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Fibromyalgia: Symptoms and Effective Herbal Treatments

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Current statistics show that fibromyalgia affects approximately 3-5% of the Americn population, with a female to male incidence ratio of approximately 9:1. But how do you really know if you have it? And more importantly, how do you treat it? Here are s

Current statistics show that fibromyalgia affects approximately 3-5% of the American population, with a female to male incidence ratio of approximately 9:1. 

According to current medical criteria, fibromyalgia (also referred to as FM or FMS) is defined as: “A medical disorder characterized by chronic widespread pain and allodynia (pain caused by a stimulus which does not normally induce pain), and a heightened and painful response to pressure.  In that fibromyalgia symptoms are not restricted to physical pain, the alternative term “fibromyalgia syndrome” is also applied to this condition. 

Other core symptoms of fibromyalgia include overpowering fatigue, sleep disturbance, and joint stiffness.  Some patients also report difficulty swallowing, bowel and bladder abnormalities, jaw pain, numbness and tingling (especially in the hands and feet), and cognitive dysfunction (what many term 'brain fog.')

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Fibromyalgia is frequently co-morbid (involving more than one disease or pathological condition) with psychiatric conditions such as depression and anxiety as well as stress-related disorders like PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder).  Not all people with fibromyalgia experience all associated symptoms."

But even with such a seemingly definitive description of symptomology, how do you really know if you have fibromyalgia?  Fact is, even with what is known today, most doctors hesitate to commit to a fibromyalgia diagnosis.

Although fibromyalgia has been a commonly recognized affliction known to have affected tens of thousands of people across the country--probably millions around the world--for decades, this mysterious disease didn’t even have a name until the 1990s. 

Up until that time, to deal with the vast array of symptoms patients commonly reported, doctors typically prescribed muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatories, steroids, antidepressants, mood elevators, and a number of other last-ditch medications--most of which brought horrendous side-effects.  And when those proved ineffectual, physical therapy modalities such as deep tissue massage, acupuncture, and sports/rehabilitative therapy were suggested.  But as most fibromyalgia sufferers can attest, these methods provide little more than momentary, fleeting relief.  And as was usually the case with fibromyalgia sufferers of that time, a point was reached where the doctor simply had no more cures to offer.  

Finally in 1992 a trigger-point test created by the American College of Rheumatology for what at the time was thought to be an unrecognized form of arthritis, became the standard criteria for diagnosing fibromyalgia.

While no treatment options accompanied this pain-sensitivity test, its common administration lead to two major steps toward the advancement of a management program: it proved that this as-yet unnamed disease was not just another form of arthritis, and that a great deal of research needed to be conducted as fibromyalgia afflicts a huge sector of the population.

Herbal Discoveries

While a number of pharmaceuticals specifically geared to the management of fibromyalgia symptoms have now become available to the general public in recent years, I would like to suggest a number of natural, herbal curatives  that I discovered through extensive, trial-and-error study, that I'm confident will help many other fibromyalgia suffers–if not alleviate at least some of the symptoms altogether.  (I advocate only those which have given me the most outstanding results.)

First of all, I can’t say enough good things about green tea.

While this miracle herb has come into its own in recent years regarding its detoxifying and anti-oxidantal properties, many have found it to be a remarkable join pain reliever as well. 

Fifteen years ago I began drinking six cups of green tea each morning and within the very first month noticed a qualitative reduction in my morning pain level–as well as mobility. Range of motion that had normally taken several hours to achieve, could be accomplished in one. I am convinced that green tea is one of nature’s natural combatants of the symptoms of fibromyalgia.

The second herb that provided me with amazing results was flaxseed.

While flax too has become broadly advocated in recent years–especially for its concentration of omega-3, brain-stimulating properties–I have found it to be a remarkable pain reducer. 

Shortly after I began taking 600 mgs of flaxseed oil each morning with breakfast, I realized that my overall pain level (combined with the effects of green tea) had dropped by at least 75%.  I was shocked!  In addition to taking capsules, I have also incorporated flaxseed grain into my general diet, adding it to oatmeal, yogurt, and anywhere I use flour.

My next great find was Korean ginseng (the "female" equivalent is Dong Quoi.) 

I began taking 1000 mgs of this highly potent Asian herb shortly after discovering the positive effects of green tea/flaxseed, and was quite amazed at the boost it gives my system. 

Seeming to intensify the properties of the tea and flaxseed, ginseng increases my energy level, allowing me to push through any residual pain or stiffness I may experience.

Dietary Changes

Lastly (but perhaps most significantly for some), the elimination all processed foods from my diet (especially those containing MSG and other preservatives), high fructose corn syrup, artificial additives, sulfites, salt, junk food, chocolate, and any avoidable toxins has left me virtually pain-free. 

The measures I have described here allow me to easily deal with fibromyalgia–with most of the symptoms I once experienced (including forgetfulness, inability to concentrate, night sweats, irritibility, fatigue, and sleep disturbance) things of the past.

(I should note that I did experience marginal positive results with vitamin E, ginger root, and grape extract, but to a much lesser degree.)

The Pro-active Approach

Even with all that is known today about this mysterious disease, fibromyalgia is still considered a controversial diagnosis–with no scientific consensus as to its cause. 

Many members of the Western medical community still do not consider it a true “disease” because it lacks uniform symptoms/abnormalities on physical examination and does not “present” by accepted diagnostic testing.  Accordingly, while some researchers advocate the new line of antidepressants and dopamine agonists, others focus on brain chemistry imbalances and psychosomatic origins.  Still other research focuses on genetic make-up, stress factors, and physical injury. 

But with all these avenues of thought currently surrounding fibromyalgia and fibromyalgia Syndrome, it seems that a pro-active approach in treating this mysterious and debilitating disease remains our best bet. 

And after twenty years of intensive experimentation, I can attest to the reality that the symptoms of fibromyalgia can indeed be dealt with naturally–and without side-effects–and that with the right diet and herbal intake, fibromyalgia can be manageable for many.  I urge you to try it and see for yourself--and don’t be afraid to experiment!

(Note: Keep in mind that as with any medication, not all herbs and natural curatives work the same on all people. You may need to experiment beyond what I've presented here.  And should you experience any side-effects whatsoever, discontinue using that herb immediately.  But should that occur, do not assume that no herb will work for you. There are many more to try!)





Images via Wikipedia

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James R. Coffey

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