WHAT IS FMS?
Unfortunately the truth is nobody knows, because it can not be tested for it was original thought to be a mental problem rather than a physical one. Pain, muscle and back specialists quickly noticed that there was a large number of people with inexplicable back and muscle pain who also had a great number of supposedly seperate medical complaints. These complaints had been present in the patients for years and none had ever improved, or if they had it was only for a short period and then they had returned. This could have been put down to the fact that there are a lot of hypochondriac clinical depressives around if it hadn't been for the fact that out of the list of symptoms below (about 35) a very large number of patients had at least 25 of them but nothing else wrong with them (obviously some were just hypochondriac clinical depressives). This could have been coincidence apart from a quirk these people all shared, from a total of eighteen possible trigger points clustered around the shoulders, neck, chest, elbows, hips and knees there was extreme sensitivity touch in at least eleven. This was more than enough evidence for these specialists to conclude that there was a single condition effecting these people and it was causing all of thew symptoms, this was not however enough to convince the doctors.
Doctors don't diagnose on evidence alone, if you can't test for it they don't believe in it. This has created one major problem in the past, many of the pain killers doctors prescribe can actually aggravate the fatigue in people with FMS to disabling levels.
Research carried out over the last couple of years in the States is now forcing doctors to accept the condition although in the UK they are still very slow to catch on. Its has been discovered that FMS causes tightening and thickening of the bodies myofascia, this is a sticky film that covers your muscles to form your shape and goes on to form your ligaments and tendons. Sleep clinics have also discovered that people with fibromyalgia are severe insomniacs and/or have an abnormal 'awake' like brain activity during the period when they should be in deep stage 4 sleep, this is called an Alpha EEG abnormality. The myofascia abnormality is thought to disrupt the bodies chemistry and cause a break down in communication between the muscles and mind resulting in uncontrollable muscle spasms particularly in the legs (known as restless leg syndrome). This abnormality is also believed to cause the body to over produce a chemical called substance 'P', this is what the mind interprets as pain so what should be a mildly uncomfortable condition becomes a very painful one. The muscle spasms and pain disrupt your normal sleep, it is well known that low sleep quality can cause both physical and mental illness including muscle stiffness, damage and pain, it can also disrupt your body chemistry and the brain can become oversensitive to substance 'P'. This of course aggravates the pain and spasms you normally experience which will then disrupt your sleep still further, this process cycles round and round becoming worse and worse.
FMS is not new. It was first described by William Balfour, a surgeon at the University of Edinburgh, in 1816. The medical profession called it many different names, including chronic rheumatism, Magi, pressure point syndrome, and fibrositis. The condition was also thought to be psychological by some physicians, but that notion must now be relegated to the Dark Ages of medicine.
In 1987, the American Medical Association (AMA), recognized FMS as a true illness and a major cause of disability. Now, nearly ten years later, it is still, unfortunately, too often dismissed as the "newest fad disease", and most physicians still lack the knowledge to diagnose and treat it.
FMS is not a catchall, "wastebasket" diagnosis. FMS is a specific, chronic non-degenerative, non-progressive, noninflammatory, truly systemic pain condition. Diseases have known causes and well-understood mechanisms for producing symptoms. FMS is called a syndrome, which means it is a specific set of signs and symptoms that occur together. Don't let this fool you into thinking that Magi is any less serious or potentially disabling than a disease. Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and other serious afflictions are also classified as syndromes. Lab tests for fibromyalgia are valid only to rule out other conditions. There is no blood test that can accurately identify fibromyalgia.
The official definition requires that * Tender points must be present in all four quadrants of the body -- that is, the upper right and left and lower right and left parts of your body * You must have had wide-spread, more-or-less continuous pain for at least three months.
Tender points occur in pairs on various parts of the body. Because they occur in pairs, the pain is usually distributed equally on both sides of the body.
In traumatic FMS, tender points are often clustered around an injury instead of, or in addition to, the 18 "official" points required for a patient to be able to enter a clinical fibromyalgia study. These clusters can also occur around a repetitive strain or a degenerative and/or inflammatory problem, such as arthritis.
FMS can occur at any age. Most patients, when questioned carefully, reveal that their symptoms began at an early age. About 25 percent of the FMS patients I see are men. This ratio differs from most sources in the literature. I think that this is due to FMS being under diagnosed in males. Flu-like achiness is frequently the most prominent symptom of FMS, but there are many others. For example, * Your eyes may be too dry, but at other times they will water * Your thermal regulatory system is out of whack. You may notice this thermal fluctuation when you get out of bed (which may be often, due to bladder irritability) during the night. You may have to wait for your temperature to cool down after getting back in bed before you can pull the bedcover up.
* Another symptom of FMS is spasticity (tightness) which can constrict the peripheral blood vessels -- those close to the skin.
This symptom, especially in the winter, makes certain parts of our bodies -- most often the buttocks and thighs -- feel like cold slabs of meat. * You may experience skin mottling. Fingernails can break off, often in crescent-shaped pieces. If nails do grow, they sometimes start to curve under.
FMS is a sensitivity-amplification syndrome. This means that people with Fibromyalgia can be sensitive to smells, sounds, lights, odors, pressure and temperature fluctuations and vibrations. The noise emitted by fluorescent lights can drive you crazy. FMS sensitizes nerve endings as well as the rest of the autonomic nervous system, which means that the ends of the nerve receptors may have changed shape.
Because of this, for example, your body might interpret touch, light, or sound as pain. Your brain knows pain is a danger signal -- an indication that something is wrong and needs attention -- so it mobilizes its defenses. Then, when those defenses aren't used, you become anxious.
Sleep plays a crucial role in FMS. Perhaps you aren't getting enough sleep, or the right kind of sleep. You may have insomnia, or a host of other sleep-related problems. People with FMS often have the alpha-delta sleep anomaly. As soon as we reach deep delta level sleep, alpha waves (awake) intrude and either jolt us to an awakening or to a lighter stage of sleep. The body heals and many neurotransmitters are restored during delta sleep, so we soon suffer from sleep deprivation.
Neurotransmitters are electro-biochemical agents that cross nerve synapses. They are the vehicles that carry information back and forth between your body and mind. One might say that neurotransmitters are the "information superhighway" between the body and mind.
Much of our mental and physical sense of continuity and security depends upon our ability to repeat appropriate and predictable actions, but this is disrupted in FMS. Neurotransmitters normally inform muscles constantly about what they're doing so their actions can be modified.
Much of our muscle tension function is improperly controlled by these neurotransmitters. Healthy people think nothing of picking up a glass of water and bringing it to their lips. They know just how tightly their hand has to grip, how heavy the glass of water feels, and how much speed is appropriate to accomplish this act smoothly. People with Fibromyalgia, however, lack proper sensory feedback. The thumb grasps with too little pressure, and the wrist muscle lets go when flexed. The economy of effort is not there. To enable us to sit , walk, and stand, the entire musculature must be able to feel its own activity, and we often can't do that.
Only about 20% of FMS cases have a known triggering event that initiates the first obvious "flare." During a flare, current symptoms become more intense, and new symptoms frequently develop.
SYMPTOMS OF FMS = The majority of FMS sufferers will have a long history of most (not all) of the symptoms below but normally will not have any other long term medical problems (unless they are either very unlucky and have something else as well or are just a normally clinical depressive).
PAIN - The pain in FMS appears regularly and varies from moderate to unbearable, the intensity has no limits and can be throbbing, shooting, aching, burning and stabbing pains. The pain is most intense around the trigger points.
FATIGUE - Symptoms can range from mild to incapacitating, the fatigue can come on in seconds and feels like someone has just unplugged your power supply.
BRAIN FOGGING - A feeling of being 'on another planet', you can get very confused and disorientated. This can also lead to the time spent ill as feeling very 'unreal', many people with FMS when they are going through a good patch think they imagined everything, this can make it very hard to go and see a doctor.
SLEEP ABNORMALITIES- Whether the FMS causes or it causes the FMS isn't known. someone an alpha EEG abnormality which means that as soon as you reach deep sleep you alpha waves intrude and jolt you either awake or to a lighter sleep. Can also include insomnia. Take licorice drops in beer every time you wake and at bedtime. Bottle of beer lasts three days. Get the big bottle, lasts a week unless there's a boy in the house. (Put it into a mason jar write URINE TEST on label.)
CHRONIC HEADACHES - Can be like having a migraine 24hrs a day 7 days a week and can make life 72hrs. 50% of FMS sufferers have reoccurring migraines or tension type headaches.
IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME (IBS) - 47% of FMS sufferers also suffer from IBS
FREQUENT ABDOMINAL PAIN - Can be (so I've been told) similar to severe period pains.
NAUSEA - Can be frequent or permanent during a flare up and can make eating very unappealing over long periods of time.
TEMPOROMANDIBULAR JOINT DYSFUNCTION SYNDROME (TMJ) - Tremendous face and head pain suffered by around 25% of people with FMS.
MUSCLE TWITCHING - IRRITABLE BLADDER
FEELING OF SWOLLEN EXTREMITIES - Take hawthorne, cayenne, ginger to get circ up.
THERMAL REGULATORY SYSTEM OUT OF WHACK - Difficulty in maintaining body temperature, sometimes feeling like your going to boil and others like you may freeze.
SKIN SENSITIVITIES AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF NEW ALLERGIES
DRY EYES AND MOUTH
FREQUENT CHANGE IN EYE PRECIPITATION
PREMENSTRUAL SYNDROME AND PAINFUL PERIODS
COGNITIVE IMPAIRMENT - Difficulty in concentration, memory lapses.
MEMORY LOSS - Frequently struggling to find words and names
NUMBNESS AND TINGLING SENSATIONS
COMPRESSION OF THE SPINE
BRUXISM (GRINDING OF TEETH DURING SLEEP)
SENSITIVITY-AMPLIFICATION - Sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell are all over sensitive and many supposedly normal things either cause pain or extreme irritability, the most common is the buzz from fluorescent lights driving you round the bend.
RESTLESS LEG SYNDROME - knee jerks?
SLEEP MYOCLONUS (NIGHTMARE JERKING OF ARMS AND LEGS)
From the list above the symptoms highlighted in blue can be found repeatedly in my medical history over the last five years and yet my doctor like many other peoples insisted that there was nothing wrong with me. It was not until about eight months ago (June '98) when I paid to see an osteopath that the condition was diagnosed, it was rejected by my doctor as a condition that in his opinion did not exist, then confirmed again by a second osteopath, a different doctor and my works occupational health department. Although it took my first osteopath a few months to work out what may be wrong the condition itself can be pretty much diagnosed in under five minutes. Without knowing why I was quizzed for a while about my medical history and then poked in certain points and asked if it hurt which of course it did (apparently it wasn't supposed to). Although the diagnosis could not be definite it was highly probable. Once diagnosed the condition is very easy to control for most, unfortunately there in no actual cure and you may always be prone to flare ups but as long as you take care of yourself these can be kept to a minimum. It can take up to two years to recover to a degree were you are likely not to have any more flare ups but it is possible.
CAUSES -It is often said that the cause is unknown but it is far more likely that the causes are limitless in people prone to the condition. It is thought that anything or a combination of things that can start the self perpetuating cycle of disrupted sleep, muscular pain and chemical imbalance can be responsible. Common causes include insomnia, stress, caffeine, depression, trauma (mental or physical), long periods of illness and physical injuries such as back injuries and whiplash. Once it starts additional factors can increase the intensity of the condition. You can have periods of remission where you are almost normal but it can rapidly deteriorate over weeks or even days.
TREATMENT - The most important thing is to re-establish good quality sleep and improve fitness. You should avoid pain killers and sleeping tablets as these tend to aggravate the condition. If you regularly drink regularly in drinks like tea, coffee or cola you should cut these out completely and change to decaffeinated or stick to water as this should improve your quality of sleep almost immediately. If you do not drink a lot of caffeine it would be a good idea to get a referral to a sleep clinic to find out how disturbed your sleep is and what can be done about it. You should avoid alcohol as although it helps you to get to sleep it does seriously lower the quality and length of the sleep. You should take up some regular aerobic exercise to improve your general health and in particular improve the blood supply to the muscles. If you smoke you must give up to reduce the chemical toxins in your body and improve circulation. A fully balanced healthy diet is essential, you should never skip breakfast as this starts your body going in the morning, you should also have your evening meal quite early rather than just before going to bed. You should have a fasting day on one day a week (i.e. one day where you do not eat), this helps your body to dispose of toxins. Cold bathing is known to help, this means having a cold (not too cold) bath rather than a hot one. Amino acid supplements are known to help, you can get these from health shops. You should make sure you have good posture.You should avoid taking any medication if possible, although some mild anti depressants have been found to help recovery (if you are prescribed medication you should discuss it with your doctor).
The most important thing to remember is that FMS is a chemical condition and you are not in as bad a shape as your body would like you to belive. The exhaustion and pain is not as bad as it feels, your body is effectively lying to you. You have to push yourself through this, although to start with the pain and fatigue will hold you back you will quickly start to feel the benefits.
NEW TREATMENTS AND INFORMATION - With more and more evidence to support FMS more research is of course being done. They are currently looking into the possibility of corrective spinal surgery which is believed to be having good results, personally I don't like the sound of it. There is also research being done on two particular mild antidepressants with very promising results. These drugs are thought to calm down the brain activity allowing better sleep.
RELATED CONDITIONS- FMS is often diagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome, the conditions are very similar but the connection is unknown. Gulf War Syndrome is Identical to FMS in every way, the connection is unknown.
Our POSTER is ANITA SANDS HERNANDEZ, Los Angeles Writer, Futurist and Astrologer. Catch up with her websites TRUTHS GOV WILL HIDE & NEVER TELL YOU, also The FUTURE, WHAT'S COMIN' AT YA! & HOW TO SURVIVE the COMING GREAT DEPRESSION, and Secrets of Nature, HOLISTIC, AFFORDABLE HEALING. Also HOW TO LIVE on A NICKLE, The FRUGAL PAGE.
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