Fibromyalgia: all you need to know

Fibromyalgia - comic

Fibromyalgia has been denied as an imaginary disease for a long time. Described for the first time in 1977, it has been recognized as a non-specific disease by the WHO in 1992, and then finally as a musculoskeletal and Connective Tissue Disease in 2006. It represents today around 2% of the adult USA population (2.2% of the whole population for France), which is about 4 million people!

80 to 90% of cases are women, usually at a middle-age, but men and children can also be diagnosed.

Fibromyalgie 5% - comic
Fibromyalgia may concern 1 woman out of 20

Different stages of the disease exist. Especially, it can become very disabling. Some people cannot go to work, take care of their children, or even do some simple housework.

The symptoms

The main symptom is a set of diffuse pains in many parts of the body that last for more than 3 months. These pains are felt in the muscles and tendons, and even in the bones.

Fibromyalgia is pain in the muscles, tendons and muscles - comic

These pains usually come along with a great fatigue (physical and psychological) and sleep disorders. In particular, sleep may not be restorative.

Fibromyalgia andnon-restorative sleep - comic

A number of secondary symptoms have been observed:

  • Morning stiffness
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Anxiety
  • Attention disorders
  • Paresthesia (a disorder of the touch sense, regrouping several symptoms, which is known to be unpleasant but not painful: tingling, numbness, etc.)
  • Restless Legs Syndrome
  • Headaches
  • Dysmenorrhea – pain that precedes, accompanies or follows menstruation
  • Tinnitus

This list is of course not exhaustive. It is also quite likely that a depression appears because of permanent pains, or as an expression of a lack of recognition of the disease (bad diagnostic). When you think about it, it’s completely crazy:

Fibromyalgia hurts - comic
1. A patient complains about overwhelming pain
Doctor denies fibromyalgia - comic
2. His doctor tell him/her that everything is in his/her head, and diagnoses a depression or other psychological troubles
Patient still suffering fibromyalgia - comic
3. The bad diagnostic leads the patient to feeling lost and depressed (and still suffering)
Fibromyalgic depression - comic
4. From depressed, the patient can fall into actual depression. This is a diagnostic that did self-fertilize! Well done doctor…

Without any generalities (or maybe), some doctors sometimes lack humility and believe that they know everything, and forget to just listen to the suffering of their patients. But I keep having faith, because I think it tends to improve with time.

The causes

We do not really know the cause. In particular, it is thought that this disease, depending on the cases, could be triggered by different events.

The main tracks are:

  • An infectious origin: a previous illness could have triggered Fibromyalgia, such as Lyme disease.
  • A genetic origin: nothing has be proved so far, but having ancestors with the disease appears to be a risk factor.
  • A traumatic origin: the disease could have a post-traumatic origin, both physical and psychological.

Many other hypotheses are also considered: heavy metal poisoning, alterations of the endocrine or hormonal system (endocrine disruptors), anomaly of the immune system, muscular abnormality, etc.

Eventually, it is necessary to search the origin for every single patient! We can therefore assume that the treatment will depend on it.

The theses about the disruption

A first theory suggests that the brain decreases the pain threshold, so much that the slightest event becomes painful. This could be due to a dysregulation of the brain chemicals.

In contrast, a second theory suspects the nerves and body receptors of becoming hyper sensitive to stimulation.

Fibromyalgia thesis - comic

Research keeps searching…

The diagnostic

A bit like for the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), you must first eliminate all other possibilities of chronic pain (by serology) before diagnosing Fibromyalgia. The diagnosis remains subjective, based on what the patient says (and therefore also on the goodwill of the doctor…).

There was an old method of checking that there was at least 11 points of pain that were consistent with 18 predefined points. This method is now obsolete.

The treatment

When nobody knows the cause of a disease, it is very difficult to treat it. There is therefore no effective official treatment. The vast majority of the solutions are palliative, but some manage to cure from Fibromyalgia.

Solutions from the laboratory: anti-pain, anti-depressants, etc. Although often prescribed, it generally does not improve, or just a little, the condition of the patient.

Vitamin D and magnesium supplements are usually said to be helpful.

Acupuncture could (although not proven) help regulate blood flow and neurotransmitters.

Massage therapy is also recommended. These are some precise manipulation techniques that relax the body, decreasing stress and anxiety. This would even improve mobility and allow the secretion of natural painkillers.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is one of the possible solutions: it is an oxygened and high pressure box that enables to oxygenate the body.

Deep Continuous Pressure Therapy involves applying an increasing pressure to specific points in the body.

The following points are also recommended, but I think they improve the quality of life in all cases (Fibromyalgia or other diseases or even when healthy).

  • Exercise
  • Healthy balanced diet (preferring vegetables to meat, avoiding sugar, etc.)
  • Meditation
  • Yoga, Tai-chi
  • Relaxation therapy

Fibromyalgia And meditation - comic

Individual therapies exist, but group therapies are cheaper and make it easy to get in touch with other people sharing the same issues. So you it’s a win at both levels.

The key: finding the source of the problem

Like we’ve seen, Fibromyalgia may have been caused by various events. It is fundamental to search for its origin. What happened during the 3 months before the first symptoms?

  • A disease?
  • Vaccines?
  • An accident?
  • Hyperactivity along with a lot of stress?
  • An emotional shock?
  • Anesthesia? Surgery?

Then we logically have to address the root cause of this problem.

If Fibromyalgia appears after multiple vaccines, we may try to detoxify the body.

If it is after an emotional shock, we will consider a psychotherapy.

Stress and hyperactive life are often the cause of the problem. The disease steps in to say “stop!”. The body can no longer follow. A radical change in lifestyle must then be considered.

Fibromyalgic leaving city - comic

Sometimes, it can be just an unbalanced jaw problem that radiates throughout the body. All the possibilities must be considered.

The misunderstanding of the disease remains one of the biggest issues

Despite the fact that the disease is beginning to be widely recognized, a great majority of the patients are still facing the incomprehension of their entourage. Because of the subjectivity of the diagnosis, their family, friends, and sometimes even their doctor(s) think that they are lazy and that there is nothing physically wrong. They claim that the patient might have made everything up in its head. In addition to suffering physically and psychologically, they also find themselves rejected and despised. There’s no wonder some people end up with suicidal thoughts…

Fibromyalgic depressed - comic

Fibromyalgie: the sum up

Unlike CFS, Fibromyalgia is more than a symptom: it is recognized as a disease (although little is known yet). It is even possible to have it recognized as a disability (with a lot of efforts, but it is a great improvement).

Although some manage to heal from it, the vast majority of patients have to deal with the disease for the rest of their lives.

Just like CFS, I think we need to do our own research, and see what works for yourself. In particular, searching for the origin of the problem is a key point to healing.

It is often thought that this disease raises as a signal from the body to say stop. A radical change in life often leads to great improvements, and sometimes even complete remission.

Among the good news, many groups and associations exist. They and are a good way to get actual help, as well as contacts.

happy people - comic

Do you have any additional information to share about Fibromyalgia? You can use the comments below so that everyone can benefit from it!

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