Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is a rheumatic disorder characterised by chronic, achy muscular pain that has no apparent physical cause. It most commonly affects the lower back, neck, shoulders, back of the head, upper chest and thighs – although any area of the body may be involved. The pain may be described as burning, throbbing, shooting or stabbing, and is often more significant in the morning than at other times of the day.
Chronic headaches, strange sensations in the skin, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, and temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ) may also accompany FMS. Other symptoms experienced by sufferers of FMS include premenstrual tension, irritable bladder, skin sensitivities, dry eyes as well as mouth, a need for frequent changes in eyeglass prescription, dizziness, and impaired co-ordination. Activities such as lifting and climbing stairs are often challenging and painful.
Besides, depression often accompanies this disorder. Moreover, stress may trigger the development of problems similar to those associated with cardiovascular disease and adrenal gland disorders. Because the immune system is typically suffering in this disorder, opportunistic viral and bacterial infections are common.
The most distinctive feature of FMS, one that differentiates it from similar conditions, is the existence of certain tender spots – eighteen specific spots where the muscles are abnormally sore to the touch. These points tend to cluster around the neck, shoulders, chest, knees, elbows region, and hips, and include the following:
That is to say, there are over five million people known to be suffering from FMS in the United States. However, the real number of cases is probably much higher as medics often misdiagnose this condition. FMS manifests itself in similar ways to chronic fatigue syndrome, chemical sensitivities, as well as rheumatoid arthritis. As a result, it usually takes a long time to get a proper diagnosis made.
Most people with FMS also have associated sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, bruxism (grinding teeth), and sleep myoclonus (a sudden rapid contraction of muscle, or a group of muscles, during sleep or as one is falling asleep). Not surprisingly, people with FMS often suffer from chronic fatigue that can range from mild to disabling. Other disorders common to sufferers of FMS include:
FMS is much more common in females than in males and most often begins in young adulthood. In most cases, symptoms come on gradually and slowly increase in intensity. Besides, they can be triggered (or made worse) by many different factors. Those, in turn, include overexertion, stress, lack of exercise, anxiety, depression, lack of sleep, grief, trauma, extremes of temperature and humidity, and infectious illness.
In the majority of cases, symptoms are severe enough to interfere with normal daily activities. Moreover, the condition disables a significant number of people with fibromyalgia syndrome. Some cases clear up on their own, some become chronic, also some go through cycles of flare-ups alternating with periods of apparent remission. In other words, the cause or causes of FMS is not known. Furthermore, there are no tests that can diagnose it with complete certainty.
Some evidence points to a problem with the immune system; specific immunological abnormalities are common among people with FMS. Other possible causes also include infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (glandular fever), Candida albicans, chronic mercury poisoning from amalgam fillings, anaemia, parasites. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and hypothyroidism (low thyroid function) also count. Besides, some experts believe that FMS may be related to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), which causes similar symptoms, except that in FMS, muscle pain predominates over fatigue. In contrast, with CFS, fatigue predominates over pain. It has happened that even medical professionals misdiagnosed FMS as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis. Because malabsorption problems are common in people with FMS, higher than regular doses of all supplemental nutrients are needed.
Eat a well-balanced diet of 50% raw foods and fresh ‘live-juices. The diet should consist of mainly of vegetables, fruits, whole grains (primarily millet and brown rice), raw nuts and seeds, soy products, skinless turkey or chicken, and oily fish. These quality foods supply nutrients that renew energy and build immunity.
Include pomegranates and pomegranate juice (some commercial makes have high sugar!) in your diet. They have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Eat four or five small meals daily to keep a study supply of protein and carbohydrates available for proper muscle function. If the body does not have enough fuel for energy, it will rob the muscles of essential nutrients, causing muscle wasting and pain.
Drink plenty of liquids to help flush out toxins. The best choices are bottled or filtered water and herbal teas. Fresh vegetable juices supply necessary vitamins and minerals.
Limit consumption of green peppers, aubergines, tomatoes and white potatoes (sweet potatoes are fine). These foods contain “solanine” which interferes with the enzymes in the muscles, and may cause pain and discomfort.
Do not eat red meat, dairy products, or any other foods that are high in saturated fats. Saturated fats raise cholesterol levels and interfere with circulation, as well as promoting inflammation and increasing pain. Also avoid fried foods, processed foods, shellfish, dairy foods, and white flour products such as bread and pasta.
Do not consume any caffeine, alcohol, or sugar. Eating sugar, in any form, promotes fatigue, increases pain, and disturbs sleep. If these substances have been a regular part of the diet, symptoms may get worse for a short period as a result of the “withdrawal” effect.
Maintain a programme of moderate exercise. A daily walk followed by some gentle stretching is pleasant. Start slowly and be careful not to overdo it as this can aggravate symptoms. Keep in mind that what is needed is some amount of daily exercise, not a strenuous workout two or three times a week. Once regular exercise becomes habitual, the symptoms are likely to improve; moderate exercise and stretching help to keep muscles flexible and prevent joints from stiffening up.
Be sure to give the body sufficient rest. Set aside at least eight hours for sleep each night.
Take a hot shower or bath on rising to stimulate circulation and help relieve morning stiffness or alternate between hot water and cold water. Recent studies have shown cold showers to be beneficial for relieving the pain of fibromyalgia. Warm baths help relax the muscles.
Consider trying massage therapy, which can help to relax muscles and reduce joint stiffness.