Fibromyalgia: Is it Real or Imagined?

“Doctor, I Hurt All Over!”

Prior to the 19th-century fibromyalgia was considered a mental condition because it was based on patient reports and could not be detected by those looking on, namely medical doctors. Since that time, fibromyalgia has not only gone through a few name changes but as more has been learned about it, has had modifications made to how it is viewed as well.

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Fibromyalgia was once viewed as a rheumatic disorder called fibrositis due to thinking the pain was due to inflammation in the pain site and resulted in stiffness, pain, fatigue, and sleep disturbances. The name fibromyalgia, derived from the Latin word “fibro” (fibrous tissue) and Greek words “myo” (muscle) and “algia” (pain) was given in 1976. Estimated as impacting the lives of 10 million Americans, fibromyalgia has been around for a long time and appears to affect women more than men. But what is it? 

Is Fibromyalgia a Real Thing?

One of the difficulties many fibromyalgia patients initially face is receiving a proper diagnosis. In most cases, western medicine trains professionals to treat ailments that are considered “objective abnormalities,” meaning the condition can be seen via an exam using traditional methods. Conditions like fibromyalgia are “subjective” and solely based on self-report. Without being able to pinpoint a particular organ for the disturbance, many western-trained physicians resisted calling fibromyalgia anything other than a psychosomatic disorder for years.

Currently, fibromyalgia is viewed as a legitimate disease and thought to be common and possibly underreported given its complexity. Fibromyalgia is now considered a neurologic condition, affecting the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), that results in pain experienced throughout the body. It is thought that the brain has undergone chemical changes leading the central nervous system to become compromised regarding how it transmits pain signals throughout the body. 

While no one has been able to pinpoint a specific cause for fibromyalgia, it is thought that the chemical changes in the brain regarding pain appear to be related to genetics, trauma or injury, viral infection, or experiencing a major life event such as giving birth. It is as if the “pain signals” are always on and highly sensitive to any changes or imbalances in the body. The main symptoms associated with fibromyalgia are:

  • Widespread pain or tenderness in muscles, joints, or skin from touch or pressure
  • Severe fatigue
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Memory difficulties
  • Foggy thinking or inability to focus
  • Emotional distress such as Depression

Given that pain is not something a doctor can measure with an x-ray or medical tool, fibromyalgia continues to be hard to diagnose. Often, a correct diagnosis only occurs after a lengthy process of ruling out other diseases and conditions. Conditions that can be determined or ruled out by a blood test and have symptoms like fibromyalgia include:  

  • Hypothyroidism – an underactive thyroid
  • Polymyalgia rheumatica – aching and stiffness throughout the body
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) – an autoimmune inflammatory disease of the joints and organs
  • Lupus – an autoimmune inflammatory disease impacting the kidneys, brain, blood cells, heart, lungs, and sometimes joints

In the 19th century, when still referred to as fibrositis, there was the discovery of fibromyalgia tender points. In 1990, the American College of Rheumatology stated there were 18 specific tender points and began to use these as a diagnostic tool.

Currently, the tender points are no longer used to diagnose fibromyalgia. In addition to ruling out other conditions, by 2019 medical professionals also looked for markers and self-reports such as: 

  • a history of three months of pain in six of nine general areas
  • moderate sleep disturbance
  • unexplained fatigue

While it is true there are medications that decrease specific symptoms, it is believed that a holistic approach such as what is offered at Desert Oasis Clinic, would benefit fibromyalgia patients best. 

Why a Holistic Approach?

Rather than treat symptoms as isolated occurrences, a holistic approach addresses the body as a connected system. Dr. Thompson and Desert Oasis Clinic view the body as having the capability to heal itself. Taking time to hear about things such as lifestyle, diet, and symptoms, Dr. Thompson can “connect the dots” and help patients feel better.

Taking a holistic approach specific to fibromyalgia includes looking at modifications needed for symptom relief in areas such as:

  • Nutrition – A long-held belief regarding our overall health has been that our diet can help us heal existing illnesses as well as prevent the onset of others. A Nutritional Assessment at Desert Oasis Clinic can be instrumental in determining what your nutritional needs are for optimal health. While there may not be a particular food that causes fibromyalgia, there are foods patients should avoid reducing fibromyalgia pain such as processed foods, oily fried foods, and refined sugars just to name a few. 
  • Sleep Hygiene – Getting enough sleep can help to alleviate many health problems. Those with fibromyalgia often complain of sleep disturbances. Working with your physician can help you establish habits that include going to bed and waking up at set times, reducing your caffeine intake, limiting screen time, eliminating naps, and avoiding heavy late-night meals. 
  • Exercise and Physical Activity – Being physically active has been shown to improve one’s health. Exercise is shown to increase necessary hormones that promote sleep and improve our mood. Working with your D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathy), you can develop a schedule that will allow you to gradually increase your exercise regimen to prevent any symptoms due to overexertion. 
  • Vitamin D – Studies have shown that persons with fibromyalgia have low vitamin D levels. When the vitamin D deficiency is treated, many patients report feeling better and experience less fatigue. A full consultation that includes bloodwork is needed to determine a vitamin D deficiency.

Fibromyalgia, though not progressive (meaning it does not get worse over time), is considered a lifelong illness. Research has shown that while there is no cure for fibromyalgia, symptoms can subside. Getting the right diagnosis and treatment plan can help to reduce the amount and intensity of flare-ups, leading some to report they are no longer side-lined by their fibromyalgia. 

What Does Desert Oasis Clinic Offer Those with Fibromyalgia? 

As stated previously, the tender points test is no longer a diagnostic tool to determine fibromyalgia. Yet, many patients continue to have similar places in their bodies that experience pain. Trigger Point (TP) Injections work to deactivate the painful trigger point to alleviate symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. 

Another treatment offered at Desert Oasis Clinic that may benefit fibromyalgia patients is IV Nutritional Therapy. IV Nutritional Therapy is specific to the individual’s needs. Each patient will work with Dr. Thompson to uncover the best combination of nutrients for symptom relief. Benefits from this procedure are often experienced within 24-48 hours. 

Other procedures at Desert Oasis Clinic that may assist fibromyalgia symptoms are: Bio-Identical Hormones, Bio-puncture, and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT). Please call the clinic today at 702-310-9350 to speak to our friendly staff and schedule a consultation appointment with Dr. Thompson. Allow us to work with you to discover which of our natural and holistic treatments is right for you!

Posted in: Treatments