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Yorkshire Publishing
This book is dedicated to all those who live with this mysterious syndrome called fibromyalgia and to those who suspect they may have it, whether it appears by itself or along with any other chronic illness. As it haunts your days and nights, know that you are not alone.
The information contained herein is not intended to diagnose or treat any illness, nor is it intended as a substitution for care from a professional. Please seek advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, and care from a trained health care practitioner.
I want to thank Arlene Van Belle, Anita Cibelli, and Artie Estridge, my own personal “Triple A” club, without whose inspiration and encouragement this book would never have been written.
I thank Dr. Kumar Bhatt for his early diagnosis. I also thank him for his faith in me and in my writing endeavors.
A great big thank you to the Fibromyalgia Support Group in Mishawaka, Indiana, for sharing all their valuable support, input, inspiration, and encouragement.
I thank my family for their patience, understanding, good wishes, and their love.
Table of Contents
Medical Help
The Edible Aggravators
Complementary Options
Supplemental Options
What To Do For You
Bountiful Resources
The Author’s Fibromyalgia Story
Imagine a poorly treated, significantly debilitating medical condition that millions suffer from, for which there is very little effective treatment. The medical establishment is unreceptive to recognizing it as a bona fide condition. Diagnosing it is clouded by the fact that there are no conclusive tests to verify its presence. What am I referring to? Depression, circa 1980.
The ensuing years have brought about a gradual recognition of this debilitating condition. Discovery of effective treatments for it has resulted in enormous numbers of people getting their lives back. And now a diagnosis of depression is well accepted by both patients and doctors alike as a very real and treatable condition.
Today, fibromyalgia is in the same situation that depression was initially. As the awareness of fibromyalgia increases, more and more people will recognize that this is the condition they themselves have and that there is hope for a better life.
This small book is one step in that direction. Its simple language and concise nature allow one to readily grasp the concepts involved in the physiology of this disease and, more importantly, the options in its treatment. Pati Chandler has crystallized her own experience of years of painful suffering coupled with painstaking research to give us this gem.
—Kumar Bhatt, DO
The Mishawaka Clinic
Mishawaka, Indiana
In the winter of 1998 I began exhibiting symptoms of fibromyalgia. Of course, I didn’t know that then. I just knew that I hurt. Everywhere. All the time. Especially when I woke up in the morning. I was tired all the time; actually, exhausted would be more accurate. No matter how much sleep I was finally able to get, I never felt rested, much less refreshed. It seemed I felt even more tired when I woke up! I had lapses of memory and became easily confused. I seemed to be moving and acting in slow motion sometimes. There were times when I couldn’t get my legs or arms to move the way I wanted them to; they felt as heavy as lead weights. Yet they seemed weak, as if the muscles were made of gelatin and I had no control over them.
More symptoms started showing up, one after the other after the other. One symptom seemed to have nothing to do with the other—they were all disconnected, like a hodge-podge of things gone wrong. Aside from feeling utter weakness and exhaustion, I felt confused and really scared. Depression set in. I felt like my body was suddenly falling apart and there was nothing I could do about it.
Other than one cold per year, I had never been sick and never needed a doctor for anything. But all this was more than I could take and certainly more than I wanted to deal with. I was getting progressively worse, and none of the symptoms were getting any better.
When I finally found the right doctor and was diagnosed, I came to understand that fibromyalgia was a chronic syndrome that would most likely last a lifetime. I knew I did not want to take prescriptions for the rest of my life, raising the doses regularly until … well, I didn’t want to think about what my life would be like on painkiller prescriptions for next ten years, or twenty or thirty. I asked my doctor if there was anything natural I could take. Because he is an osteopath, he is open to such a request, thank heaven. He gave me the names of two supplements and two Web sites.
I began researching that very day. It was a long, slow process, given my mental “hiccups,” as I called them, but the supplements began to help within three days. I started sleeping … normally. What a concept! Some pain was still there, but it was not at all what it had been—at least I could think straight. I got online and went to complementary and alternative medical (CAM) Web sites such as The University of Maryland School of Medicine, The University of Michigan Pain and Fatigue Research Center, The National Institute of Health, The Mayo Clinic, and many more. I took copious notes. I trial and erred practically everything. It took me one full year, but I eventually found the right combination of stress management techniques, movements, foods, pacing, treatments, supplements, and of course avoidance of the specific factors that aggravated my symptoms. I had finally learned how to manage my symptoms. As a result, I have not found the need to visit that wonderful doctor for fibromyalgia symptoms since the year 2000. I see him now as a dear friend who literally saved my life—not to mention the quality of my life.
Recently, during a period of one week, no less than ten people came into my life that have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia—one in a wheelchair. Each recounted their tales. One woman said her doctor told her that fibromyalgia is a myth—a “catchall diagnosis” for other doctors who couldn’t find the “right” diagnosis. So he wrote her a prescription for each of her symptoms—eight in all, including an opioid for pain. Another woman told me that her doctor could find nothing wrong after all the expensive tests he’d ordered and so he could not, in good conscience, prescribe anything. She begged him for something to help her sleep, so he finally did write her a prescription for Ambien. Later he also wrote her a prescription for an antidepressant because she seemed so upset by the whole ordeal. Yet another woman said her doctor made an appointment for her with a psychiatrist because he could find nothing positive on any tests, leading him to believe it was probably an emotional thing.
As you can imagine, all these stories and others made my teeth grind in frustration.
I knew that there were many, many things that a person can do to help their symptoms, either in conjunction with medications or in place of them. I promptly gathered all my notes from back in 1998 and got to work making new notes—lots of them.
This book is the result of my accumulated research.
It is my hope that this book will help show you how to manage your symptoms by showing you some of the many options available, options you never knew you had.
It is time to bring your symptoms under your control. Fibromyalgia doesn’t have to control you, not with all that is available for your choosing.
The word itself conjures up a multitude of feelings in the more than twelve million Americans who have fibromyalgia.1 To those who don’t have it, the word only brings a “what’s that?” query. It is a rather new word to the English language, having been coined a little more than two decades ago. When broken down into its three parts (fibro, Latin for fibrous tissue; myo, Greek for muscle; and algia, Latin for pain), it is fairly self-explanatory. Simple.
Not so with the explanation of the condition, or syndrome. Because a syndrome, by definition, is a collection of symptoms, this is the most accurate term. So the condition is often called fibromyalgia syndrome, or FMS.
Fibromyalgia is considered an arthritis-related condition, which, according to the National Institute of Health, means it’s a medical condition that impairs the joints and soft tissues and causes chronic pain.2 It turns out to be much more than that, however, due to the multitude of symptoms that surround this condition.
Fibromyalgia is not a one-treatment-fits-all kind of a syndrome. Each person’s fibromyalgia manifests somewhat differently, making it extremely difficult for physicians to treat. And though the symptoms are many and varied, they intertwine to “make up” the syndrome, with pain and fatigue the common denominator.
What are the symptoms? “Practically everything known to man” would be the answer given by a person with fibromyalgia. But pain is the symptom that tops the list and pretty much defines the entire subject. Muscular pain. Joint pain. Neck pain. Headache pain. Jaw and facial pain. Lower back pain. Upper arm pain. Wrist pain. Hip pain. Leg pain. Foot pain. Many or all of the above. In other words, think a severe case of the flu where everything hurts, the muscles and joints in the body don’t work properly, and utter exhaustion rules the day.3
With a major flare-up, the pain in each of those places is severe and sharp. These flare-ups are generally brought on by some instigating factor, or aggravator, which amplifies the pain and/or other symptoms to acute levels. When the flare-up subsides, the pain is still there—it virtually never goes away because fibromyalgia is a chronic malady. This pain, however, is now in the form of constant and relentless aches all over. This pain is not as totally debilitating as the more extreme flare-up, but in its own way, it can be even more insidious. The constant dull aches and pains are so unmercifully persistent and constant that it’s no wonder depression is a common symptom. It simply wears a body down. The Colorado River carving the Grand Canyon deeper and deeper comes to mind.
Pain is only the first symptom. The full list of symptoms is a legion. An individual may not have all the symptoms, but it is very common to have most of them. They include but are not limited to an all consuming fatigue, numbness or tingling sensations in the hands and feet, sudden momentary electric-shock-like sensations in the hands and feet, irritable bowel syndrome, restless leg syndrome, dizziness, lowered resistance to infection, and chemical sensitivity, inhaled or ingested. Odors, food additives, or even some medications can initiate either allergy symptoms, like burning eyes and throat with runny nose, or body symptoms, like nausea, headache, dizziness, vomiting, and body pain.
There is a heightened sensitivity to touch, cold, heat, odors, noise, and bright lights, in addition to memory difficulties and confusion (sometimes called fibro fog), anxiety or panic attacks, abdominal pain with bloating and/or nausea, and moodiness. Some symptoms actually mimic other conditions, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, even lupus, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s.4
The most common symptom for all people with fibromyalgia is a total lack of deep, restful, restorative, stage four sleep. This is the period of sleep where the body repairs and replenishes itself, healing the multitudinous tiny tears in muscle tissue we all get during the day, when our body brings in oxygen to those areas that have become depleted during the day.5 During every eight-hour night of sleep, those with FMS are constantly interrupted by bursts of awake-like brain activity prohibiting stage four sleep.
In other words, there is a malfunction at the most basic level—the level at which the body should be healing itself.6 For those without FMS, it would be akin to just drifting off to sleep then jerking awake constantly, all night long … every night.
It’s no wonder FMS sufferers wake up feeling like they have been dragged a mile down a railroad track. And they wake exhausted. Some sufferers have reported that getting out of bed in the morning involved crawling on hands and knees just to get to the bathroom. All-over body pain upon waking is a symptom all FMS sufferers endure.
The painful muscles are weak and don’t move properly. The aching legs and ankles feel like lead weights are attached to them, and walking becomes a not-so-simple task. Holding a cup of coffee must be done with two hands due to weak arms and wrists or tingly and numb hands and fingers.
The memory difficulties and confusion that are so prevalent with fibromyalgia sufferers are no less imposing.7