In September 2017, Lady Gaga announced that she has canceled her European tour, a week before it was due. The reason: Severe physical pain that impacted her ability to perform. This had the world thinking, was this due to fibromyalgia, the condition Gaga has been suffering from (The Netflix documentary, ‘Gaga: Five Foot Two’ talks about her struggles with the condition.) The media and her fans rushed to understand what is fibromyalgia. Let’s understand this condition in detail and look at some holistic treatment options for fibromyalgia.
What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia or better known as fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is a long-term condition that causes widespread pain throughout the person’s body. Living with fibromyalgia includes suffering through its draining symptoms.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals. Symptoms sometimes begin after a physical trauma, surgery, infection or a lot of psychological stress. In other cases, symptoms gradually build over time with no single triggering event.
Some of the other symptoms that are linked with fibromyalgia include the following.
- Extreme tiredness
- Muscle aches
- Difficulty in sleeping and concentrating
- Morning stiffness
- Numbness and tingling in hands, arms, feet, and legs
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Problems during urination
- Painful menstrual cramps
Causes Of Fibromyalgia
- Abnormalities of the brain: Fibromyalgia is related to abnormal levels of certain chemicals in the brain. The condition is also linked to changes in the way our central nervous system (brain, spinal cord and nerves) processes and carries pain messages around the body.
- Thyroid: A number of times, people living with fibromyalgia suffer from thyroid as well. So it’s important to check whether your thyroid gland is working fine and isn’t over or under-active. Addressing thyroid issues can often help with the symptoms commonly associated with fibromyalgia.
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies: Many people living with fibromyalgia are deficient in vitamin B12, vitamin D, and magnesium.
- Glutathione deficiency: Patients of fibromyalgia are often found to be deficient in an important molecule called glutathione in our body. Glutathione is an antioxidant and detoxifier. It is also known to boost the immune system.
- Adrenal fatigue: Adrenal fatigue is a result of chronic stress, and is often found as a precursor to fibromyalgia. Adrenal fatigue refers to the poor functioning of the adrenal gland. The adrenal glands get fatigued because of a traumatic event or stress. It is widely known that Lady Gaga was raped at the age of 19 which led to a huge emotional upheaval in her life.
- Genetics: Fibromyalgia can also be a genetic condition that is passed on from parent to child.
Holistic Treatment For Fibromyalgia
There is no eternal cure for fibromyalgia. However, you can get relief from the condition if you watch out its triggers and take steps to address its causes.
Be Aware Of Triggers
Be aware of the triggers of fibromyalgia. These include stress, bereavement, other illnesses or surgery, weather changes, travel and sleep deprivation. You can avoid the pain caused by fibromyalgia by not putting your body and mind in situations that can trigger the condition.
Exercises For Relieving Pain
Exercising is a lifestyle change that makes living with fibromyalgia easier. Your overall treatment plan should involve movement. Moderate aerobic training, walking, and other light exercises are a good way to start.
Monitor Your Social Activities
Not having a super active social life is not a crime. Being around a lot of people can be draining so don’t indulge in any activities that might tire you or you may not enjoy! Of course, you don’t have to stop socializing. Spending time with family and close friends can help in improving your mental health and managing the pain better.
Benefit From Physiotherapy
Since it’s an ailment that causes widespread pain in the body, living with fibromyalgia can be painful. Physiotherapy can improve the quality of life immensely. Physiotherapy focuses on the treatment, healing, and prevention of injuries or disabilities. For example, proper posture, which your physical therapist can help you with, allows efficient muscle function. This can save you from undue fatigue and pain.
Monitor Your Diet
There is no specific diet for fibromyalgia as everyone’s symptoms are different. However, keeping your weight within a healthy range and eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables can help. The National Fibromyalgia Research Association recommends to avoid certain foods, such as refined sugar, caffeine, alcohol and highly processed foods. They also recommend magnesium as a safe natural treatment for fibromyalgia.
If you living with fibromyalgia, it’s important to regularly take time to relax or practice relaxation techniques. Stress can make your symptoms worse, or even increase your chances of developing depression. Books, videos, and online courses can aid in your relaxation. Like reading a book for an hour before you sleep or listening to relaxing music can help you relax and sleep better.
Try Resistance Training
Exercises those focus on strength training, such as lifting weights, can also help people living with fibromyalgia. These exercises work as they help in dealing with muscle stiffness and soreness experienced by patients of fibromyalgia. People living with fibromyalgia will also feel less tired, will function better and experience a boost in mood after resistance training exercises.
Improve Your Sleeping Habits
If irregular sleep is one of your triggers, you can avoid it by creating a regular sleep pattern. Try to sleep and get up at the same time every day. You can also create a bedtime routine like having a warm glass of milk or taking a bath before you sleep. Avoid eating heavy meals or having coffee or tea before bed.
Get Enough Breaks
If you are living with fibromyalgia, it is vital that your life and activities in it are paced out. This includes balancing periods of activity with periods of rest and not pushing yourself beyond your limits. If you don’t pace yourself, this could slow down your progress against the condition. For example, if you haven’t exercised for a long time, don’t start with weightlifting. Start with something simpler such as yoga or even simple jogging before moving to more intensive exercises.
Practice Mind-Body Practices
You can adopt tai chi, qi gong, and yoga which can help in easing many symptoms of fibromyalgia, right from sleep problems and fatigue to mood. Because these activities involve movements, they provide the same benefits as exercises for fibromyalgia. In addition, they also provide relief from stress.
What Are The Best Supplements For Fibromyalgia?
Living with fibromyalgia isn’t easy. Treatments that work for some won’t necessarily work for others. However, there are certain supplements that help people who are living with fibromyalgia. Before you start on any supplements for fibromyalgia, consult a doctor.
Magnesium: Since fibromyalgia causes a lot of pain, it is important to get the muscles to relax. This can help in reducing the pain that most patients feel. Magnesium works as a wonderful muscle relaxant.
Omega 3: Inflammation in the brain is considered as one of the causes of fibromyalgia. Omega 3 fatty acids are known to reduce inflammation.
Vitamin D: Vitamin sunshine i.e. vitamin D, works well in reducing pain and improving immunity.
SAM-e: Just like vitamin D, Sam-e (S-adenosylmethionine) is also a good supplement for pain reduction.
Malic Acid: Malic Acid is an organic compound found in tart fruits such as apples, certain grapes, and cranberries. Malic acid works for patients of fibromyalgia as it helps muscle tissues get more oxygen. It also improves energy production in the muscle cells and prevents a breakdown of muscle tissues.