In spite of the fact that up to 8 million people in this country suffer from symptoms of fibromyalgia, many in the medical community insist that the disease does not exist — except in the minds of the “hypochondriacs” whom it affects. In fact, even the person mainly responsible for defining fibromyalgia as a disease, Dr. Frederick Wolfe, has now altered his position to claim that fibromyalgia is simply a reaction to stress. The reason for all this denial centers around the fact that the disease offers little that physicians can observe or measure — patients complain about experiencing acute pain all over their bodies as well as profound fatigue — but lab tests yield nothing.
The symptoms associated with fibromyalgia include:
- Multiple tender areas (muscle and joint pain) on the back of the neck, shoulders, sternum, lower back, hips, shins, elbows, and knees
- Sleep disturbances
- Body aches
- Reduced exercise tolerance
- Chronic facial muscle pain or aching
What causes fibromyalgia? No one knows for sure, although researchers have identified certain “risk factors,” including:
- Sex. 85% of all fibromyalgia cases occur in women.
- Age. Fibromyalgia tends to develop during early and middle adulthood.
- People with sleep disorders, such as nighttime muscle spasms in the legs, restless legs syndrome or sleep apnea, have a higher incidence of fibromyalgia.
- Family history. You may be more likely to develop fibromyalgia if a relative also has the condition.
- Rheumatic disease. If you have a rheumatic disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or ankylosing spondylitis, you’re more likely to have fibromyalgia.
Leave it to the pharmaceutical industry to find a way to make money in the midst of all the controversy about the etiology of fibromyalgia. Yes, as reported in the New York Times, the pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, has launched an ad campaign to publicize its new fibromyalgia drug, “Lyrica.” Does Lyrica treat fibromyalgia? Of course not! It merely suppresses nerve pain. But that doesn’t stop Pfizer from publicizing the drug as the first step in getting fibromyalgia recognized as a real disease. Could it be that once fibromyalgia becomes acknowledged as a “real disease,” more doctors will prescribe Lyrica to treat one of the disease’s symptoms? Ah, but I’m just being cynical.
“For patient advocacy groups and doctors who specialize in fibromyalgia, the Lyrica approval is a milestone,” says the Times article. Pfizer says it hopes that Lyrica and two other drugs that may be approved this year will legitimize fibromyalgia, just as Prozac brought depression into the mainstream. And, it seems that the FDA is on board. But this entire push to get Lyrica out there is stuff and nonsense. In these drugs, there is no understanding or treatment of fibromyalgia as a disease — only isolated, unrelated symptoms. There is no attempt to treat underlying causes — just isolated manifestations, causes be damned.
What can you do about fibromyalgia? As it turns out, quite a bit — the same, in fact, as you do for any other systemic condition with multiple symptoms and multiple suspected causes. It’s a perfect candidate for a Baseline of Health Program type approach.
- You have to clean out all of the toxins (heavy metals, xenoestrogens, chemical residues, etc.) that are poisoning your body. Anytime that you have a disease more prevalent in women than men, look to correct an estrogen imbalance caused by exposure to chemical estrogens.
- You have to provide all of the systems and cells in your body with the nutrients they require (vitamins, minerals, trace minerals, antioxidants, phytochemcials, etc.) for optimum vitality and regeneration.
- You’re only as strong as your weakest link. Unlike what many marketeers pushing pills would like you to believe, there is no “magic bullet” to optimum health. You can be taking all the vitamins in the world, but if your body is loaded with mercury, it won’t help.
Bottom line: You must do everything, and do it all at once. Fibromyalgia is a systemic disease with multiple unknown causes. Treat it that way by treating your whole body, and stay away from drugs like Lyrica. Oh, by the way, did I forget to mention that Lyrica may cause serious allergic reactions such as swelling of the face, mouth, lips, gums, tongue or neck; rashes, hives, blisters, and difficulty breathing? Truly an advance in the treatment of fibromyalgia.