Fibromyalgia Specialist Winona MN
Detroit Lakes, MN
Saint Paul, MN
Saint Paul, MN
By Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa
What does it feel like to live with fibromyalgia? “Imagine last night you drank more wine than you should have but had no water or food. You went to bed late and got up early, feeling stiff, achy, and tired,” says Chanchal Cabrera, a British herbalist, fibromyalgia patient, and author of Fibromyalgia: A Journey Toward Healing (McGraw-Hill, 2002). People with fibromyalgia feel that way all the time, she says.
A truly mysterious ailment, fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) involves chronic widespread muscle pain and fatigue. It affects about 2 percent of all Americans and accounts for 10 to 30 percent of all rheumatology consultations. FMS mainly afflicts people between the ages of 35 and 55 and occurs seven to 10 times more frequently in women.
And as if the pain and fatigue weren’t enough, a constellation of other symptoms often accompanies the disorder—foggy thinking, sleep disturbances, painful menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea), and irritable bowel symptoms—making a clear diagnosis difficult. Although the cause of FMS continues to elude researchers, certain stresses on the body, such as intense exercise, illness, or a traumatic event, appear to intensify symptoms or even bring on the condition itself.
“My fibromyalgia was triggered by a car accident in 1991, when I was a healthy and fit 28-year-old,” says Cabrera, now 43 and living in Vancouver, British Columbia. “Within minutes of the impact, my neck and shoulders were in pain, and I had a dull headache. My slow descent into fibromyalgia had begun.”
The body blows a fuse
Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, medical director of Maryland’s Annapolis Center for Effective Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Fibromyalgia Therapies, likens FMS to the body’s “blowing a fuse” when its energy account becomes overdrawn. This short circuit results in hypothalamus suppression, Teitelbaum maintains. “The hypothalamus controls sleep, hormonal function, temperature, and autonomic functions such as blood pressure and blood flow,” he says. “The hypothalamus uses more energy for its size than any other organ, so when there is an energy shortfall, it goes offline first.”
“FMS has no single cause,” Teitelbaum says. He surmises that the hypothalamus decreases its protective function in the face of what it perceives as overwhelming stress, which can stem from infection, injury, or a stressful, emotional incident. “FMS patients seem to have genetic differences in the way their hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal regulation handle stress,” he says. “As a result, the muscles end up short of energy and in pain.”
Is there hope?
Mary Shomon, now an author and patient advocate in Washington, DC, began to have symptoms of FMS at age 34, after two car accidents and numerous other health challenges. Through a holistic approach and alternative therapies, she finally found relief from her symptoms. However, 11 years later she still expresses dismay about the stigma and disbelief she encounters about fibromyalgia—pa...
Author: Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa
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