By Joseph Mercola
When I started my medical practice over two decades ago, fibromyalgia was so commonly missed that by the time the average person was finally diagnosed, they’d been seeing various physicians for nine or ten years. Today, the pendulum seems to have swung the other way, and it’s likely that a lot of people are being misdiagnosed with this condition. It has unfortunately become a convenient catch-all for a variety of complaints.
It’s estimated that 2 to 4 percent of the U.S. population has fibromyalgia, and nine out of 10 are women.
Unfortunately, there is still no specific diagnostic test that is conventionally appreciated to diagnose someone with this condition. Rather you will have to meet certain clinical criteria — the most common one being hypersensitivity to pain.
Signs and Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
One of the most important criteria to determine whether or not you may have fibromyalgia is significant pain in very specific areas of your body, including:
- Inside of your elbows
- Your collar bones
- Inside of your knees
- Your hips
Usually these locations are symmetrical, so you’ll have pain equally present on both sides of your body. Experiencing significant pain when someone presses on those areas, on both sides, is indicative of fibromyalgia.
People also frequently report pain all over their bodies — including in their muscles, ligaments and tendons — along with a feeling of exhaustion, as well as a variety of other nebulous conditions, such as:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Ringing of the ears (tinnitus)
Another major part of the diagnostic criteria for this condition is some type of significant sleep disturbance.
In fact, part of an effective treatment program is to make sure you’re sleeping better.
The typical treatment strategy you’ll be offered, if seen by a conventional physician, is some form of pain medication, and perhaps psychotropic drugs like antidepressants. I don’t recommend either of them because they do not address the cause of your problem in any way shape or form.
Additionally, many fibromyalgia sufferers do not respond to conventional painkillers, which can set in motion a vicious circle of overmedicating on these dangerous drugs.
Effective Drug-Free Treatment Strategies for Fibromyalgia
Get Proper Sleep — Sleeping well should be first on your list of essential treatment strategies. It’s important to realize that even if you lead a very healthy lifestyle – which includes getting appropriate sun exposure to optimize your vitamin D levels, eating organic, locally grown food, exercising and having low amounts of emotional stress – if you’re not sleeping properly you will definitely experience negative health consequences, despite all your other efforts.
Implement a regular exercise regimen — One of the most important strategies to help you sleep better is regular exercise.
Unfortunately, people suffering from fibromyalgia pain tend to shy away from exercise, and understandably so. But research shows that a combination of aerobic activity and strength training can actually improve fibromyalgia symptoms.
In one study by Harvard researchers, after exercising for 20 weeks, women with fibromyalgia reported improved muscle strength and endurance, and lessening of their symptoms including pain, stiffness, fatigue and depression.
Now, it’s important to remember that tolerance is a key point if you suffer from fibromyalgia. You don’t want to do exercises that will worsen your condition.
If you perform an exercise that aggravates your pain within a few hours or the next day, it’s a good gauge that you’ve done too much and need to back off, or switch to something else. You’ll need to slowly but surely progress into a program that will make you better.
Ideally, you’ll want to get up to an hour per day, varying your exercise routine so that you’re not doing the same exercises each day.
You’ll want to strive for a combination of aerobic, anaerobic, burst-sprint type exercises and strength training, preferably supervised by an exercise professional. But again, always take into account your own tolerance to each exercise.
Optimize your vitamin D levels — Interestingly, some of the new research in vitamin D shows it is very effective for muscle pain, so I strongly encourage you, not just for fibromyalgia but for numerous other reasons as well, to make sure you have your vitamin D levels tested.
And, if you are deficient, follow my recommendations on how to optimize your levels, as this could make a significant difference in your overall health. For more information, I recommend you watch my free one-hour lecture on vitamin D.
Eat right – “Eating right” includes avoiding processed foods, and concentrating on fresh, whole foods. Ideally foods that are both organic and locally-grown. You’ll also want to eat foods that are appropriate for your nutritional type because we all have an ideal mixture of proteins, fats and carbohydrates that we were designed to eat based on biochemistry and genetics, and this varies from person to person.
There are, however, several food items that can aggravate fibromyalgia symptoms and should be avoided as much as possible, including:
Address your emotional challenges – In my experience, nearly all fibromyalgia sufferers have some form of underlying emotional challenge that contributes to their condition.
There are many ways to address your emotional issues, including meditation and prayer. In my practice, we like to use the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) as it is a very powerful, effective, and rapidly useful method to resolve emotional blocks on an energetic level.
For a look at the sometimes spectacular results EFT has with Fibromyalgia read this article from the EFT Web site – “Fibromyalgia Patient—“I forgot what pain is all about.”
Natural Alternatives to Relieve Pain
Additionally, as you work to normalize your emotional traumas the following therapies can further help to reduce pain and get you back on track to optimal health, without resorting to potentially dangerous drugs:
• Chiropractic Care — Especially the disciplines in chiropractic that address the emotional components, like TBM, NET and BEST. Dr. Kent provides some excellent recommendations on how to locate a good chiropractor if you don’t currently know of one.
• Acupuncture — Western studies have shown that the use of acupuncture on pain-relief points cuts the blood flow to key areas of your brain within seconds, which may explain how this ancient technique might help relieve pain. It’s also been suggested that acupuncture may help support the activity of your body’s natural pain-killing chemicals, and studies have found it to provide relief from fibromyalgia pain for up to 16 weeks.
If you start applying these techniques you likely will not need to rely on conventional drug therapy to help relieve some of the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia.
This article was republished with permission from articles.mercola.com