Until the early 1990s, many health care providers refused to acknowledge fibromyalgia as a medical condition. After all, there are no objective diagnostic tests for fibromyalgia, and a physical examination of the fibromyalgia patient will reveal few, if any, abnormalities.
Perhaps the factor that produced the most skepticism on the part of the American medical establishment though was the fact that 90 percent of all fibromyalgia patients are women. The disease is widespread, affecting five million – or 1 in 50 – Americans, but it’s seven times as prevalent in females as it is in males. Even after the American College of Rheumatology adopted a formal definition of the disease in 1990, many male physicians were inclined to view fibromyalgia as a complicated form of female hypochondria.
From the start, however, alternative medicine practitioners recognized fibromyalgia as a serious threat to health and wellbeing. As a result, fibromyalgia alternative treatment is often far more targeted and effective than conventional therapy for for fibromyalgia.
What Is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic syndrome characterized by pain and fatigue. The American College of Rheumatology uses two criteria to establish a fibromyalgia diagnosis:
• A medical history of widespread pain, affecting all four quadrants of the body, that has lasted three months or more.
• Pain associated with at least 11 of the designated 18 fibromyalgia tender points.
Other symptoms of the disease include sleep disturbances, headaches, stiffness and problems with urinary tract and gastrointestinal functions. The syndrome is characterized by exacerbations and remissions of symptoms.
Fibromyalgia’s precise causes are unknown. It tends to run in families, and often makes its first appearance in the aftermath of stress, traumatic injury or illness. There is no known cure for fibromyalgia.
There seems to be a link between fibromyalgia and depression. Many of the medications that are effective in treating depression are also used with fibromyalgia patients. Other types of conventional therapy for for fibromyalgia include sleep medications, steroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, the anticonvulsant drug, Lyrica, and physical therapy.
Fibromyalgia Alternative Treatment
Chronic pain syndromes such as fibromyalgia often respond well to alternative therapies because these therapies work by increasing blood flow and alleiviating the physiological signs of stress. The stress associated with chronic pain causes the body to release hormones that raise cardiac and respiratory rates, and constrict the blood vessels, thereby raising blood pressure. Relaxation techniques reverse these negative physiological effects.
Acupuncture is a Chinese medicine technique in which a practitioner inserts fine needles into a patient’s skin along specific meridians, thereby releasing trapped energy. Some scientists believe acupuncture works by triggering the release of certain neurotransmitters that relay or inhibit information to other parts of the body about sensory stimuli such as pain. Other scientists believe acupuncture helps fibromyalgia patients by raising their pain thresholds.
A study published in a 2006 issue of “Mayo Clinic Proceedings” found that acupuncture provides relief from fatigue and anxiety symptoms associated with fibromyalgia for up to seven months after treatment.
Massage therapy is the fibromyalgia alternative treatment that patients themselves rate most highly as a means of decreasing pain and improving general quality of life. Massage reduces muscular tension and improves circulation of blood to affected areas.
Chiropractors believe that chronic illnesses are caused by skeletal misalignments. By restoring balance to the body, they believe they can eliminate many of the underlying causes of chronic impairment and pain.
Chiropractic therapy has proven to be an effective treatment for the discomfort associated with back pain, neck and shoulder pain, headaches, deep musculoskeletal pain and specific fibromyalgia pain points.
Homeopathy is a 200 year old treatment system that works by giving patients small doses of medicines that actually mimic the symptoms of the patients’ diseases when given in larger dosages. As outlandish as this may seem to practitioners trained in Western pharmacology, it’s actually the same theory behind the actions of many vaccines and allergy treatments.
In 2004, scientists working at the University of Arizona School of Medicine found that 50 percent of a group of fibromyalgia patients experienced a significant improvement pain after treatment with a homeopathic medication. In contrast, members of the control group treated with a placebo only experienced a 15 percent improvement. The National Institutes of Health funded this study.
Relaxation techniques emphasize conscious breathing and focused attention to alleviate stress-related responses like pain, anxiety and depression. Some relaxation techniques like meditation actually alter brain waves.
Herbs and supplements
Supplements and herbs used as therapy for for fibromyalgia focus on improving sleep patterns and eliminating symptoms associated with depression. Two of the most popular fibromyalgia supplements are melatonin and St. John’s wort.
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