also doomed to failure and can give no more than temporary relief. Many fibromyalgia sufferers trace the beginning of their symptoms back to a major infection (pneumonia, bladder, yeast infection). For others it is a trauma (birth of a child, car accident). For some it is toxic exposures (cleaning fluids, paint fumes). Severe emotional stresses (divorce, death of a loved one). These are the triggers, not the causative mechanism that is currently creating the symptomatic downward spiral of symptoms the patient is experiencing.
As you can see fibromyalgia is not a muscular or psychological problem diagnosed by the “tender points” on your body. It is a complex set of systems in the body that have lost their ability to function. Ten different “fibro” sufferers may have ten different mechanistic patterns that create their unique painful experience. All areas of brain dysfunction, hormonal imbalances, GI, immune system abnormalities, etc must be thoroughly assessed together at the same time and handled in the proper order for the best chance of improving or resolving the condition completely.
A functional medicine approach is required. The key to success is a thorough history with an acute attention to the multiple systems of the body, a thorough neurological workup, and the appropriate chronic pain testing procedures (blood, saliva, urine, DNA) to determine the triggers and metabolic imbalances involved in that person’s individualized situation. Only then can a natural medicine, non-drug, approach be utilized to greatly enhance the fibromyalgia sufferers overall quality of life or possibly even “cure” the condition.