Once written off as a hypochondriac's creation, fibromyalgia is getting serious attention from the medical community, inspired by the millions of people who've called on their doctors for answers.
According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, an estimated five million Americans ages 18 and older are living with fibromyalgia. Many more may be living with it without a diagnosis, bringing the estimate to 10 million by some organizations, like the National Fibromyalgia Association.
What Is Fibromyalgia?
According to the Mayo Clinic, fibromyalgia is a disorder in which the patient experiences widespread musculoskeletal pain. Researchers suggest fibromyalgia causes changes in the the way the brain processes a signal of pain, intensifying the feeling. This pain can be in the muscles, bones or joints/connective tissues and is accompanied by symptoms such as poor sleep, headache, fatigue, mood swings and poor memory or "brain fog." The pain is typically a constant ache that worsens when pressure is applied to a "tender point," such as the outer elbows, sides of hips or the back of the head. A fibromyalgia flare up can last months, keeping the individual in bed, unable to perform everyday tasks.
Women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia and it can run in a family. While an exact cause for fibromyalgia has yet to be identified, stress or trauma may trigger it. In other cases, the condition develops and intensifies over time. Fibromyalgia can also be a symptom of other conditions or be accompanied by digestive or mental issues.
Naturopathic and Holistic Treatments for Fibromyalgia
Medications commonly prescribed for this condition include anti-seizure medications, antidepressants and painkillers. Research continues to find the most effective treatment for this widespread pain and alternative therapies are also available. These include:
Malic Acid -- This type of alpha hydroxy acid is normally found within fruits, such as apples, grapes or cranberries. Malic acid helps increase ATP production for improved energy and to help you fight fatigue. It can also help relieve muscle soreness associated with fibromyalgia.
Acupuncture, Chiropractic and Movement Therapies -- These therapies can help reset the body, to bring balance. Benefits include release of muscle spasms, realignment and improved circulation.
Acetyl L-Carnitine -- An amino acid, this supplement has been shown to reduce tender points and improve overall pain and mental health. A 2007 study conducted at the University of Verona and published in the medical journal Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology showed a group given two 500 mg-capsules of acetyl L-carnitine daily saw more improvement over 10 weeks than a placebo group.
Melatonin -- If you're having trouble sleeping, melatonin can help calm the body and help your brain recognize it's time for rest. However, melatonin is a hormone and not intended for long-term use. It can be taken for up to two weeks to reset the sleep cycle. It can also be found in tart cherry juice at a level that is safe to consume on a daily bass. Drink a glass 30 minutes to one hour before bed.
It may take a combination of these therapies to help you find relief from your symptoms. Working with your primary physician or internist as well as a rheumatologist can help you determine the best course of treatment for your fibromyalgia.
Lifestyle Tips for Managing Fibromyalgia
Making some lifestyle changes can help you manage your fibromyalgia better and hopefully reduce flare ups. Here are some things to remember:
Exercise -- Movement can be incredibly effective in treating fibromyalgia. Low-impact exercise, like yoga or walking, can combat pain without causing injury.
Relax -- Be sure to reduce stress in your life in any way you can and pay attention to how you feel, stepping back and taking a break if you feel like you're getting worked up.
Sleep -- Getting enough rest is crucial for this disorder. Aim for the recommended seven to nine hours per night and make your room an ideal environment for sleeping by keeping the temperature around 70 degrees Fahrenheit and blocking out all light and sound.
Diet -- Monitor your diet. While no specific foods have been found to be triggers or treatments for fibromyalgia, it's important to eat a diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, good fats and whole grains.
While there isn't yet a cure for this disorder, the broader acknowledgement of fibromyalgia is leading to more research and treatments. Shop for the supplements above at eVitamins and check back for the latest health news.
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