Tens of millions of Americans might have fibromyalgia. We don’t know for sure. The condition that causes mysterious chronic pain is one of the most controversial topics of debate in the medical world. Does it exist? What is it? How do we treat it? Though two to four percent of the population exhibits symptoms concurrent with those of fibromyalgia, experts have debated its existence for decades.
A new look at all the evidence to date has spurred a University of Michigan study to suggest there is “overwhelming” evidence that fibromyalgia is real. It is published in a recent edition of Current Pain and Headache Reports. The researchers call for an end to the speculation about whether the fibromyaglia symptoms are somehow in people’s heads or related to another condition. Agreeing on the reality of a condition is very important to the interests of studying its causes and effective treatments.
Often misdiagnosed as arthritis, or deemed “psychogenic” in nature, fibromyalgia has all-too-real symptoms. There is the chronic, widespread pain in the muscles and soft tissues in the joints, most often in one’s neck, shoulders, spine, and hips; there is the stiffness in the morning; the chronic fatigue; the often severe depression, the headaches, the irritable bladder, the alternating diarrhea and constipation, the foot cramps; the poor balance; the numbness and tingling of the extremities. . . the list could go on.
Fibromyalgia is a massively frustrating illness, made even more so because one’s doctor may not even believe it exists. Yet increasingly prevalent research shows that fibromyalgia and many other chronic pain syndromes are caused by a nervous system that has become oversensitive to pain signals. This sort of thing can occur along with psychological factors, but the pain state caused by fibromyalgia is apart from the mind. It is real say the researchers.
Images of the brain have shown differences between these patients and people without the controversial condition. Genetics has long been speculated as a cause, as has hormonal fluctuations, a previous injury, and even digestive issues. Scientists have found that the associated pain actually responds to tricyclic and anticonvulsant medications, and since they have an action against pain, this supports the possibility that fibromyalgia exists.
The realm of natural medicine offers some treatments for pain sufferers, many of which have decent evidence behind them. For example:
— Malic acid: 1,200 to 2,400 mg combined with up to 600 mg of magnesium can lessen muscle pain. It’s sometimes called “Super Malic” in stores.
— 5-HTP: 300 mg a day can relieve fibromyalgia symptoms.
— SAMe: 200 to 400 mg a day can decrease symptoms, especially depression.
— Tryptophan: Thought to relieve pain and reverse underlying cause.
— Ginkgo/CoQ10: A mix of the herb and enzyme at 200 mg each has led to better mental function.
— Capsaicin: Used topically on the skin, this can relieve fibromyalgia pain.