Fibromyalgia syndrome affects the muscles and soft tissue. Symptoms include chronic muscle pain, fatigue, sleep problems, and painful tender (trigger) points.
It is not one condition but a compilation of different syndromes; therefore, one treatment does not fit all patients. More than that, treatment of two patients with similar fibromyalgia symptoms may be drastically different due to different underlying triggers. Dr.Anne Louise Oaklander, MD, PhD, director of the Nerve Injury Unit in the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Neurology says, “Fibromyalgia is too complex for a 'one size fits all' explanation."
However there are some basics that apply to most fibromyalgia patients. Glutamate and GABA (Gamma-Amino Butyric acid) are the most abundant neurotransmitters in the central nervous system, and especially in the cerebral cortex, which is where thinking occurs and sensations are interpreted. In people with fibromyalgia there is a GABA deficiency and excess of other neurotransmitters such as, glutamate, dopamine and norepinephrine. They are all supposed to be in balance.
For instance, glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter and when it connects to nearby cells, it causes them to activate and send a nerve impulse. GABA on the other hand does the opposite – when it attaches to another cell, it tells it to stop and not to send an impulse. Therefore with a deficiency in GABA, nerve cells can fire easily and far too often.
Normally, the brain pumps out all the GABA we need. Unfortunately, due to a poor diet, exposure to environmental toxins, or other factors, levels of GABA may become depleted.
Skullcap (Scullcap) is one of the most useful herbs to restore and calm the nerves. Skullcap is known as a slightly sedating nervine, neurotrophorestorative, anxiolytic, and spasmolytic.
A nervine normalizes the functions of the nervous system, soothing and relieving tension. A neuro-trophorestorative is something herbs can do which pharmaceutical drugs don’t. It restores optimal function and structure of an organ or tissue. In skullcap’s case, its attention is the restoration of the neurons. An anxiolytic relieves anxiety. Not all anxiolytic herbs do this in the same way. A spasmolytic relieves or decreases muscle spasms in smooth or skeletal muscle.
Skullcap taken together with GABA reduces the painful nerve signaling associated with fibromyalgia.
Low vitamin D levels can cause muscle pain and weakness. Studies show that as many as 25% of people with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome have low vitamin D levels, and that supplementation may help lower pain levels in some cases. One study shows that vitamin D-deficient people need twice as much narcotic pain reliever as non-deficient people.
A study reported from the Orthopedic Hospital Vienna, researchers found between the first and the 25th week on Vitamin D supplementation, the treatment group improved significantly on a scale of physical role functioning, while the placebo group remained unchanged.
Your Vitamin D blood level should be between 50 & 70. Get it tested if you haven’t already and check the numbers. Don’t settle for a report of normal or low from the doctor’s office.
Most fibromyalgia sufferers sleep very tight, stressing the nervous system and muscles and as a result suffer from lack of sleep. Taking a natural muscle relaxer such as Muscle Tranq (Vinco) 1-2 tabs before is helpful.
Extremely gentle massage with experienced therapists is very beneficial and most fibromyalgia patients tell me works wonders for them. Hypnosis is also highly successful for pain and fatigue management.
As stated earlier, fibromyalgia is a complex syndrome where diet, hormone balance, lifestyle, stress, sleep and potentially numerous other factors need to be addressed. There are also natural pain and anti-inflammatories that may be beneficial.
The take home message is you don’t have to suffer, but you do need to take action!
In-office and Telephone appointments with me are available at the Tree of Life Wellness Center Inc. (508-336-4242).
Jane Jansen Holistic Practitioner
Host Holistic Healthline Radio