Fibromyalgia symptoms include chronic widespread pain in muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints, with pain ranging from aching tenderness to shooting, throbbing, sharp pain. The pain can include burning, tingling and numbness. The pain associated with fibromyalgia is often worse in the morning and factors like the weather, anxiety and stress can aggravate the symptoms.
Although muscular pain is a defining symptom of Fibromyalgia, many symptoms factor into this syndrome. An integrative approach should be taken in combating all symptoms and their source. All resources should be looked into with a variety of treatments to break the cycle of pain and dysfunction of Fibromyalgia symptoms.
The list of symptoms might also include:
•Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
•Dry Mouth or skin
•Abnormal Sensitivity to: Odors & Lights, Touch, Sounds or Vibrations
In various studies 60 to 89% of fibromyalgia suffers had IBS.
Non-restorative (not restful) sleep is very common with Fibromyalgia. (Waking up after a full night’s sleep feeling like you’ve gotten no sleep at all.) In fibromyalgia the lack of good sleep heightens the pain and general symptoms. The non-restorative sleep is caused by disruption of alpha-wave sleep during non-rapid eye movement sleep phases. The reason behind this is unproven, but some suggest this could cause reduced production of growth hormone.
Fibromyalgia sufferers tend to show a chronic dysfunction in normal breathing patterns, with a high degree of anxiety. This seems to encourage shallow breathing and hyperventilation is common. This “upper chest” poor breathing pattern might continue during the night, disrupting proper sleep patterns.
Sometimes breathing exercises alone are not enough to overcome this habit. The fibromyalgia patient might have a structural dysfunction with the chest or spinal muscles. If these muscles are shortened, it can cause restriction in breathing patterns. The fibromyalgia symptoms are intensified by the poor breathing function.
Massage, or some structural bodywork can help loosen these tight chest muscles, if the bodywork is not too deep. Excessively deep massage can aggravate the fibromyalgia symptoms, particularly the pain.
Lack of sufficient oxygen to the brain from poor breathing function can negatively affect the cerebral cortex in the brain, which might be a contributing factor to the "foggy brain" and blurred vision symptoms. Sub-par oxygenation of muscle tissues also aggravates the muscle stress, and enhances trigger point activation.
Some fibromyalgia patients have chronic infections. Some studies report that mycoplasmal type of bacterial infections seemed to be more common in fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and Gulf war syndrome sufferers. It is believed that the resulting decreased immunity and these dysfunctional conditions that burden the body are the cause of these syndromes, not necessarily the bacteria itself.
“Tender Points” are used to diagnose fibromyalgia and have been mapped on the body by the American College of Rheumatology for diagnosing purposes. These tender points have been found to be the most common, consistent findings in research studies. They are basically the same for every sufferer and are found in all four quadrants of the body.
If pain is felt in at least 11 of the 18 specific tender points, along with other diagnostic criteria, fibromyalgia is confirmed. Pressure of about 4 kg will bring a painful response. Unlike trigger points, tender points will feel like normal muscle tissue with no knots or taut bands of muscle fiber. (For a more thorough explanation of trigger points see my page on that topic.)
Fibromyalgia also seems to have several co-existing conditions. Some of these problems could be because of fibromyalgia. Or, these other problems could perpetuate or worsen the fibromyalgia symptoms.
Some of these conditions might include arthritis, Raynaud’s syndrome , migraines, post traumatic stress disorder, TMJ disorder, yeast infections, IBS, chronic fatigue syndrome. A thorough medical exam is needed that does thorough testing for each of these conditions. The debate has come to be, “does the fibromyalgia come with these symptoms or do these other conditions bring on fibromyalgia?” Research has no definite answers yet, but we do know that fibromyalgia intensifies the symptoms of other conditions that the person suffers from.
One author notes that in treating hundreds of fibromyalgia patients in his clinic, the onset of fibromyalgia seems to come after one of the following seven factors:
1. Cervical /Neck trauma, including whiplash or other neck injuries or surgery
2. IgG Food Allergies
3. Toxic or chronic exposure to chemicals, heavy metals and pesticides
4. Virus infections and illnesses
5. Family member(s)with fibromyalgia symptoms
6. Prolonged stress, adrenal fatigue and overload of stress hormones
7. Vestibular injuries or disorder, such as vertigo, or disequilibrium
Fibromyalgia patients with cervical trauma seem to be different from the other six in that their pain is described differently. They describe it as more of a spontaneous shooting ache with cold, numbness, burning and other sensations which they find hard to explain.
Cervical trauma sufferers are the only sub-group who report burning and pain in the hands and feet. This is thought to be because of damage or fractures to the end plates of the spine and damage to soft tissues of the cervical spine exposing the spinal fluid to inflammatory responses. The cervical spine is much more innervated than the lower spine. (More nerves make it more capable of feeling pain more intensely.)
Massage therapy will help the sufferer at the cellular level in reducing fibromyalgia symptoms and breaking the pain cycle. It will bring greater health to the circulatory and myofascial systems of the body,helping to rid the body of toxins and chemical levels that aggravate the fibromyalgia symptoms.
Fibromyalgia symptoms are complicated, but science is starting to identify common patterns. Treatment for the condition is advancing and massage therapy for fibromyalgia should be part of that treatment. Fibromyalgia sufferers rate regular massage as the top non-drug treatment for their muscle pain. Read more aboutfibromyalgia and massage therapy here.
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