Dr. Stefania Marcolongo , naturopath and life coach, begins this column dedicated to the world of fibromyalgia , a little-known but increasingly widespread chronic disease.
Thanks to the collaboration with Ecosalute, with this article we inaugurate a 'space' dedicated to fibromyalgia and complementary medicine tools that support those who suffer from it , to improve their lives.
Tools that, as a naturopath/life coach , but also as a woman suffering from fibromyalgia, I have studied, experimented on myself and other people and help me every day to find my physical and emotional balance .
In this first article I have developed a definition and description of the symptoms by collecting data from sites and texts worldwide.
In the following sections we will instead talk about the tools of complementary medicine and similar useful to help those who experience fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia is a ' non-specific ' syndrome characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue , sleep , memory and mood problems which affects approximately 2 million Italians . Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting how the brain and spinal cord process painful and non-painful signals.
Many people who have fibromyalgia also have tension headaches , temporomandibular joint disorders , irritable bowel syndrome , anxiety, and depression .
Symptoms often begin after a traumatic physical or emotional event but in other cases, symptoms gradually accumulate over time without a single triggering event.
Women are more likely to develop fibromyalgia than men , the reasons are not yet clear.
Symptoms of fibromyalgia
The primary symptoms of fibromyalgia include:
- Pain : The pain associated with fibromyalgia is often described as a widespread, constant pain on both sides of the body that lasts for at least three months.
- Fatigue : People with fibromyalgia often wake up tired , even if they report having slept for a long time. Sleep is often interrupted by pain , and many people with fibromyalgia have other sleep disorders , such as restless legs syndrome and sleep apnea.
- Cognitive difficulties : it is a symptom commonly referred to as " fibro-frog " which impairs the ability to logically reason , concentrate , pay attention , short or long term memory loss , loss of fluency and slowing down in the use of speech .
- Insomnia : fibromyagic patients almost always have disturbed and non-regenerating sleep, with frequent awakenings at night . When you wake up, you have the sensation of not having rested and therefore feel tired and have an unstable mood.
Fibromyalgia often coexists with other conditions, such as:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Migraines and other types of headaches
- Interstitial cystitis or painful bladder syndrome
- Temporomandibular joint disorders
Another characteristic is that symptoms often come and go over time . It can come as an inflammation where the symptoms worsen, especially during periods of particular stress such as:
- Weather changes
- Changes in hormone levels or medications
- Excessive exercise or exertion
What causes fibromyalgia?
The cause of fibromyalgia is still unclear. It seems that in fibromyalgia, during periods of stress specific chemicals that make nerve cells very sensitive are released in the brain. It follows that when experiencing different sensations that are usually not painful - such as heat, cold, touch or movement - extra-sensitive nerve cells send a message to the brain that it is experiencing pain . This means that the sensation of pain is real, but it simply comes from a signal in the brain and not from problems with the muscles and bones .
It is not always clear why this happens. However, many people with fibromyalgia can identify a trigger , such as:
- Genetic familiarity
- An illness or infection
- An injury
- Emotional trauma and/or having suffered abuse
- Joint inflammation
- An autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus erythematosus.
How is fibromyalgia diagnosed?
Fibromyalgia can be difficult to diagnose , because there is no specific test, and painful areas appear normal when a doctor examines them visually.
The diagnosis of fibromyalgia is based on some criteria established by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) :
- diffuse musculoskeletal pain
- pain in at least 11 of the 18 tender points (painful points to the touch distributed throughout the body, both on the right and left and both below and above the waist line)
- the presence of the previous conditions for at least 3 months.
Only recently does the existence of autoimmune factors underlying fibromyalgia seem to have been highlighted .
How is it treated in official medicine?
The approach of official medicine which considers Fibromyalgia a 'chronic and incurable syndrome ' normally either goes in the direction of extinguishing/calming the symptoms or acts on the immune system or on a psychological level , prescribing numerous drugs depending on the symptoms.
How is it treated in natural medicine?
As a Naturopath and Life Coach I am writing to you below the complementary medicine advice which is a valid support for fibromyalgia sufferers:
Massage techniques, physical exercise, motor activity
Regular exercise can reduce pain and tiredness and improve sleep and mood if introduced slowly and gradually. Exercise in 'water' can be a good tool, because water gently supports the body.
Tai chi and yoga can also help.
You can choose any type of exercise that does not make the pain worse. But, it is still best to avoid running and jumping.
Activity and rest
It's a good idea to create healthy habits , plan activities and schedule rest breaks . Setting goals and breaking large tasks into several smaller ones can help.
It is important to sleep at least 7/8 hours a night , between 10 pm and 6 am. To sleep better it may be useful to: reduce tea and coffee after lunch , relax before going to bed and get up at approximately the same time every day.
Although there is no diet that is suitable for all people with fibromyalgia, taking care of your diet is essential for those who suffer from this syndrome .
Integration with Nutraceuticals, Phytotherapeutics
Personalized and targeted integration with natural supplements, nutraceuticals or with phytotherapy and gemmotherapy are a valid help.
Flower remedies , which act on a vibrational level, when recommended and dosed by a professional , are a valid support for emotional/energetic rebalancing. “
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