Author: Naturopath Bree Ponton, published 19th February 2016
Fibromyalgia syndrome (also referred to as ‘FMS’ or ‘FM’) is a complex condition which is characterised by chronic, widespread and unexplained pain in muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints, in addition to 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, such as morning stiffness, difficulty sleeping, tingling or numbness in hands and feet, difficulty thinking, depressed mood and headaches (2). Diagnosis of FMS is extremely difficult, as none of these signs and symptoms appear with diagnostic analysis, such as blood tests, diagnostic scans and x-rays, and is therefore reliant on thorough physical assessment and patient history alone (1).
FIBROMYALGIA SYNDROME & HYPOTHYROIDISM
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 plausible 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).
FIBROMYALGIA & CRP
Although diagnostic analysis of FMS is extremely difficult, one blood marker which has been shown to be consistently raised in these 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).
NATUROPATHIC MANAGEMENT OF FIBROMYALGIA
Several of the symptoms of FMS can be managed by drinking 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 (6). Read more about herbal tea’s 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). Other types of salt and electrolytes used internally for hydration may help, Dr David Brownstein has a whole book dedicated to salt!
REGULAR SLOW EXERCISE
Gentle exercise may be beneficial in alleviating muscle soreness by helping to increase range of motion and blood circulation. Stretching and low-impact exercises (e.g. gentle swimming in a heated pool, yoga and walking) are recommended (1).
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). We recommend Zazen water filters, read more about water filters and thyroid health here.
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 tighter muscles and cramping, cholesterol and heart health.
Supplementation with fish oil in sufferers of FMS has demonstrated significant improvements in pain severity, depression and fatigue (9). It is a natural anti-inflammatory, but the triglycerides in fish oil are an important factor in building myelin, a sheath coating our nerve ending that helps them to conduct smoothly and in conjunction with Folate and B12 may reduce pain.
Physiotherapy, ultrasound, heat creams, massage, myofascial release, and the application of heat and/or cold packs have also been shown to be useful in alleviating symptoms of FMS (1).
Evidence clearly suggests that individuals affected by FMS no longer have to suffer or take prescribed medications such as anti-depressants 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 also offer a complete relief altogether!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Bachelor of Health Science (Naturopathy)
Throughout her life, Bree became progressively more interested in health. More importantly, however, her opinion of the definition of true health has changed.
After beginning a career in personal training, Bree quickly grew tired of the predominantly superficial nature of the industry. Her understanding of the value and significance of having a balance within all aspects of health and hormones developed rapidly, and she began studying Naturopathy. During the years at university Bree experienced a dramatic journey, growing and changing into an health professional with a passion for her career in the health industry and Endocrinology.
REFERENCES & FURTHER READING
- Arthritis Foundation SA Inc. 2016, Fibromyalgia Syndrome. Available from: http://sacfs.asn.au/download/fm_overview.pdf . [12 February 2016].
- 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].
- 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].
- 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].
- 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.
- Life Extension 2016, Fibromyalgia: Targeted Nutritional Therapies. Available from: http://www.lifeextension.com/protocols/immune-connective-joint/fibromyalgia/page-07 . [12 February 2016].
- MDJunction 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].