How Alternative Medicine Can Help Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia, rather than being a disease, is really a syndrome.
It’s a constellation of symptoms. Typically pain, fatigue (low energy that can be debilitating,) depression, sleep disturbance and specific tender areas reliably found on specific areas of the
body. Unlike other disease processes, this group of symptoms is not caused by any single entity. It is the result of what happens when the body’s self-healing and self-renewing resources have been depleted.
Fibromyalgia is sometimes called a “wastebasket diagnosis” by the medical community because there’s no clear identifiable cause…and no clear identifiable treatment. There are some doctors who argue it shouldn’t exist as a diagnostic term, since it doesn’t really fit our lock-and-key model of: Disease-Treatment,
and has many layers that comprise the illness. This makes it a challenge to treat from a model that gives less attention to root causes and focuses mainly on eliminating symptoms.
Conventional medicine offers a handful of medications that can help diminish symptoms of fibromyalgia, but none have been shown to reverse the illness, and none addresses the root causes. Pharmaceutical companies are currently promoting existing pain medications, anti-anxiety medications, and antidepressants for patients with fibromyalgia and have had some success. However, for most patients with fibromyalgia, the illness is an uphill battle. Here’s why.
Like most other chronic illnesses, the main reason people get fibromyalgia is not a bacteria, virus, gene, toxin, dietary insufficiency, a genetic predisposition, or trauma (although these can certainly be triggers!) The main reason the body develops the symptoms of fibromyalgia syndrome is because the body is not getting what it needs. Our body has the ability to self-balance and self-regulate. This means it can heal itself. When it doesn’t have what it needs to do that, disturbance happens globally. For example, if the body doesn’t have enough Vitamin D (which is extremely common) the tissue fiber loses its resilience and becomes tight. The lack of resilience keeps muscles from receiving adequate hydration and nutrients so they become achy and spastic. Ligaments lose elasticity so joints can have increased pressure and cannot easily realign.
That means a simple thing like turning to pick something up can create a creak in your back that won’t go away. The same thing happens with lack of adequate hydration, antioxidants, or restorative sleep. The body doesn’t properly detoxify, so toxins build up in the muscles, joints, and tissues. This creates pain and also sluggishness and fatigue. For these examples, the symptoms can be severe and focal, but the process is global. We must evaluate it that way.
There are a multitude of levels on which imbalances can occur, and root causes of illness can be identified in any of them. We all have toxins in our food, water, air; deficiencies in our nutrients; bacteria and viruses we’re exposed to. Any of these could be the cause of an imbalance that causes a chronic illness like fibromyalgia. The key is to find where the greatest imbalance lies, and support the body in handling that.
In most fibromyalgia patients, the emotional component becomes the most challenging part. There is immense frustration with not getting better, anxiety and fear of becoming increasingly dependent on others, anger that their body has betrayed them, and overwhelm with daily routines. This creates a cycle of illness because the symptoms cause overwhelm, but the overwhelm prevents healing. There are powerful tools to break this cycle, which I use to help my patients reverse this illness.
We are culturally trained to identify and fight problems, and can end up fighting against our own body to try and find solutions. This is in fact what most doctors do as well. We find a problem then focus on it to eliminate it. We “fight cancer” with drugs and “fight depression” with exercise, and “fight obesity” with diet changes, for example.
This approach may work to keep someone alive, but it never works to help them thrive. Fighting the body does not ultimately work. When you fight against your body, you both lose. That’s because the mentality of a fight is a stress mentality. It generates inflammation and stress hormones, which have been shown to be the chemical foundation for every chronic illness most Americans are dying of today. Fighting against an illness creates the stress chemicals that worsen the illness. In many patients it is indeed the root cause.
This is not to say that there aren’t specific offending agents that are associated with fibromyalgia. There are. Even a simple viral illness can utilize so much energy that the immune system experiences long term depletion and dysfunction. Diet is important, movement is important, proper rest, hydration, fun, supportive relationships… all of these support about a chemistry of health in the body. However, the way we relate with our body and our symptoms is one of the most powerful and forces impacting our health. Shifting this alone can alleviate symptoms completely, and at the very least, dramatically enhance the rate of recovery and restoration of balance.
There are MindBody tools to do exactly this. They have been shown to change brain activity, shift cellular chemistry and immediately reverse symptoms. These types of tools address root causes of illness and have even been shown to impact genetic expression. With practice, permanent changes come about on every level of the body. Most people benefit from MindBody medicine, whether they are on medications or not. Our thoughts are constantly generating chemical changes in our body body that help or hinder our health. Most of our thoughts are below the level of consciousness, but are felt when we tune into the body. Learning to do this is the single most valuable tool I teach my patients.
Tune into your body now. Feel it fully. Breathe into your pelvis and let your shoulders relax. Now, ask how you are feeling. Look inside and get a sense of whether you are tense, anxious, sad, angry… what is going on in there. Do it objectively. Do not make a story about it, look for a cause, become upset or judge it. Just look and see. Feel your body. Then breathe three deep, slow, complete breaths. Recheck and feel your body again. Do you feel different than when you looked the first time?
This simple tool can give you an energy reboot and train your brain to pay attention to new information. Instead of focusing on what happened to you, what’s going to happen to you, what you need to get done, who is on Facebook, or what you’re going to eat for dinner… you’ve asked your brain to give you new information. This information is about what’s really going on in your body.
When you become truly objective about this, it changes everything. Instead of spinning out about “I feel so bad and nothing is helping me!” You simply experience an emotion: “Despair.” Breathe in. Breathe out. It moves.
Practice this! It will change everything about the way you feel, the way you grow, the way you take care of yourself and the way you feel about your health and your body.