Fibromyalgia (FM) is a chronic disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and multiple tender points. “Tender points” refers to tenderness that occurs in precise, localized areas, particularly in the neck, spine, shoulders, and hips. People with this syndrome may also experience sleep disturbances, morning stiffness, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and depression and other symptoms which tend to wax and wane over time.
How Many People Have Fibromyalgia?
According to the American College of Rheumatology, Fibromyalgia affects 3 to 6 million Americans. It primarily occurs in women of childbearing age, but children, the elderly, and men can also be affected.
What Causes Fibromyalgia?
Although the cause of Fibromyalgia is unknown, researchers have several theories about causes or triggers of the disorder.
Some scientists believe that the syndrome may be caused by an injury or trauma. This injury may affect the central nervous system causing a dysfunction of neuroendocrine or neurotransmitter regulation. Therefore, the FM patient experiences an increase in pain due to abnormal sensory processing in the central nervous system.
There are some suggestions that it may be associated with changes in muscle metabolism, such as decreased blood flow, which cause fatigue and decreased strength. Others believe the syndrome may be triggered by an infectious agent such as a virus in susceptible people. The virus then becomes a lingering pathogen which causes the FM patient to chronically feel fatigued and achy—as if they are fighting an infection. Recent studies show that abnormally low levels of the hormone cortisol may be associated with Fibromyalgia. Researchers are studying regulation of the function of the adrenal gland (which makes cortisol) in Fibromyalgia. People whose bodies make inadequate amounts of cortisol experience many of the same symptoms as people with Fibromyalgia.
How Is Fibromyalgia Diagnosed in conventional Western medicine?
A diagnosis of Fibromyalgia is based on a history of chronic widespread pain in all four quadrants of the body for a minimum of three months. The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) has developed criteria for Fibromyalgia that can be used in diagnosing the disorder. According to ACR criteria, a person is considered to have Fibromyalgia if she or he has widespread pain in combination with tenderness in at least 11 of 18 specific tender point sites.
Acupuncture and Fibromyalgia
Currently, modern medicine has very few options for the FM patient. NSAID’s (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, such as Tylenol or Advil), muscle relaxants and anti-depressants can be prescribed but they often are minimally effective for FM sufferers and have potential side-effects.
Acupuncture has been determined by the World Health Organization to be effective in the treatment of chronic pain and has listed Fibromyalgia as one of 40 different conditions effectively treated by acupuncture.
Because Chinese medicine works on a system of diagnoses based on your individual signs and symptoms there are several ways to treat Fibromyalgia. Unlike Western medicine, each Fibromyalgia patient is treated differently. This means that one person who suffers from insomnia and depression receives a different treatment than someone with irritable bowel syndrome and anxiety. This is because Chinese medicine has a number of diagnoses by which it can treat Fibromyalgia.
FIBROMYALGIA AND INSULIN RESISTANCE
Do you have symptoms that relate to an insulin imbalance? If you have fibromyalgia, look and see if you also have hypoglycemia, insulin resistance, or diabetes symptoms. These types of blood sugar imbalances can cause fibromyalgia pain to get worse. Blood sugar imbalances cause insulin absorption problems that can affect your health especially if you have fibromyalgia.
Insulin has many roles in the body. It maintains sugar levels in our cells where we create energy. If we cannot get sugar into the cells we become tired more easily. Overtime this can lead to hypersensitivity to pain that is associated with fibromyalgia.
Insulin is a storage hormone. Insulin builds muscle and stores amino acids from protein. Insulin also stores magnesium for future energy production. Insulin also takes excess glucose from carbohydrates and stores them as fat. Many people with insulin imbalances have excess weight, especially in the upper abdomen area. Insulin also controls salt and water retention in the body, and may contribute to rising blood pressures and imbalances in the cholesterol profile. Excess insulin will cause adrenalin to be secreted even when you are not stressed.
Reactive hypoglycemia, the first stage of blood sugar imbalance, occurs two to three hours after eating a high carbohydrate breakfast or lunch. Symptoms of reactive hypoglycemia are shakiness or tingling, pounding heartbeats, perspiring, and concentration problems. These symptoms occur because excess insulin causes adrenalin to be released.
We crave carbohydrates because we need energy. Yet when we eat carbohydrates, we stimulate insulin production. Insulin is supposed to move blood sugar into our cells, where it is burned as fuel. When there is an excess of insulin as well as an excess of carbohydrates, the excess carbohydrates are stored as fat in fat cells. The excess insulin also prevents the carbohydrates from being used for energy. You not only gain weight, but you are also prevented from losing these excess fat deposits because of the excess carbohydrates.
If it progresses toward insulin resistance you will have symptoms of excess body fat, high blood pressure, high triglycerides/cholesterol, fluid retention, dry skin, decreased memory chronic fatigue, irritability, mood swings, and sleep disturbances. These symptoms are very similar to associated conditions of fibromyalgia.
Insulin balances affect other areas of our metabolism. It slows our thyroid hormone conversion from T4 to T3. It affects the calcium absorption rate into our bones, and it affects how our muscles store sugar to burn for energy. When we burn sugar stored in our muscles, before burning fat, we get more muscle weakness and fatigue. This is why it takes a long time to recover after exercise or exertion.
Then cholesterol and triglyceride levels become more out of balance. You can measure the level of insulin resistance by looking at the ratio of Triglycerides / HDL. If the ratio is greater than 4.0 then you probably have an insulin imbalance.
HOW DO WE BALANCE INSULIN LEVELS?
All carbohydrate foods stimulate the secretion of insulin. Use a Glycemic Index / Glycemic Load Chart found at www.naturalchoicesforyou.com to alter your diet to include more foods that take longer to digest, thus maintaining sugar and insulin balances better.
Use good fats, from fish oils, flax oils, and or olive oil to lower the glycemic level of any carbohydrates you do eat. If you eat breads or rolls, it would be beneficial on your blood sugar to put butter or olive oil on it, than to eat it plain. Incorporating essential fatty acids (the good fats) into your diet will help provide the fuel for building new muscles and will stimulate energy production.