What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia Syndrome is a generalized musculoskeletal pain and fatigue disorder for which there is an unknown etiology or cause. Individuals have generalized muscle aches with focally tender joints. Large muscle groups are tender. They complain of “burning in muscles.” This is pervasive with slow and insidious onset. It more commonly appears in the 3rd and 4th decades of life, and is far more common in women than men. There is speculation that a virus may be the cause. However it is important to note that there are NO lab tests to diagnose this disorder and, in fact, many healthcare professionals question whether or not the disorder actually exists at all. Fibromyalgia has, however, received a good deal of press, and there has been an enormous amount of monetary gain funneled to clinicians who diagnose and treat this as a real disorder.
Interestingly enough, individuals with this disorder not only have generalized muscle aches and fatigue, they also have sleep disorders, chronic headaches and irritable bowel problems. Alcohol abuse is not uncommon as they try to self medicate, and other substances may also be abused as these individuals travel from healthcare provider to healthcare provider seeking out different diagnoses and usually walking away with a variety of different medication.
It is this authors opinion that fibromyalgia does not have a physiologic foundation. These individuals have depressive symptoms and frequently have failed on other anti-depressants and other medication interventions. This has notoriously been a diagnosis of exclusion, after other disorders have been ruled out. The expense that has gone into finding out or should I say not finding out is enormous. Some individuals with fibromyalgia seek out pain medication, and narcotic abuse is not uncommon. This then can lead to addiction and tolerance, now we have a dual diagnosis and becomes more complicated.
What are causes of Fibromyalgia?
Speculation and theories abound as to what causes fibromyalgia, whether there is a viral or bacterial connection to the onset of fibromyalgia, some feel it is related to lupus or an endocrine disorder. Others feel that certain traumas can exacerbate the symptoms. The bottom line is that we do NOT know what causes fibromyalgia, and we don’t even at this point whether fibromyalgia exists, as there are no laboratory studies validating its existence.
What are the treatments for Fibromyalgia?
Because there is usually associated sleep disturbance, we have found that if we can get individuals to sleep, they do much better and have decreased symptoms. Subsequently, medications like Sonata, Ambien, and Halcion are very helpful in getting individuals to sleep. Individuals should not drink alcohol with these medications. SSRI’s are also very effective. Anti-depressants such as Paxil, Zoloft, Serzone, and Elavil have been most helpful in alleviating the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
It is this author’s experience that individuals with fibromyalgia become grossly defensive when it is suggested that perhaps they are depressed. It appears that certain individuals may enjoy clinging to the diagnosis of fibromyalgia, wearing it like a badge. This author is not saying that fibromyalgia symptoms DO NOT EXIST. The symptoms exist and are very real to the patients. However we also know that with depression, we get very similar symptoms including generalized fatigue, generalized muscle aches, joint aches, sufferers may be somewhat despondent, and insomnia. Subsequently, this author speculates there may be something other than a physiological basis of fibromyalgia.
In our society, people are leery and defensive with regard to being labeled, especially where there are stigma attached, such as with depression. Isn’t it ironic, then, that we have conjured up two diagnoses over the last few years called fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome? The amount of money that is generated by fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome is absolutely appalling, in this author’s opinion. Before we start creating new labels for old diagnoses, should we not first spend more time finding the cause?
Does Tai Chi relieve Fibromyalgia symptoms?
From Journal Watch,Medicine that Matters, Sept. 15, 2010 Vol.30 No. 18 published by the New England Journal of Medicine.
States a study shows Tai Chi relives symptoms of fibromyalgia. They state “Initial single-center results are encouraging, but verification is needed.
Tai Chi is a form of meditation and relaxation. It combines deep breathing exercises and relaxation techniques. Evidently a grant was given to do this single-blind randomized study of 66 fibromyalgia patients. They participated two times a week for twelve weeks, in one hour sessions. They reported better sleep, decreased pain, decreased depression (did I say depression?) and less muscle aches.
Now call me a cynic, please. Do we really need a study, grant money at Tuft University to tell us that meditation in the form of Tai Chi helps sleep, depression, and muscle aches. I am not even going to comment on the end results here. This is embarrassing for the New England Journal of Medicine to even publish. Meditation has helped anxiety, pre-surgical candidates, depression, and a variety of other diagnoses. The formal diagnosis of fibromyalgia aka depression is another way to label, and single out a diagnosis with a constellation of symptoms otherwise known as depression. Of course Tai Chi helps. Any clinician worth their stethoscope or Native American elder could of predicted these results before the grant money was given out.