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When discussing what causes fibromyalgia, it’s helpful to first understand what it is—and what it isn’t. Fibromyalgia is not a disease, as diseases tend to have just one cause or trigger. Being a collection of symptoms, fibromyalgia is classified as a syndrome with no single consistent cause.

Someday, with continuing research, fibromyalgia’s main trigger (if there is just one) may be brought to light. Until then, researchers are looking at various factors, including:

METABOLIC DYSFUNCTION

If the body is unable to fully utilize certain substances in the body, or eliminate them from the body, this is called metabolic dysfunction. Substances that cannot be eliminated from the body become toxic and can have an adverse effect on the body’s systems. According to Dr. R. Paul St. Amand of UCLA, if phosphate ions are not excreted sufficiently, they accumulate in the cells of the body, wreaking havoc in the muscles, tendons, and bones.

Sometimes the body doesn’t produce enough of something it needs or reabsorbs it before it can really do its job. Serotonin is one such substance. The body needs serotonin to help regulate moods, emotions, appetite, and even sleep, so a lack of this hormone can cause mood swings, depression, and changes in the sufferer’s eating and sleeping habits. Doctors will often prescribe SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) to try to counteract this dysfunction.

STRESS

Most doctors will tell you that if you suffer from unrelieved, prolonged stress and don’t give it an outlet, it will find its own way out. Some bearers of prolonged stress find themselves dealing with ulcers, heart problems, and anxiety attacks. Some begin exhibiting symptoms of fibromyalgia.

High stress levels that continue for a long period of time can have a harsh effect on the body. The adrenal glands – the ones that produce the “fight or flight” hormone, adrenaline – can be overworked, resulting in fatigue, trouble getting up in the morning, feeling your best in the late evening, a feeling of being rundown and sometimes just plain overwhelmed, and an inability to bounce back from illness or stressful situations. Researchers are looking at the possible connection between adrenal fatigue and fibromyalgia.

NUTRITIONAL DEFICIENCIES

Research has determined that there are some things fibromyalgics are commonly deficient in. This may be due in part to the modern diet of convenience, in which many foods purchased and consumed are full of empty calories and denuded of nutritional value.

One shared deficiency is in the amino acid tryptophan. The body needs tryptophan to make niacin and serotonin. Researchers believe serotonin contributes to getting a good night’s sleep and maintaining a positive mood. Tryptophan is no longer available in the U.S. as a supplement, but can be found in such foods as turkey, chicken, milk, eggs, cheese, pumpkin seeds, peanut butter, and soy.

Make sure your diet is as balanced as possible. Include more protein, which your muscles need for growth and repair. Cut down on—or eliminate from your diet entirely—refined sugars and carbohydrates. The body reacts to sugar by increasing adrenaline production, which can have a bad effect pain-wise in people with fibromyalgia. Eat plenty of fresh vegetables and toss in some fruit (but not too much because of the sugar content—natural or not, it’s still sugar).

ILLNESS OR INJURY

A question that has plagued researchers for some time is whether or not fibromyalgia is the body’s response to an illness or injury. Some sufferers claim to have experienced their first symptoms after being in a car accident or having a nasty virus.

One virus under scrutiny as the cause of both fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome has been the Epstein-Barr virus, the virus that causes mononucleosis. It’s a weak link, however, and scientists continue to look for other triggers.

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The couch is a pretty inviting place if you’re suffering from the chronic pain and discomfort of fibromyalgia. Living a mostly sedentary lifestyle, however, can actually make the condition worse and cause you to experience more pain than you would if you exercised on a regular basis. Exercise is, according to many doctors, one of the best natural treatments for fibromyalgia and vital to taking back your life.

Before you start thinking that exercise just isn’t worth the effort, consider the following benefits it holds for people with fibromyalgia:

                • Stronger muscles

                • Stronger bones (with light strength training)

                • Increased flexibility

                • Better circulation

                • Greater production of endorphins, which results in:

                                Less depression and anxiety

                                Better quality of sleep

                                Pain relief

• Increased production of serotonin and adrenaline, both of which have been shown to inhibit  

  pain

                • Lessens the risk of cardiovascular diseases

                • Lessens the risk of stroke

                • Easier weight loss and weight maintenance, which helps to relieve stress on joints

                • Higher energy level

                • More endurance

People with fibromyalgia should avoid vigorous workouts and sports activities, which carry real potential for injury due to tight muscles and low endurance levels (overdoing exercise with tight muscles can lead to painful micro-tears). Instead, consider taking part in more gentle forms of exercise, like yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, walking, biking, and swimming. Start with short distances and durations for the last three, and always start any workout with slow and gentle stretching (in fact, fibromyalgics should do some stretching every day).

Body building is not recommended for people with fibromyalgia, but it’s fine to work with light weights. Start with one to two pound weights, and go up from there. It’s more important to add repetitions than weight, as more repetitions will tone you instead of adding bulk. If you find one weight level has become too easy for you, consider adding more reps before exchanging your light dumbbells for heavier ones. No dumbbells? Water bottles or cans of soup will work in a pinch.

You may also want to consider the following gear for your workouts:

                • Comfortable, non-restrictive clothing

                • Yoga or Pilates mat (a Pilates mat is recommended, as it will be thicker and provide more                                                          cushioning than a yoga mat)

                • Resistance bands

                • Ankle weights (even great for wearing as you go about your daily activities)

                • Exercise ball

                • Pilates “magic circle,” a soft rubber ring created to provide targeted toning

If you’re someone who’s dealt with a lot of chronic pain due to fibromyalgia, start with the simplest of exercise routines: stretching, walking, and light strength training. If you can do nothing but stretch, start with that. Above all, remember—especially for those with fibromyalgia—that exercise should never be taken to the point of pain.

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Treating Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a form of generalized muscular pain and fatigue that affects approximately 3.7 million Americans.  The name, Fibromyalgia, means pain in the muscles and the fibrous connective tissues (the ligaments and tendons).  Fibromyalgia lacks laboratory abnormalities; instead, the diagnosis depends mostly on a person’s report or complaints and feelings.  Pain is the most prominent […]

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