Fibromyalgia (FM)


What is it?

Fibromyalgia is a common and complex chronic pain disorder that affects people physically, mentally and emotionally. FM is a syndrome rather than a disease, in other words a collection of symptoms and medical problems that tend to occur together but are not related to a single, identifiable cause. Typical symptoms include chronic generalized pain, multiple tender points, abnormally high levels of pain, insomnia, fatigue and psychological problems. Technically fibromyalgia is diagnosed as widespread pain across all four quadrants of the body for at least 3 months and tenderness/pain in at least 11 of 18 specific tender points. Unlike other rheumatic conditions such as systemic lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia is not accompanied by tissue inflammation and there is no damage to internal organs. There is also a suggestion of a disturbed non REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep phase. A high percentage of those affected are women between the ages of 35 and 55.

What causes FM?

Abnormal hypersensitive processing in the central nervous system caused by neuroendocrine (nerve and hormone) dysregulation is considered to be the most likely underlying reason for raised pain levels. A number of scientific studies reveal multiple physiological abnormalities in the FM patient including increased levels of substance P (a nerve chemical signal) and nerve growth factor in the spinal cord, low levels of blood flow to the thalamus region of the brain, HPA (Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal) axis hypofunction (under activity), low levels of serotonin/tryptophan (neurotransmitters) and abnormalities in cytokine (cell messaging protein) function. 

Recent studies show that genetic factors may predispose individuals to FM. Although there can be slow onset, in a large percentage of FM patients the condition is triggered suddenly by emotional distress, infection or injury that causes trauma to the body. These events may activate a pre-existing (possibly undetected) physiological problem already present. Treatment

There are standard Orthodox approaches such as pain relieving and anti-depressant medication, but we often explore drug free alternatives including massage, nutrition and acupuncture.