Mystery Illnesses: An In Depth Look At Fibromyalgia

update, part two

Last week in part one, I looked at a typical case scenario of Fibromyalgia (FM) from the standpoint of the patient­­ confusion, misdiagnosis, medications that work only some of the time, loss of function, etc. It's no wonder these people get depressed.

Let's take a look at what the medical doctors are saying and the history of this disease before going on. FM is not a new disorder; just the name is new. Contradiction about this disorder abounds; historically the term myofascial pain has been associated with examinations of people who had pain of unknown origin, questionable dysfunction and inconclusive diagnostic workups. The term FM was first defined in 1904 by Stockman; and Gowers. Other terms, just as ambiguous, such as fibrositis, myofascitis, muscular rheumatism, myogelosis and myalgia were freely used to diagnose these diffuse pain syndromes. Since the mid 70s rheumatologists and other clinicians have attempted to categorize myofascial pain into distinct syndromes with specific criteria applying to each one.

There are, medically speaking, very specific criteria that describe and define FM. The shorter version goes like this: "a non-articular [non-joint related] rheumatic- like disorder of unknown origin that is characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain lasting at least three months, marked fatigue, disturbed sleep and a number of muscular tender points with very little restrictions of movement" all in the absence of laboratory and x-ray results indicating any other rheumatic diseases, which is very disturbing for the patient, as they know they are not making up all this pain!

The research focuses on histologic changes (changes going on in the tissues), metabolic and blood flow changes, neurotransmitter abnormalities and auto immune dysfunctions. The histologic studies have proven to be very disappointing for the most part. The interesting part that is somewhat revealing is the increase in water found in the affected tissues. Ah ha, swelling!

Let's take this one a step further, leaving the research behind, okay. If there's swelling present what is happening in those tissues? Practically speaking, think about the last bruise you had. How id it feel? Were you able to use the bruised part of your body efficiently? Was there swelling? So what, now you're saying. If I have FM, I have a bruised body? That's what I hear from my clients. It would be oversimplification to say that increased water in the tissues is the only thing going on and it is certainly not at the root cause of this mystery illness.

But practically speaking, from my standpoint as a bodyworker, this is an issue we can address; you can (that is a trained bodyworker) feel the swelling, work with it and, in time, reduce the swelling with massage.

If the condition is generalized enough, any organ system can be involved. When this happens , it can be an indicator that the disease process has been going on long before the person was actually aware of obvious symptoms of pain.

In next week's article, I will be looking more at what is actually going on in the tissues, and hopefully get into some of the holistic measures. This is taking longer to dissect on paper than I though, so don't touch that dial!

Till next time, Rebecca.

This article posted to Zephyr online June 12, 1997
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