Fibromyalgia syndrome (also referred to as ‘FMS’ or ‘FM’) is a complex condition which is characterised by chronic, widespread and unexplained pain in the muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints, alongside fatigue.
Individuals affected by FMS often describe the pain as throbbing, aching or burning, and unpredictable in nature. The severity differs from person to person and from day to day, and different areas of the body are often affected at various times (1).
Additional symptoms often accompany FMS, and these include things like stiffness in the morning, difficulty sleeping, tingling or numbness in hands and feet, difficulty thinking, a depressed mood and headaches (2).
Diagnosis of FMS is extremely difficult as none of these signs and symptoms appear with diagnostic analysis. Blood tests, diagnostic scans and x-rays will not reveal any abnormalities, and so FMS diagnosis is reliant on a thorough physical assessment and patient history alone (1).
Over the years it has been discovered that there is a strong link between FMS and hypothyroidism. Up to 15% of hypothyroid patients go on to develop FMS, which has led to further research in this area. The clinical representation of both FMS and hypothyroidism are almost identical, and whilst hypothyroidism is known to be mediated by inadequate thyroid hormone regulation of cell function, this theory is also a plausible explanation for fibromyalgia (3).
Evidently, in spite of the fact that to date there is no curative treatment for FMS (1), research suggests that management of hypothyroidism with thyroid hormone could also prove to be curative for FMS (4). This finding could be a huge step forward in the treatment of FMS patients and offer hope to thousands of sufferers.
Although diagnostic analysis of FMS is extremely difficult, one blood marker which has been shown to be consistently raised in FMS patients is the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP). This finding indicates that inflammation may be a significant contributor to the symptoms of FMS, and thus therapies directed towards reducing inflammation may be highly beneficial for its management (5).
Several of the symptoms of FMS may be managed with herbal teas.
For example, chamomile is brilliant for aiding sleep, reducing anxiety and alleviating menstrual cramps. Golden seal and ginger possess anti-inflammatory benefits, licorice helps to support adrenal function and digestion, and cayenne can be used to alleviate headaches and muscle pain.
Additional herbs which can be useful for various symptoms of FMS include Echinacea, ginseng, kava, lavender, pine bark, milk thistle, lavender, passionflower and St. John’s wort. For more helpful herbal teas, click here.
Magnesium & Bathing in Epsom Salts
There is evidence to suggest that magnesium deficiency plays a role in the development of FMS. Magnesium performs multiple functions throughout the body, one of which is inhibition or regulation of nerve receptors. Therefore, supplementation with magnesium and/or soaking in a bath filled with Epsom salts (which is magnesium sulfate), may aid muscle relaxation (7). Some other great bath relaxants can be found here.
Studies have shown that the vitamin D levels of patients with fibromyalgia are significantly lower than that of control groups. This suggests that FMS patients have a higher need and sunshine exposure alone may not meet their needs – boost that Vit D!
CoQ10 possesses potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties (9). Oxygen is highly alkaline, maintaining optimal CoQ10 during aging is difficult as our production naturally declines the older we get! CoQ10 is also beneficial for relieving overly-tight muscles and cramping, cholesterol and heart health.
A careful regime of fish oil supplementation has demonstrated significant improvements in pain severity, depression and fatigue in FMS patients (9). Fish oil is a natural anti-inflammatory, and the triglycerides in fish oil are an important factor in building myelin, a sheath coating our nerve ending that helps them to conduct smoothly which, in conjunction with Folate and B12, can assist in reducing pain.
Regular, Slow Exercise
Gentle exercise may be beneficial in alleviating muscle soreness by helping to increase your range of motion and blood circulation. Stretching and low-impact exercises (e.g. gentle swimming in a heated pool, yoga and walking) are strongly recommended for FMS patients (1).
Physiotherapy, ultrasound, heat creams, massage, myofascial release, and the application of hot and/or cold packs have also been shown to be useful in alleviating symptoms of FMS (1). Under careful direction of a trained professional, regular physical therapy can hugely improve FMS symptoms.
Drinking plenty of water can help to alleviate symptoms of FMS in a number of ways. Insufficient hydration can contribute to fatigue and headaches, and both immune and digestive function are largely reliant on adequate hydration levels (8).
Evidence clearly demonstrates that individuals affected by FMS may no longer have to suffer or take prescribed medications such as antidepressants to manage their symptoms! The integration of thyroid hormone management and introduction of natural therapies has been proven to provide significant relief of FMS symptoms, and may even offer a complete relief altogether!
To talk through natural therapy options, please organise a complimentary Practitioner Phone Assessment here.
1. Arthritis Foundation SA Inc. 2016, Fibromyalgia Syndrome. Available from: http://sacfs.asn.au/download/fm_overview.pdf . [12 February 2016].
2. National Institutes of Health 2014, What Is Fibromyalgia? Fast Facts: An Easy-to-Read Series of Publications for the Public. Available from: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Fibromyalgia/fibromyalgia_ff.pdf . [12 February 2016].
3. Fibromyalgia Support N. Ireland 2016, Fibromyalgia and Thyroid Disease. Available from: http://www.fmsni.org.uk/index.php/73-information/other-conditions/154-fibromyalgia-thyroid-disease . [12 February 2016].
4. Mercola, J 2016, The Simple Fibromyalgia Treatment that’s Nearly Always Overlooked…. Available from: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/02/26/dr-john-lowe-on-thyroid-disease-part-1.aspx . [12 February 2016].
5. Xiao, Y et al 2013, ‘Elevated serum high-sensitivity C-reactive protein levels in fibromyalgia syndrome patients correlate with body mass index, interleukin-6, interleukin-8, erythrocyte sedimentation rate’, Rheumatology International, vol. 33 no. 5, pp. 1259-1264.
6. Life Extension 2016, Fibromyalgia: Targeted Nutritional Therapies. Available from: http://www.lifeextension.com/protocols/immune-connective-joint/fibromyalgia/page-07 . [12 February 2016].
7. Junction 2016, The Link Between Fibromyalgia and Drinking Water. Available from: http://www.mdjunction.com/forums/fibro-and-chronic-fatigue-discussions/medicine-treatments/10819277-the-link-between-fibromyalgia-and-drinking-water . [12 February 2016].