Fibromyalgia can be a devastating disease to anyone who suffers from it. It is a pain disorder where people feel chronic, achy pain throughout their muscles and joints just about all the time, and this can lead to severe depression and anxiety, as many pain disorders do.
Fibromyalgia, like many pain disorders, is often difficult to diagnosed, or misdiagnosed as a psychiatric condition, and likewise, it is difficult to treat. Often the mainstays of treatment are very potent pain relieving drugs (often narcotics), as well as anti-depressants (often of the SSRI kind) ,muscle relaxants and sleeping aids. But many times, these medications can be of are marginal benefit, as they only dull the pain, and in many cases, dull a person’s alertness.
Fibromyalgia is certainly a frustrating disease to treat, and many times, I have see patients in my office with the complaints of hand pain. It is generally vague and bilateral (both hands). It can be mistaken for carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, or a pinched nerve in the neck. Generally, when I see patients who I think have fibromyalgia, they have pain in several places in their arm, and when I examine them, they often have findings that are suggestive of many conditions, like those I have mentioned.
It is at this point, where if I do believe that they have something like carpal tunnel syndrome, I will order the appropriate tests, and start the patient on conservative (non-surgical) treatment, such as splinting. However, if this doesn’t work, then I become suspicious of fibromyalgia.
Do you have things like achy joints, and muscle pains throughout the day that also keep you up at night?
Do you have migraines, difficulty concentrating and focusing, and signs of depression?
Are you highly sensitive to people touching you? That is, when someone touches you, or touch you lightly where it hurts, does it cause intense pain?
You might have fibromyalgia then.
And what if you do?
Then, a medical evaluation is recommended, which includes a history and physical examination by a skilled professional, blood work to see if you have thyroid problems, or other autoimmune disorders, and any necessary tests, such as an electro-diagnostic study to determine, for example, if you have something carpal tunnel syndrome or a pinched nerve in your neck.
Remember, you can have both fibromyalgia and carpal tunnel syndrome AND a pinched nerve in your neck. It is important to be evaluated properly so a specialist so that they can order the appropriate tests to determine what your problem (or problems as the case may be) is.
Once this is done, and then you can focus treatments appropriately.
In the case of fibromyalgia, I believe that nutritional modification and supplementation can be extremely helpful, particularly removal of gluten from the diet, and in many cases, dairy which contains the protein casein, which can have similar effects on the body (particularly the gut) that gluten does.
Recently, I read a post by Dr. Emily Deans, suggesting supplementation with magnesium can be helpful in reducing the symptoms of fibromyalgia. I myself am a big advocate of what I called focused supplementation, meaning you don’t need to know how everything you take works in detail, but you should know why you are taking the supplements, and what is the goal you are trying to achieve.
Magnesium is one of those important supplements, and it is one you should probably include in your diet. What does magnesium do? Just about everything, in short. It is a cofactor in a ton of enzymatic reactions in the body that are important for your metabolism and energy production. You can get a lot of it from dietary sources like almonds and artichokes, and my personal favorite, buckwheat (which can not be beat for Saturday morning pancakes–recipe to follow soon!)
Magnesium helps specifically with mitochondrial reactions that produce energy, and have been of interest in late, especially with Terry Wahls video on TED, as well as the popularity of the Stone Age diet.
If you want to get magnesium in naturally from food, then the best foods are nuts like almonds and cashews and brazil nuts, quinoa, buckwheat flour, spinach, and fish. Usually, the American diet is often deficient in these foods, and so supplementation on the order of 500-1000mg is a pretty good idea. Though its usually safe to do this, always check with your doctor to see if there are any contraindications.
Along the lines of supplements that help your mitochondrial function, Coenzyme Q10, PQQ, L-carnitine, B-complex vitamins, and vitamin C are all essential in optimizing mitochondrial function. They are good to take, and I myself, take them, but really the best source of nourishment is food.
Likewise, cutting out certain food also helps in many cases, particularly wheat (gluten) and dairy, which I have written about in the past.
For many patients with this type of vague hand pain/fibromyalgia I will often recommend cutting out wheat and dairy, and help them organize a supplement strategy that works. Many have significant relief. As Dr. Deans notes in her blog, many of these disorders, like fibromyalgia, have psychiatric/neurological extensions like depression and migraines. It is really a syndrome in many cases, and although sometimes drugs are necessary, there is usually no harm in trying dietary modification and supplements.
Many patients are surprised when I take the time to talk to them about this. I find that surprising myself, which is, if you read my blog, probably no surprise.