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Fibromyalgia – What You Need to Know (Part 1 of 3)

by Loretta Lanphier, NP, CN, HHP, CH

(The Best Years in Life) Imagine waking up every morning feeling worn out, achy, and depressed. The fatigue never seems to go away, and anxiety is a constant companion because you just don’t understand what is wrong with you. You’re scared and confused. If it’s this bad now, what will tomorrow bring? This is the experience many people describe who now know that the mysterious symptoms they were suffering from have a name: Fibromyalgia (FM). Once you can put a name to it and begin to understand it, there is hope of managing it and getting your life back.

What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia literally means “pain of the tissues and muscles.” It is also known as fibrositis and fibromyositis. It is characterized by inflammation, fatigue and pain primarily in the connective tissues of the body, such as the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The pain is usually consistent, but it moves around the body. It is a relatively newly discovered disease, in fact a formal diagnosis for fibromyalgia didn’t exist until 1990, and estimates vary as to how prevalent it is. Some say that 3 to 6 million Americans have fibromyalgia while others put it as high as 10 million and it afflicts about 5 million people a year in the United States. It is mostly found in adults, and is much more common in women than in men, especially women of child bearing age. Women suffer from FM more than men at a ratio of 7:1. Unfortunately, fibromyalgia is a diagnosis that many doctors miss altogether or patients are dismissed as hypochondriacs.

Fibromyalgia is considered to be in the family of rheumatoid diseases, a relative of arthritis. In 1990, the first standards of diagnosis were established for fibromyalgia by the American College of Rheumatology. To be definitively diagnosed, a subject must have widespread pain and tenderness in at least 11 of 18 identified tender points or trigger points, usually found in pairs. These points include the base of the neck, the spine, hips, pelvis, elbows, knees, and shoulders. For the diagnosis to hold true, the pain must be experienced for at least 90 consecutive days.

What Are the Symptoms of Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia has been described as an “energy crisis in the body.” It has a number of common symptoms:

  • Widespread pain that moves around

  • The “Wind Up”: snowballing pain that comes from repetitive, minor physical contact

  • Significant fatigue

  • Difficulty getting enough quality sleep

  • Depression and anxiety

  • Numbness or tingling in the extremities

  • Poor memory

  • Over-sensitivity to heat or cold

  • Tension headaches

  • Abdominal pain

  • Painful menstrual cycles

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Diarrhea

  • Irritable bowel syndrome

  • Symptoms tend to worsen with increased physical or mental stress, lack of sleep, hormonal changes, and even changes in the weather


What Causes Fibromyalgia?

The exact cause is not known. There seems to be a connection between family history of the illness and risk, thus heredity is considered a possible factor. People who have another rheumatic disease such as arthritis are at increased risk as well. Low serotonin levels and low magnesium levels in the body are also a clue. Fibromyalgia patients often indicate both of these deficiencies.

One trend that interests researchers is that many patients seem to experience the onset of the disease after a physical or emotional trauma in their lives, such as an injury, or a traumatic event like an automobile accident or a physical assault. These kinds of stress are thought to trigger the onset of fibromyalgia in some cases. Other contributing factors may be some kinds of infections (such as a bad bout with the flu) or changes in brain chemistry.

Some evidence suggests a role of hormone imbalance since fibromyalgia predominantly affects middle aged women; a population whose hormones have begun to decline or fall out of youthful balance (Lawrence 2008; Terhorst 2011). Fluctuating hormone levels caused by endocrine dysfunction commonly produce symptoms that are similar to those of fibromyalgia (muscle pain/tenderness, exhaustion, and reduced exercise capacity) (Geenen 2002). I highly suggest saliva testing for sex hormones and adrenal hormone to check for hormone imbalances. Also, according to Dr. John Lowe, thyroid hormone is the missing ingredient in the treatment of fibromyalgia that is almost universally overlooked. Conventional testing for thyroid issues can prove useless to many that actually need thyroid hormone. For tests and lab work to ask your doctor for see Hypothyroidism Symptoms and Solutions.

The relationship between obesity and chronic pain has been common knowledge for many years but more recent research suggests that this association is particularly true for those with fibromyalgia. In 2010, a study of 215 fibromyalgia patients suggested that nearly 80% of participants were either overweight or obese. These same patients exhibited greater tender point sensitivity, reduced physical strength, reduced lower-body flexibility, shorter sleep duration, and greater restlessness during sleep (Okifuji 2010). A 2011 review article concluded that fibromyalgia patients are 40% more likely to be obese and 30% more likely to be overweight (Ursini 2011).

The frequency of depression and anxiety in fibromyalgia patients has caused some health professionals and loved ones to suspect that the illness was primarily psychological and not a “real” condition. This has generally been dismissed in the last decade or so as more information has been gleaned about fibromyalgia. However, the ambiguity of this illness still haunts some of its own victims and causes them to doubt if it is not all “in my head.” Some patients report that their anxiety is exacerbated by their own guilt about not being able to do what they used to do. But as more hard evidence on fibromyalgia comes out, the legitimacy of the disease becomes more and more confirmed both in the eyes of its sufferers and of the general public.

One more consideration. Lyme disease is the number one vector borne spreading epidemic worldwide, and mimics common diseases such as Fibromyalgia (FM), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (myalgic encephalomyelitis), autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and MS, as well as psychiatric conditions such as depression and anxiety. In 2013 the CDC released new statistics showing that ten times more individuals have been affected with Lyme than previously suspected. Since the blood tests for diagnosing Lyme disease have been shown to be unreliable, we would expect that a certain percentage of those diagnosed with FM are in fact suffering from Lyme disease. Talk with your healthcare provider about the possibility of Lyme disease.

Be sure to stay tuned for:

Part 2 - "Treatments Available for Fibromyalgia"

Part 3 - "More Natural Health Suggestions for Firomyalgia"

See also:

Use Natural Help for Fibromyalgia

Addressing Fibromyalgia Without Mainstream Medicines

Hormone Imbalance - Check Your Liver

This article was originally published at

About the Author:

Loretta Lanphier, NP, CN, CH, HHP is a Naturopathic Practitioner, Clinical Nutritionist, Clinical Herbalist and Holistic Health Practitioner as well as Founder/CEO of Oasis Advanced Wellness. As a stage III cancer survivor since 2000, she understands the necessity of providing the body with what it needs to repair and heal. Loretta is dedicated to helping people create lasting changes in their health and well-being through whole body nutritional balancing, physician strength supplementation and up-to-date natural health education and modalities. Loretta is Editor and contributor to the worldwide e-newsletter Advanced Health & Wellness and her new health and wellness blog Exhibit Health.  She is also a co-moderator of our Yahoo Health Group focused on cancer, Oleandersoup.

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