If you suspect you have fibromyalgia or have recently received it as a diagnosis for your chronic pain symptoms, I have some extremely good news, and a little bad news.
First, the bad news…There is no magic cure, pill, surgery, exercise, or super-food for the pain you have.
Here is the extremely good news: If you want to get better, you can.
First, you must understand the nature of your pain, because it is quite different from most illnesses. Most injuries follow a pattern that any child is familiar with: First, some sort of tissue insult occurs. It could be a burn on a stove, a skinned knee, or perhaps a sprained ankle or broken bone. Second, proportionate to the severity of damage (or so it appears; more on this later), a local inflammatory response occurs, causing characteristic swelling, redness, warmth, and sensitivity. Third, the inflammatory response cools down and the damaged tissue begins to look better. Fourth, the inflammatory response goes away completely, and the tissue looks back to normal or perhaps has some scarring. This process typically takes about 2 weeks for small injuries, 6-8 weeks for moderate injuries, and 12 weeks for severe injuries.
But Fibromyalgia behaves differently. You may have already taken a trip (or several) to your primary care physician and been met with vague explanations and furrowed brows. Physicians educated in western medicine hate complex pain. A very brief lesson in philosophy reveals the reason: Since the Renaissance, Western Science has used the philosophical tool of reductionism to solve medical problems. Reductionism is the belief that complex problems can be divided into smaller, simpler pieces. These pieces can, in turn, be analyzed, manipulated, and understood. If you ever competed in a science fair or took a high school science course, chances are you were instructed in a reductionist philosophy. It is the backbone of the “scientific method.” In medicine, reductionism looks at illness as having a single source cause that must be identified and eliminated. This philosophy has resulted in many great breakthroughs: Polio, Smallpox, and Diptheria are just a few of the killers now all but eliminated by modern vaccination.
But there is a growing pain pandemic which reductionism has failed to address. Ironically, the medical system is so utterly locked into reductionism that they have attempted to define certain chronic pain conditions, in this case, Fibromyalgia. I am hinting, and will now state plainly, that Fibromyalgia is not a typical diagnosis, as its diagnostic criteria are woefully lacking in specificity and prognostic value. That’s why your physician is so frustrated. Even the characteristic 18 tender points are points that will be tender on just about any human. Any human!
On the positive, giving it a recognizable name does allow for insurance to pay for treatment. But what is the treatment? Currently, treatment for chronic pain is either too vague- diet (full of misinformation), exercise, and positive social relationships (thanks mom!), or too dangerous- NSAID overuse and worse, addictive opioids and their kin. There has got to be a better way!
There is. Like most things in life, if you want to find something hidden, you have to know where to look. Western Medicine simply looks for solutions in the wrong places! At Village Physical Therapy, we look at a few key drivers of chronic pain that are often missed and are instrumental in solving fibromyalgia:
Movement faults and misalignment:
I cannot tell you how many patients I see who have suffered for years with pain where a simple change in a joint position totally alleviates pain. I’ll give you an example. John Doe walks into our office for a Discovery Visit. I ask him what hurts and when. He says his low back hurts when he bends forward. I have him demonstrate, and sure enough, pain is provoked. Next, I give a particular direction of hands-on pressure to the muscles and joints in the low back, have him repeat the motion, and discover it is now pain-free. This reveals a malposition of joints and tension-imbalance in muscles that can be solved entirely by retraining of movement patterns. Importantly, hands-on techniques and “adjustments” (think chiropractic) are absolutely not necessarily long-term. Education and training in skilled movement eliminate the dependency on me or anyone else to provide relief. In a way, this is bad for business…but great for patients! There are a standardized series of assessments we use to determine poor movement patterning and consistent system we use to help our clients become masters of their own bodies.
Sugars and Fats
Before the industrial revolution, chronic inflammatory conditions such as fibromyalgia, heart conditions like atherosclerosis, gastrointestinal conditions like irritable bowel disease, neurological conditions like Multiple-Sclerosis, metabolic conditions like Diabetes, and auto-immune conditions like asthma, allergies and food sensitivities barely played a role in human life. One of the biggest changes humans have faced is the catastrophic shift from grass-fed animal products and whole sources of fat to grain-based EVERYTHING. Cooking oils are made from grains. Animals are fed with grains. And then there’s the carb/sugar basis to the modern food pyramid that has been misleading Americans since the 50s.
The problem is partially due to sugars and a physiological problem called glycation (you can think of it as sticky insides), partially due to trans-fats, and partially due to the ratio of omega 3 fatty acids to omega 6s.
This can all get extremely complicated, and it is one of the major problems we solve for our clients. To give an example, the average American consumes Omega-6s to Omega-3s in a ratio of 30:1. The ideal physiological ratio? 1:1. In terms of inflammation, Omega-6s are like the gas pedal, while 3s are the brakes. It would be difficult to understate the significance of this. Think of the last time you used an NSAID like Tylenol for a headache. The mechanism by which NSAIDs reduce pain is by reducing inflammation. It is the exact same mechanism by which a normalized 1:1 ratio of 6s:3s can reduce inflammation and pain, but without all the side effects, and with a myriad of other health benefits. As I said, it gets pretty complicated to figure out how to make dietary changes to reduce chronic inflammation, which is why many people seek out our guidance.
Safety and Danger
A fast-growing body of research indicates that one of the biggest factors in solving pain problems like fibromyalgia is education. It turns out that when people understand what pain actually is, they suffer less from it. For instance, did you know that pain is not a direct product of damage? In fact, pain is a complex alarm system that is the result of a sense of danger. When humans feel they are in danger, they feel more pain, regardless of the actual damage sustained by their bodies. There is a lot of psychology here, and making sense of it and guiding our patients through this journey is one of our biggest priorities.
Unlike reductionist medicine, everything at Village is designed to see and treat the whole person. The process of healing takes time, attention, and a lot of listening. If you want to get better, you can. You are not sentenced to a life of pain medications, last-ditch surgeries, and suffering. You do not have to miss the lifestyle and activities that give you freedom and joy. By healing your movement, your nutrition, and your mindset you can feel better than you have in years. We see it over and over again, and we can’t wait to see it in you.
Our Discovery Visit is a completely free opportunity to learn more about what’s going on, if we are the right fit to help, and what options you have to work with us. At the end, you get to make the decision on where you want to go.