Fibromyalgia Pain: You're NOT Going Crazy!

You’re thinking your symptoms are untreatable and are all in your head. Friends, family, and coworkers are convinced you’re a hypochondriac. Doctors are hesitating to take on your case. You’re concerned about your future, the risks of liver and kidney damage and side effects from overmedication. Missed work days and decreased productivity have you in danger of losing your job and even your marriage. Treatment costs are astronomical, insurance isn’t paying and you’re not sure you are any better off after all your treatment. Your life, health and world is crumbling and you have no clue what’s gone wrong.

Comments like this are typical of my patients who have been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and who seek answers. Fibromyalgia, its cause and treatment often remain a mystery to both doctor and patient, leaving you feeling helpless and frustrated. Thankfully there is help.

Everyone is different, but patients often recall a specific incident that triggered a “negative” shift in health. Some mention a traumatic injury while others an emotional trauma or prolonged stress — such as a prolonged illness or life changing divorce. We are well equipped to handle short bursts of intermittent stress — but were never designed for prolonged stress exposure causing depleted and exhausted organ systems incapable of maintaining and performing their normal function to occur.

Stress responses by the human body are well documented and quite predictable. We realize that our nervous system detects the presence of a stressful stimulus as a physical threat to our survival. An example of this could be a tiger preparing to leap on you at the watering hole and turning you into its dinner. This situation is perceived as an immediate threat signaling an alarm response within the body telling you to “get away” quickly — assuming you desire to live. The body signals that action must be taken to escape the treat or prepare for the battle ahead and improve the chances of survival. If you were being threatened (tiger or otherwise), your body would benefit from such changes as increased heart rate, blood pressure and increased blood sugar. These immediate changes in body chemistry provide added fuel and the ability to mobilize it quickly throughout our body helping to move away from the threat. This is an intelligent response and makes a lot of sense in a survival situation. Much less important would be the ability to reproduce, for growth and for cellular immunity — unless of course you survived the tiger attack. Hmm… could it be that those we know with elevated blood pressure, menstrual irregularity, difficulty conceiving a baby, erectile dysfunction, elevation of cholesterol and blood sugar abnormalities are actually the result of too much stress?

Often overlooked is our ability to digest food during periods of extreme stress. Think about it, why should your body worry about eating a meal and the need to digest it if the most important task at hand is to run from the threat that is chasing you (tiger). In cases of prolonged stress, the stomach lining almost always becomes irritated and results in symptoms of reflux, heartburn, trouble swallowing, belching and intestinal distress symptoms that often prompt the use of antacids, proton pump inhibitors, and other medications to ease symptoms. Without adequate stomach acid and the ability to properly digest your meals, thus emerges yet more problems and thus the beginning of the downward health spiral.