If you have been diagnosed and are living with fibromyalgia (FMS), you know the overwhelming aches, pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia all too well. It makes every movement of your body an excruciating effort. We now know that everything in the body is connected. Even how we think about our health can impact our well-being. But did you ever consider that the health of your mouth or toxic chemicals in your personal care or cosmetic products could affect how your whole body feels including the management of fibromyalgia?
As a fibromyalgia sufferer, you probably have experienced health concerns in nearly every part of your body. Most FMS patients say that they ache all over, with muscles that feel like they have been pulled or overworked. Their muscles sometimes twitch or there is an unpleasant burning sensation.
Part of the difficulty in understanding FMS is that it displays so many symptoms that frequently fluctuate from person to person. Although not everyone has all of these FMS-associated problems, several of them frequently occur at once and you have probably experienced many of them.
- Fatigue is present in varying degrees, from mild to severe. Many people report difficulty concentrating and experience short-term memory loss (“brain fog”).
- Insomnia is a common complaint among FMS patients. Most don’t reach deep sleep (Level 4) long enough to get needed rest and rejuvenation.
- Depression is often present, but may be due to dealing with fibromyalgia and not necessarily a cause of it.
- Chronic headaches, such as migraines and tension headaches are noted in about 50 percent of patients.
- Irritable bowel syndrome is found in about 40 to 70 percent of FMS patients. This condition causes constipation, diarrhea, gas, abdominal pain and nausea.
- Musculoskeletal pain that feels like deep aching, burning, and shooting pain is another common symptom. The pain may feel worse in the morning and result in stiffness, especially in muscle groups that are used most often. The pain is pinpointed in anatomically defined tender “trigger points.
- Temporomandibular joint disorder, referred to as TMJ or TMD, is accompanied by severe pain in the jaw, face, and neck. This may cause difficulty in chewing as well as yawning and even talking. Approximately 75 percent of patients with fibromyalgia report jaw pain of varying degrees. TMJ has many other symptoms that manifest in other areas, for example dizziness,ringing in the ears, neck, shoulder, back pain, and headaches. Relief for jaw pain starts with a visit to your dentist. Most often, a simple mouthguard or splint can bring fast relief.
As you can see, pain in varying degrees in many parts of the body is a constant unwelcomed guest with FMS. However, the good news is it is possible to get relief without barraging your body with any more harsh drugs.
Fibromyalgia and Lupus
Lupus is a chronic condition that shares many similar symptoms with fibromyalgia. A physical examination, medical history and laboratory testing can help with diagnosing each condition.
With conditions such as lupus, your body's immune system, rather than killing bacteria with antibodies, attacks itself. This autoimmune disorder results in symptoms of fatigue, skin rashes, joint pain and inflammation of your body. Sleep disorder, memory loss, fatigue and joint pain, are common symptoms of both lupus and fibromyalgia.
Treatment for lupus consists of managing inflammation and pain. Pain medication for pain, steroids to reduce inflammation and immunosuppressants to help the immune system with antibody reduction activity.
Managing Fibromyalgia: What Helps Fibromyalgia
The following are some ways to manage fibromyalgia and find relief.
- Guaifenesin and fibromyalgia - Guaifenesin is an expectorant, commonly known by its brand name Mucinex. Dr. R. Paul St. Amand, in the 1990s found his patients were finding relief with guaifenesin for some of their fibromyalgia symptoms. He reported that guaifenesin, being mildly uricosuric (removes uric acid from the body and helps gout), can also help those living with fibromyalgia.
- Dr. St. Amand's protocol consists of slowly increasing the dosage of guaifenesin, using only salicylate-free personal care products, and consuming a low-carbohydrate diet. Salicylates (pronounced sal-e-se-late) are natural chemicals in plants and are often considered on the list of potential causes of sensitivity. They are also used as one of the main ingredients in aspirin and other pain relieving medications. Many personal care products contain salicylates as one of their ingredients. Some products contain salicylates in the chemical form, while others are in the natural form through plant ingredients that are included in the formulation of the product. For example, a product that contains herbs, may not list the word "salicylate" on the label, but may contain salicylates through the plants or herbs in the product. Dr. St. Amand's theory states that guaifenesin can rid the body of hard phosphate deposits, relax the muscles, relieve pain, reduce anxiety and eventually reverse symptoms of fibromyalgia. His protocol has many followers who report they have found relief. He has written several books on the subject co-authored with Claudia Marek. He plans on follow up studies to assess the effectiveness of guaifenesin.
- Physical therapy for fibromyalgia - Hydrotherapy, TENS, deep tissue massage, heat therapy, ultrasound and low-impact exercise can all be helpful with fibromyalgia. Emu oil can help with relaxing the muscles during massage therapy.
- Reducing stress - Studies have reported stress and fibromyalgia have a connection. It's important to manage stress with hobbies, gentle exercise, joining a support group for people with fibromyalgia either in person or on the Internet, and spending time with family and friends.
- Acupuncture - This form of Chinese medicine using needles or pressure points, is still under review for benefits and how effective it can be.
- Massage - Sore muscles and joints respond well with massage. It helps to promote relaxation and to help minimize or relieve pain.
- Flotation and spa therapy - Temporary pain reduction has been reported in a small study with hydrotherapy and flotation therapy. It may help with better sleep, which is essential for managing fibromyalgia.
- Tai chi - With controlled slow movements, tai chi may help manage fibromyalgia. It may also help stimulate memory, since loss of memory is another symptom of fibromyalgia.
- Rest and sleep - Lack of sleep or not getting enough sleep, can cause fatigue and general lack of well being. It's important to go to bed at a set time each day, limit light and noise, and avoid alcohol and coffee before bedtime.
What Causes and Triggers Fibromyalgia?
The initial onset of fibromyalgia may be a sudden traumatic life situation, such as death of a close family member, or need of a surgery or other sudden illness. Trigger for flare-up of other symptoms may include the following:
- Is fibromyalgia genetic? The answer is yes. According to Mayo Clinic, fibromyalgia isn't passed directly from parents to children, but it does appear to cluster within families. The chances of developing the disorder are higher by several times within immediate families of people with fibromyalgia.
- Dairy products, eggs, caffeine
- Lack of sleep
- Physical or psychological stress
- Extremes of temperature or weather
Doctors are now recognizing that as many as 75 percent of the people who suffer with fibromyalgia are also sensitive to many common, often unavoidable chemicals, like perfumes. Some common ingredients that have been associated with chemical sensitivities are commonly found in personal care and cosmetic products including sodium lauryl sulfate, and strong preservatives. It's important to use fragrance-free skin and hair/body care formulated for sensitive skin.