“I feel like I’m constantly fighting for myself. You see, no one really understands what it’s like to live with fibromyalgia.” Every fibromyalgia patient thinks the same!!
It’s hard for people to sympathize because they’ve never experienced something similar in their lives, but you can show them that you’re not alone by getting the word out there about your condition and educating people—that’s how we’ll get through this together.
But let us first explain exactly what fibromyalgia is so that everyone has a better understanding of the kind of pain that you have to go through on an almost daily basis.
What is this Fibromyalgia?
Here are some things that most people don’t know about fibromyalgia:
The main symptoms are widespread musculoskeletal pain and tenderness, fatigue, morning stiffness, and headaches.
Fatigue is the most common symptom of fibromyalgia that interferes with everyday life activities. It’s usually accompanied by sleep disturbances like insomnia or sleep apnea; these affect your day-to-day life by causing irritability and mood swings. Other symptoms include cognitive dysfunction such as memory problems and difficulty focusing, anxiety attacks, depression, restless legs syndrome, and numbness in extremities.
It affects women more than men; the ratio is about 9:1. There are also studies showing that it affects differently those from different races. For example, Hispanics seem to have a higher chance of developing FMS compared to Caucasians. But Asians tend to develop less severe ones when compared to people from other races.
Fibromyalgia is “unfamiliar” but not “uncommon”
It is estimated that 5 million Americans suffer from fibromyalgia and 10% of them are considered severe sufferers. In the UK, more than one in 50 people have FMS or almost 1.5 million people. The average age group is around 40 to 50 years old. But it can also affect children as young as 4 years old and elderly patients older than 80 years old. A lot of them have conditions like chronic headaches, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), interstitial cystitis, and atopic disorders like dermatitis, asthma, and allergies. These conditions make it difficult for doctors to diagnose those suffering from FMS at first. Because they’ll just think that they’re suffering from different kinds of ailments instead of a single condition. (Believe me, we physicians are also human beings)
10 things about Fibromyalgia
There are things that a patient can only understand about fibromyalgia.
1. They don’t know what’s wrong with me.
It doesn’t matter if you tell your doctors that you have fibromyalgia or any number of other diagnoses for that matter. They will simply look at you blankly and then give the standard ‘we’ll run some tests’ response. I’ve had this happen numerous times. This is an uncomfortable position to be in. Because you feel like you are doing all the work yourself in getting them to understand your condition. If they won’t even do that then what else can you expect of them? What is wrong with me?? patients often ask themselves, and it’s a fair question.
2. I’m always tired….
Whether it’s from being out of bed too long or any other reason. Fatigue is one of the most debilitating symptoms fibromyalgia patients have to deal with on a daily basis. Mainly due to the fact that there really isn’t anything we can do about it. Except attempt to manage it as best we can through diet and exercise. But who’s energy levels aren’t better after an 8-hour sleep? We try our best, but we can’t fight biology and not feel tired all the time.
3. I forget what day it is….
Fibromyalgia patients often report having memory problems which cause issues like misplacing items (keys, phones, etc) and forgetting about meetings or appointments with friends or family. Where does the time go?! It’s hard to keep track of things when you spend half a day putting your shoes on because you woke up in the wrong room!
4. Fibro Fog…..
This symptom alone causes several other problems such as misplacing items due to being unable to concentrate enough to complete a task properly – at least that is how it feels when I am in the fog. I recently lost my wallet and mobile phone, which were together in the same bag as I had rushed to get out the door. It was only when later that night I realized my mistake – after blaming it on someone else! Ahh, fibro fog….
5. My body feels…
What can I say? Feeling like your body is made of lead takes away from the experience of doing anything and everything. Everything is meaaasssseeee!! It’s hard to find the strength to do something as small as open a window, or change channels on the TV. Sometimes I just want to sleep forever! Who wouldn’t?!
6. Why won’t my friends come out with me anymore….
If you have fibromyalgia it’s likely that you will lose friends because they get fed up with constantly planning social activities which end in disappointment for everyone concerned due to flare-ups, exhaustion, etc. People simply don’t understand what we’re going through. How could they when most people see pain relief and a good night’s sleep as the solution to everything.
I’ve lost count of the number of times patients told me- “night sleep is a horror to me. Can I just stay awake for rest of my life”.
And when I see their prescriptions from doctors these read “Anxiolytic” and “Sleep-inducing pills”.
7. I’m in constant pain….
This one is probably obvious and you don’t need me to tell you why it’s annoying. But the sufferers out there who are living with this day in day out know exactly what I mean. When patients tell it’s frustrating not being able to do things. Simple things like- go for a walk in your local park or run around after your children. Having fun physical activities which could be considered normal and social doesn’t seem possible anymore.
Unless we can find some form of treatment that gets rid of the pain at least enough to allow us to. We have found a solution for this and below we are discussing that too.
8. Nothing tastes or smells like it used to…
I’ve lost my sense of taste and smell, which seems like a pretty big deal when you’re constantly trying new things (foods, perfumes etc) yet nothing gives you that ‘wow! What’s that??’ moment anymore because your senses of taste and smell aren’t there. When this happens your world becomes very dull indeed!
9. I’m having trouble sleeping….
Because pain isn’t always apparent fibro patients often struggle to get to sleep for hours after laying in bed, with little chance of falling into a deep sleep because body aches like they had been through battle during the day make rest impossible. As the morning approaches so does feeling exhausted, meaning more time trying to get back off to sleep without success. This cycle continues throughout our day until we finally feel well-rested and fall asleep.
10. I can’t express myself….
As well as losing our sense of taste and smell fibromyalgia often leaves us with damaged vocal cords. This is why we sound huskier than usual or struggle to find the correct words when trying to explain how we’re feeling. It’s frustrating enough not being able to do things like other people out there without having to deal with this embarrassing symptom too!
Why fibromyalgia is not curable?
I have known many patients with fibromyalgia, and I think that there are three main reasons why it is not cured despite use of good drugs.
The complex nature of disease
The most important reason why fibromyalgia cannot be cured, as I describe below, is because the pain has biological meaning. Fibromyalgia is basically the result of the over-activation of the endogenous opioid system in the brain. It’s actually similar to pains you get after getting injured (e.g. muscle strain).
As time passes by the injury heals and your pain goes away gradually. Over a few weeks or months. However, for patients with fibromyalgia, this natural process doesn’t occur properly for some reason. So they still feel pain which makes everything worse.
In such a case, even if I can make you functionally cured. It means- you are able to live your life normally and without any worries about pain. The healing process of those injuries is not complete in terms of pain sensation. So that’s why patients do not feel good at all. In other words, by controlling symptoms with proper drugs, the underlying injury still hasn’t healed properly so that makes chronic pain remain forevermore or less.
The complexed patient nature
Patients with fibromyalgia have unrealistic expectations regarding their pain control/pain relief. When they don’t get what they expect from the drug, they simply stop using it. Which obviously leads them back to square one i.e. same level of pain as before treatment started.
I should admit that this is the case for all patients in almost every disease area. My point here is that fibromyalgia is also associated with unrealistic expectations. So it is more difficult to cure this disease than, say, hypertension (i.e. high blood pressure). Patients with migraines often complain that they cannot get good pain control with drugs. Despite having been taking them for years and sometimes decades. The same situation may apply also to patients with rheumatoid arthritis and another type of chronic pain diseases too.
Disturbed Circadian System
Fibromyalgia causes a very important disturbance of the sleep-wake cycle. This has a major impact on a patient’s daily life. Even if you see someone who looks perfectly normal during the daytime. But you can see obvious fatigue and daytime sleepiness if you see the same person at night.
This may have a significant impact on pain discovery and recognition. When you are sleepy, it’s very hard to realize that you feel some sort of pain. As a result, patients with fibromyalgia may not even know they have painful conditions. Until their friends or family members tell them so.
The above three reasons make fibromyalgia an especially difficult disease to cure. Compared to other ones I mentioned earlier in this article. It is because we cannot control those major symptoms including sleep disturbance effectively with drugs. Also we don’t really understand how important the role sleep plays here. So finally we only think about treating medical symptoms rather than addressing the cause.
What does Ayurveda say about fibromyalgia?
Ayurveda is a system of traditional medicine originating in ancient India. It was developed over thousands of years through an empirical process involving observation and use of medicinal plants and herbs based on the idea that everything in nature has its own intrinsic healing power or ‘svaroopa vishuddhi’. The first evidence of Ayurvedic medical practice dates back to 2500 BC, when sages during the Vedic period wrote elaborate explanations of diseases and their appropriate remedies. In Ayurveda disease is classified as caused by an imbalance (vipaka) in three humours – Vata (air), Pitta (bile) and Kapha (phlegm). Ayurvedic treatment is based on restoration of the balance between these three humours.
Fibromyalgia is one of a number of chronic conditions that cause pain . Ayurveda says that where there is pain, treated or untreated, Pitta dosha (symbolized by fire) has increased in its role and has become aggravated. Hence tried and tested Ayurvedic medicines for treating Pitta dosha like Trikatu are useful in managing fibromyalgia symptoms. These include fever, constipation, headaches caused by tension , eyesight problems , hyper cysteinemia (high blood levels), joint pains, muscle pains and stiffness etc.
The Imbalance of Doshas
Ayurveda says that the underlying cause of fibromyalgia is a Vata imbalance (Vata dosha). That is, when Pitta and Kapha are normal and balanced, but there is an abnormal increase in Vata. The root cause for this is weakened digestion or metabolism (actually the digestive fire or Agni ). This can be seen as irregularity in food habits , emotional stress , trauma to body, excesses in physical activities etc.
Ayurvedic treatment aims at strengthening metabolism by improving digestion through reducing use of stimulants like tobacco products, alcohol , coffee , dairy products (milk shakes) . Ayurveda also recommends dietary changes according to particular prakriti (body constitution) viz. Vatika Doshadi (mucus constitution) , Pittapaka Doshadi ( bile or pitta type constitution), Kapha prakriti (type of kapha in excess) and Kaphavira Doshadi.
Solving the Puzzle the Ayurvedic Way
Ayurveda has a high regard for the female gender. So, it is quite natural that Ayurvedic treatment of Fibromyalgia should have a female focus. For most chronic diseases (and this includes a wide range of disorders from arthritis to heart disease), an imbalance in the doshas i.e. vata and kapha is responsible for their origin or aggravation.
Naturally Ojas – that is, strength, vitality and immunity -may be derived by giving proper attention to each and every organ system of the body as well as mind-body activity pattern and lifestyle factors like nutrition, rest etc., all in relation with the seasons. The protocol needs some modification to suit our individual profiles, keeping in mind especially the doshas and their influence over the mind.
As far as Fibromyalgia is concerned, Ayurveda recommends a procedure called vata-pitta-kapha pacifying therapy to restore normalcy in the three doshas that are weakened by aggravating factors.
To do this with success one needs total commitment for a while from its patient or rather sufferer, who may be required to sacrifice some activity, if so advised by the practitioner.
Ayurvedic treatment then will help restore her/his natural goodness of life and general wellbeing. The most important step is to identify which dosha has been imbalanced (Vata – bone; Pitta – blood circulation & metabolism; Kapha – water) because these three doshas govern various parts of the body system.
Connecting the Pieces
Given below are a few basic points to consider when we have an illness like Fibromyalgia. The approach should be comprehensive, not just physical.
This means that besides taking medications to suppress pain and inflammation, attention should also be given to correct any imbalance in the doshas which may be responsible for the disease-though treating only the symptoms is never really effective.
For example, someone suffering from arthritis will find it difficult to walk or stand up straight without experiencing pain. A doctor might give her (it’s more likely she) anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin – this alleviates some of the discomfort but doesn’t remove its root cause i.e., imbalance in vata.
Ayurveda considers this imbalance in vata as the cause of so-called arthritis and prescribes a protocol that re-establishes balance in all three doshas.
As both these conditions are chronic, long term treatment is required which means that we need to alter our lifestyle, mind-body habits drastically i.e.
- Get adequate rest
- Avoid excessive physical or mental exertion
- Diet should be balanced (less spicy & fried foods),
- One must drink lot of water (one glass before each meal) and
- Try not to skip meals at any cost.
Stress management techniques like Meditation and Yoga helps regulate stress hormones known as catecholamines, thereby reducing their impact on nerves etc.. This will help reduce inflammation too.
The final words
Fibromyalgia can be a debilitating condition that has no cure. However, it is possible to get relief from the symptoms of fibromyalgia with Ayurvedic treatment. Dr. Pardeep Sharma specializes in this type of holistic therapy and he will work closely with you to find an effective solution tailored for your specific needs. If you want some peace of mind and want more information on how we can help, give us a call today!
We’re waiting by the phone so don’t hesitate to reach out to our team anytime day or night when you need advice about any health concerns – especially those related to stress management, pain relief, depression prevention and anxiety-related issues such as PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).