Fibromyalgia is a disorder that is characterized by widespread, chronic pain of unspecific origin. Pain may be experienced in the muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints. Other areas of the body may be impacted in a manner consistent with tactile allodynia, which means sensitivity to what may otherwise be considered non-painful stimuli even when that area is not targeted. In other words, even the slightest pressure can cause pain to spread to other areas. While not life-threatening, fibromyalgia can be quite disabling, with pain varying in intensity and lasting anywhere from a few days to several months or even years.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
The American Academy of Rheumatology (ACR) has set some guidelines to help practitioners arrive at a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, which stipulate that there must be unexplained tenderness felt for at least three months in at least 11 of 18 identified tender points located along the sides, front and back of the body. However, many practitioners feel that these guidelines are too unyielding and may not address the symptoms of all candidates. In addition, fibromyalgia patients often experience pain of varying degree and duration that may not fall in line with these criteria.
Causes of Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is still a poorly understood disorder. However, researchers have made progress in recent years in identifying some potential causes. The most current thinking involves central sensitization, which equates to a reduced threshold of pain due to an increase in neurotransmission in the brain that triggers pain signals. Researchers believe that this impairment of the central nervous system may be caused by inflammatory cytokines, which promote inducible nitric oxide synthase (INOS) in muscles. Elevated INOS levels produce several reactions, such as:
Recommended Supplements in the Treatment of Fibromyalgia
Since oxidative stress is associated with
fibromyalgia, it may be helpful to supplement with antioxidants to help
counteract free radical damage from elevated levels of oxidants, such as
peroxynitrite. Recommended antioxidants include omega-3, vitamin C,
vitamin E and selenium.
The active form of pyridoxine can help to
increase the activity of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the molecule
responsible for delivering and storing energy in cells. Studies have
shown that fibromyalgia patients are often deficient in ATP.
This nutrient is necessary for energy
production and transport from ATP to muscles. Some studies have shown
that magnesium supplementation is helpful in reducing symptoms of
SAMe is a compound naturally produced by the body. One of its main actions is regulate the production and metabolism of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Studies have shown that supplementation with SAMe has helped fibromyalgia patients, who report a decrease in pain and muscle strength, as well improved mood and quality of sleep.
Herbs Used in the Treatment of Fibromyalgia
Cayenne pepper contains capsaicin which, when prepared in a cream and applied topically, can help to reduce local pain. Of particular note is that this agent appears to block the activity of substance P.
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Written by Karyn Siegel-Maier 2008
Prepared for Ardis Health