“I’ve heard of fibromyalgia, but what is it, and is it real?”
The diagnosis and treatment of fibromyalgia have been subjects of controversy for many years. Today, fibromyalgia remains complex and sometimes challenging to diagnose. Despite what some critics might say about its origins and treatment, research advancements continue to add to our understanding of this condition and the best ways to help patients who suffer from it.
A Little History
Fibromyalgia is not a new concept. In the early 1900s, it had many names, including muscular rheumatism. Toward the end of the 20th century, doctors reached a diagnostic consensus. Identifying this condition was primarily based on pinpointing multiple characteristic symptoms, including documenting tenderness by pushing on a specific number and location of “tender points.”
More recently, the presence of tender points has become less significant in diagnosing fibromyalgia. Despite the apparent controversy, there’s an easy way to understand what changes occur in the body to create the symptoms we attribute to fibromyalgia.
If you go to the doctor with a heart problem, there is a good chance that you will be referred to a cardiologist. If the cardiologist can find a problem that’s severe or life-threatening, you’ll receive a diagnosis and medication for treatment. If the problem isn’t that serious, you might be told that you have mitral valve prolapse.
If you go to the doctor with intestinal issues, there’s a good chance you’ll be referred to a gastroenterologist. If this specialist determines that your condition is serious, again, you’ll get a diagnosis and prescription. If the problem isn’t that bad, you might get diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome.
What if your problem involves more than just one organ or body system? Instead, your hormones are out of whack, your thyroid numbers are low, you’ve suffered a lack of sleep and get fatigued easily. You also experience frequent constipation and widespread pain in many areas of your body.
This constellation of symptoms typically represents fibromyalgia or fibromyalgia syndrome. With these multiple indications involving many body systems, getting help from a specialist or medication to treat just one symptom won’t help the other medical ailments plaguing you.
In this sense, fibromyalgia is not a disease; it’s a complex condition of being—a description of a person who has multiple organ dysfunctions and symptoms across many different areas of the body. Therefore, there’s no such thing as “fibromyalgia of the shoulder” or “fibromyalgia of the lower back.” Fibromyalgia is the name we give to this entire complex of symptoms, and this condition is different for everyone.
What Causes Fibromyalgia?
Considering that fibromyalgia is a syndrome characterized by widespread pain and other symptoms, what causes it?
A metaphor might aid our understanding. The human body is a high-performance, biochemical Ferrari. This car is designed to run on high-end racing oil and 100-octane fuel. Instead, if we try to run the engine on old oil and bargain gasoline, the odds are that the car won’t keep up with the other fancy vehicles on the track.
The human body has similar needs. It also requires quality oil and high-octane food to perform at its best. Instead, when we try to run our bodies on the oil of deep-fried food and the octane of sugar and white flour, we won’t run like we should. We’ll deteriorate, age, and become fatigued more quickly. We’ll also wear out our core energy reserves.
As this detrimental process continues and our reserves diminish, we become more fragile. Then, we take one more hit, which could be a viral infection, social or psychological trauma, motor vehicle accident, or something seemingly minor like a lifting injury. After this “hit,” all body systems start to decompensate, and those widespread symptoms that have been popping up continue to get worse. When we go through enough decompensation across different body systems to acquire multiple unpleasant symptoms, we have a diagnosis of fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia is the compilation of symptoms, not the “cause” of anything. Instead, what is problematic in your body is just a part of the degeneration, loss of resilience, and aging that defines the constellation of symptoms that can be different for each person.
Hope for Fibromyalgia Sufferers
Understanding fibromyalgia properly gives us a protocol to treat the widespread symptoms. Using integrative medicine, Blatman Health and Wellness Center offers treatments that help most people see as much as a 70% improvement. If you’re seeking relief from fibromyalgia, Dr. Blatman and his team of practitioners can offer compassion, hope, and relief.