This painful, debilitating condition affects a growing amount of women, yet the jury’s still out on its cause and treatment
Fibromyalgia is a common disorder. It’s estimated that one in 20 people might be affected – and it’s mostly women who suffer. Females aged between 20 and 50 are the most commonly diagnosed. But what exactly it is, experts disagree…
There are many widespread, unpleasant yet vague symptoms which plague people with this condition, making it a somewhat tricky diagnosis as it mimicks many other conditions.
In the American College of Rheumatology guidelines for diagnosing fibromyalgia, one of the criteria is widespread pain throughout your body for at least three months. And by widespread, they mean it must be present on both sides of your body, as well as above and below your waist.
The condition makes suffers very sensitive to pain all over – some people wince at even the lightest touch. And pain from banging an arm, for example, might last a lot longer than you’d expect.
Very often, this is accompanied by fatigue, sometimes so extreme that people can be ‘wiped out’ for days. Then there are headaches, difficulty sleeping, anxiety and depression. There is no single way to diagnose fibromyalgia, such as a blood test, so doctors must rely on matching certain criteria.
What can be done?
Just as there’s no definite test to diagnose the condition, there is no known definite cause. Many experts think food sensitivities could be to blame – in one study, 42 percent of fibromyalgia sufferers said they noticed their symptoms worsening after eating certain foods. Working with a nutritionist to conduct a proper elimination diet to pinpoint key foods can help you identify whether there are triggers in your diet is worthwhile. This can be tricky on your own as often flare-ups from trigger foods can be delayed by several hours or even days from when the culprit item was eaten; that’s why working with a professional is your best bet.
Other possible causes include chemical allergies, hormonal problems, viruses, candida overgrowth, stress or spinal misalignments, plus overgrowth of the candida yeast within the body.
Holistic practitioners often target the condition nutritionally and recommend supplements such as vitamin D, which has been shown in studies to help reduce the amount of pain killers people have to take. Fibromyalgia has also been linked to mineral deficiencies, and magnesium is often recommended for sufferers, not least because it helps relax the nerves and muscles. Also, omega 3 can be beneficial due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Cutting right back on (or if possible eliminating) caffeine can help improve sleep, which is something sufferers often struggle with. Some experts suggest that it may actually be the lack of deep sleep that is one of the causes of fibromyalgia, rather than sleeplessness being a symptom.
Studies have demonstrated yoga’s ability to ease symptoms – in one, published in the Journal of Pain Research, women who took a 75-minute yoga class twice a week for eight weeks reported less fibromyalgia pain at the end of the study. Interestingly, some experts think meditation can alter the way your brain processes pain signals. A recent study by The University of Derby assessed the effectiveness of compassion meditation for treating fibromyalgia. Researchers found that after the course, participants showed marked improvements in their symptoms: 36 percent for general fibromyalgia symptoms, 45 percent anxiety improvement and a 54 percent improvement in depression.
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