Complexity: Fibromyalgia Syndrome

By Michael Fuhrman, DC

Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) is a common and complex chronic pain disorder that affects people physically, mentally, and socially. FMS is a syndrome. Unlike a disease, which is a medical condition with a pecific cause or causes and recognizable signs and symptoms, a syndrome is a collection of signs, symptoms, and medical problems that tend to occur together but are not related to a specific, identifiable cause.

FMS is characterized by chronic widespread pain, multiple tender points, abnormal pain processing, sleep disturbances, fatigue and often psychological distress. For those with severe symptoms, FMS can be extremely debilitating and interfere with basic daily activities.

Recent statistics suggest that fibromyalgia affects five million adults (or two percent of the U.S. population), and affects women more so than men. Causes and risk factors for FMS are unknown, but some things have been loosely associated with disease onset. Stressful or traumatic events, such as car accidents, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), repetitive injuries, illness (e.g. viral infections), and certain diseases (i.e., lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and chronic fatigue syndrome) have all been associated with FMS. Additionally, persons with this syndrome have a high incidence of headaches, ocular and vestibular complaints, paresthesias (tingling, pricking, or numbness of the skin), allergic symptoms, irritable bowel, irritable bladder, cold sensitivity, exercise intolerance, anxiety, depression, bruxism (teeth grinding), and dysmenorrhea (painful cramps during menstruation). Many of these symptoms are suggestive of increased sympathetic nervous system activity.

New research demonstrates a number of objective biochemical, hormonal, and neurotransmitter abnormalities associated with fibromyalgia, making it a clearly identifiable condition. A definitive diagnosis of FMS should only be made when no other medical disease can explain the symptoms; however, many patients diagnosed with FMS have never had even a simple blood test taken to rule out anemia or hypothyroidism, which are two common conditions that result in symptoms of fatigue and muscle aches, respectively. Also, after further laboratory testing, some patients labeled with FMS are found to actually have rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, Lyme disease, lymphoma and other occult carcinomas in the early stages, as well as many other diseases.

Indeed, patients with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and temporomandibular disorder share many clinical illness features such as myalgia, fatigue, and sleep disturbances. A growing body of literature suggests that a variety of unrelated illnesses also may commonly coexist in these patients, including irritable bowel syndrome, chronic tension-type headache, and interstitial cystitis.

Currently, conventional treatments include medications such as analgesics like acetaminophen (Tylenol), nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen, antidepressants, which can include Prozac and Cymbalta, and antiseizure drugs such as Neurontin. Fortunately, there are a myriad of minimally invasive alternative and nutritional therapies that can be used to mitigate and improve the condition of those suffering with FMS.

As fatigue is one of the hallmark symptoms of FMS, improving the body's ability to produce ATP is crucial. ATP is manufactured in the mitochondria of your cells. Think of your body as an engine and ATP as the fuel that allows all components of your engine (mind, muscles and joints, cells) to run efficiently throughout the day. Two nutrients that increase cellular ATP production are ribose and carnitine. Designs for Health's (DFH) Ribo-CarniClear uniquely combines D-Ribose and L-Carnitine, along with vitamin B12 (as methylcobalamin) and Pantothenic acid. Because B12 and Pantothenic acid help in fat metabolism, they also increase stamina. As a result, this formula is specifically powerful for those who need an increase in energy and stamina. It comes as a tasty orange-flavored liquid, which can easily be added to your favorite beverage or shake. For an extra energy boost, DFH's Q-Avail Nano powder, also with a citrus flavor, can be mixed in. The Q-Avail Nano is an extremely bioavailable form of Coenzyme Q10; DFH uses its trademarked VESIsorb natural colloid delivery system in this powder, meaning that it becomes instantly water-soluble, delivering 140mg of CoQ10 per gram.

Another symptom of FMS is interrupted, poor sleep, which alone will lead to fatigue. DFH's MyoSedate is a blend of calming herbs and minerals designed to promote and maintain muscle relaxation, especially during periods of stress and anxiety. It is also effective for muscle spasms and muscle tightness. MyoSedate promotes better sleep without causing the morning grogginess commonly associated with pharmaceutical sleep aids*.

FMS is a complex condition that requires an astute and experienced clinical approach in order to appropriately diagnose and treat properly. In addition to the above formulas, lifestyle factors that promote stress reduction, increased energy, and overall wellness should be addressed as well.