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Solving the Fibromyalgia Puzzle

Fibromyalgia is a mysteriously debilitating syndrome. It is characterized by the constant presence of widespread pain that is often so severe it is incapacitating. It is estimated that over 10 million people are afflicted in the United States alone. Fibromyalgia mainly affects women aged 25 to 50 years and is known for its striking resemblance to chronic fatigue syndrome. Unfortunately, fibromyalgia cannot be diagnosed by a laboratory test or x-ray. However, constant research has revealed that upon a physical examination: the presence of 18 specific points in muscles, tendons or bones are tender and painful to the touch. The identifying criteria for diagnosing Fibromyalgia is pain or tenderness experienced in at least 11 of the 18 points.

What Causes Fibromyalgia?
The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown. Various factors, alone or in combination may trigger this disorder. In recent years, studies have indicated that in fibromyalgia, the muscle is especially vulnerable to decreased circulation and minor injury. Additional research has also taken into consideration the role of certain hormones or body chemicals that may alter pain, sleep and mood. Other factors that may contribute to fibromyalgia are smoking, inappropriate exercise, poor posture, and emotional or physical trauma.

Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

  • Pain: Sufferers describe the pain as deep muscular burning, stabbing, throbbing, stiffness, shooting and aching. To meet the diagnostic criteria, patients must have pain throughout all four quadrants of their body and at least 11 of the 18 specified tender points for a minimum of three months.
  • Sleep Disorders: Research has shown that fibromyalgia patients could fall asleep without much trouble; however, their stage 4 (deep) sleep was constantly interrupted by bursts of brain activity. Other sufferers have been found to have other sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and teeth grinding, and the alpha-EEG anomaly.
  • Fatigue: Fatigue can be mild in some and incapacitating in others, being described in some cases as feeling totally drained of energy. Limbs are heavy, immobile, and there is often difficulty concentrating.
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Frequent abdominal pain, abdominal gas, nausea, constipation, diarrhea etc. are symptoms found in roughly 40 to 70 percent of fibromyalgia patients.
  • Chronic Headaches: Migraines and tension/ stress headaches are seen in about 50 percent of patients.

Treatment Options
Exercise:
Daily non-strenuous aerobic exercise is very important. Exercise seems not to work through conditioning of muscles but rather through a direct, possibly hormonal effect on pain and sleep. Popular choices are walking, water exercise, bicycles, gentle aerobic dance. Water exercise has shown to be very helpful and non-strenuous.

Diet:
Try to eat four to five time daily to help maintain energy levels and to keep metabolism at its maximum. Try to minimize sugar, red meats, caffeine, carbonated drinks and foods rich in saturated fats. Adequate protein is very important as it aids in the tissue repair of many ligaments and tendons which are largely protein.

Natural Supplements and Herbal Remedies

Magnesium:
a major regulator of cellular activity and an anti-stress mineral
Calcium:
the most abundant mineral in the body also used for the transmission of nerve signals
Potassium:
responsible for normal heart and muscle function, and normal growth
Chromium:
aids in the synthesis of fatty acids and the metabolism of blood sugars for energy
Selenium:
considered an aid to other nutrients
Zinc:
a vital component of enzymes in the brain that repair cells
Vitamin A:
helps maintain and repair muscle tissue, aids in growth, and fights infection
Vitamin C:
helps prevent infection and performs as a powerful antioxidant and anti-stress vitamin.
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