Fibromyalgia is a devastating illness, affecting a huge section of the global population. It is estimated that there are about 5 million people who suffer from fibromyalgia in the U.S. alone, most being females and millions of others are left undiagnosed. It is more prevalent in women than in men, but all demographics are known to be susceptible.
Worse, since fibromyalgia is difficult to treat and does not display obvious external symptoms, many sufferers look fine on the outside. In addition to dealing with the daily pain of the syndrome, these sufferers must deal with the stigma of an invisible illness, criticized and not believed by their family, their friends, or even their doctor.
But what is fibromyalgia? First defined in 1990 by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), fibromyalgia is characterized by widespread pain throughout the body for more than 3 months and the presence of at least 11 of 18 tender points and in particular in the body’s fibrous tissue (fibro meaning “fiber” and myalgia “pain in the muscle”). The main characteristics of fibromyalgia are chronic pain and an extreme sensitivity to pain or even to gentle touch: many sufferers experience pain just by wearing a shirt! This sensitivity to touch is also known as allodynia. Fibromyalgia can also be accompanied by one of a dozen other symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, headaches, bowel or bladder problems, a tingling sensation in the body, or sensitivity to light or temperature.
One of the most reasons fibromyalgia is so difficult to treat is that there are numerous factors that can lead to this disease. In this article, we’ll talk about the main causes of fibromyalgia as well as some solutions to the crippling pain that comes with it. In general, each of the causes can be traced to any of five body parts, and often more than one: the brain, the brain and gut connection, the thyroid, the adrenals, and the liver. These five areas are where fibromyalgia usually begins, and where it must be treated for the patient to recover:
- The Brain:
It is believed that fibromyalgia sufferers have functional problems that are associated with hyperactivity of the brainstem. What is typically seen in patients with fibromyalgia is that a part of the midbrain called the intermediolateral nucleus (IML) is hyperactive, which causes muscle spasms throughout the spine and body. It also causes an elevation in heart rate by increasing the sympathetic part of the nervous system (the “fight or flight” reflex), and this in turn causes hypersensitivity of the nerves that are concomitant with fibromyalgia.
- The Brain and Gut Connection:
It’s no secret that the brain controls every aspect of our human body through the body’s neural network. Cranial nerve 10—which is also known as the vagus nerve—comes right off the brainstem, primarily the medulla oblongata, and goes to almost all the parasympathetic nerves in the body. The parasympathetic nervous system control’s the body’s unconscious functions including digestion, peristalsis of the intestines, flow of saliva, constriction of the bronchioles, bladder control and other functions.
- The Thyroid:
Many fibromyalgia sufferers also happen to have hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland is under-functioning or slow, and a large proportion of these cases of hypothyroidism are related to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an auto-immune condition associated with the body’s immune system attacking the thyroid gland.
Unfortunately, allopathic medicine does not treat this condition other than throwing drugs such as Synthroid or Armour at the problem. These drugs do make the patient’s test results look normal, but they don’t treat the underlying cause of the problem, the immune system. So even when a patient’s labs look better, they still suffer from common thyroid symptom such as cold hands and feet, fatigue, constipation, hair loss, chronic pain and aches, weight gain, brittle nails and others.
- The Adrenals:
In my experience as a Doctor of Chiropractic, I have NEVER met a fibromyalgia patient who did not also have an adrenal problem. I am not referring to life-threatening conditions like Cushing’s disease or Addison’s disease, but functional adrenal problems. Due to the hyperactivity of the brainstem, the adrenals are constantly fired at a high rate, which eventually leads to exhaustion in the body. This explains why many fibromyalgia sufferers complain of fatigue and have a very low threshold for pain.
- The Liver:
Last but not least, the liver is another main culprit in fibromyalgia. The liver is the biggest organ in the body, performing over 500 different functions, one of the major functions being detoxification. When the liver is not functioning properly, the body is unable to process toxic substances, which can lead to increased sensitivity, pain, and the other symptoms of fibromyalgia. Many people with fibromyalgia are loaded with toxins, toxins that include but are not limited to: PCBs, hydrocarbons, food dyes, food preservatives, MSG, Glyphosate, heavy metals (mercury, aluminum, lead, cadmium, arsenic), and the list goes on and on…
There are many factors that can cause havoc in any of these five areas of the body, from toxins to infections to an imbalanced immune system or nutrient deficiency. Since problems with any of these body parts can lead to fibromyalgia, and usually it is more than one area causing the problem, effective treatment addresses several areas equally.
First, it is imperative that the brain and spine are both addressed to make sure that the nervous system is communicating properly. If the body can be imagined as a computer, then the brain is the hard drive: even if there are problems throughout the computer, it doesn’t make sense to start by troubleshooting the software or adjusting the mouse pad if there’s something wrong with the hard drive. There is a variety of ways to treat the brain and the nervous system, most of which fall under the umbrella of brain-based therapy. Brain-based therapy includes neurological exercises, brain exercises, spinal adjustments, and electrical stimulation.
As far as treating the other problem areas that lead to fibromyalgia, there are several metabolic treatments that can reduce pain, inflammation and address the issues associated with the GI tract, brain, thyroid, adrenals, and liver. Some of these treatments include: detoxification, heavy metal chelation, enzyme therapy, and hormonal therapy. In addition, one of the best ways to prepare the body to heal is through dietary methods; in my practice, when I treat patients with fibromyalgia I counsel them on avoiding food sensitivities and addressing nutrient deficiencies (typically prescribing vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin D, probiotics, and fish oils). Dietary adjustments such as these provide support to the glands including the thyroid, liver, and adrenals, helping restore balance to the body and treat the underlying cause of fibromyalgia. At the same time, metabolic treatment boosts the immune system to resist foreign invaders like parasites, fungi, viruses, and bacteria which adds to the inflammation and pain that is associated with fibromyalgia.
In short, fibromyalgia can be caused by one of many different problems in the body; it’s no surprise that treatment needs to vary based on the source of the illness. This article is a brief overview of the main causes of fibromyalgia that I have routinely found through my years of practice. I hope this article has given you more insight in finding the underlying causes of this horrible condition. Just remember, instead of using prescription drugs to only treat the symptoms, consider studying where your fibromyalgia comes from so you can cure your pain at its origin.
Dr. Tony Salamay is a practicing chiropractor in Panama City, FL , who has dedicated his studies and focus in the field of functional neurology and clinical nutrition to treat complex chronic conditions. Some of the most common conditions that he sees in his clinic are: fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, spinal injuries, diabetes, headaches, IBS, autoimmune disorders and many others.
He is the author of the soon to be released book ” How to End Your Chronic Pain and Start Living Again!” A non-drug treatment for chronic pain and metabolic disorders.
More information can be found at his site: www.thebaydoctor.com
- The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, September 2013, Vol. 113, 680-689. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2013.034
- Zakim,, David; Boyer,, Thomas D. (2002). Hepatology: A Textbook of Liver Disease (4th ed.). ISBN9780721690513.
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