Article on Woman's Day website

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by debbiem31, Jun 9, 2003.

  1. debbiem31

    debbiem31 New Member

    Fibromyalgia:
    The Latest News
    How to find relief from the pain that won’t go away

    By Winnie Yu



    Twenty years ago, Julie Lydon of Norwood, Massachusetts, started to experience lower back pain. Soon she couldn’t stand up straight, and her muscles stiffened when she sat for too long. Her body throbbed, and she was tired all the time. Doctors ran a battery of tests, looking for cancer, leukemia, anything. Finally, after 15 long years, Julie had a diagnosis: fibromyalgia.

    This chronic disorder, marked by unending pain and fatigue, affects up to 10 million Americans, the majority of whom are women. But many patients have a hard time getting diagnosed since the exact causes of fibromyalgia are unclear, there is no blood test available and symptoms can vary widely. As scientists continue to study this mysterious ailment, promising discoveries are being made to help patients with fibromyalgia better understand and manage their condition.

    New studies, new Discoveries
    According to researchers, fibromyalgia does have a biological basis. A study done at the National Institutes of Health and Georgetown University found pain signals in the brain scans of fibromyalgia sufferers that did not appear in scans of people without the disease. Researchers also found that fibromyalgia patients’ brains respond differently to pain.

    Other findings could explain the intense pain that patients feel. Fibromyalgia patients have higher than normal levels of the neural hormone substance P. This hormone, found in spinal fluid, sends pain signals after an injury. At the same time, people with fibromyalgia have lower levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that reduces pain.
    Other hormones may also be culprits. Those with fibromyalgia have lower levels of certain growth hormones, which help the body attain the deep, restorative sleep it needs. Fibromyalgia patients also secrete lower amounts of certain stress hormones, causing them to respond less effectively to stress.

    Studies suggest that genes may also play a role. “Now that we’ve started to map the human genome, research suggests that there may be twenty genes or more that could be responsible for fibromyalgia,” says Kim Jones, Ph.D., R.N., assistant professor at the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland and a fibromyalgia researcher. “People with a greater number of potentially affected genes may require little or no environmental stimulation to turn on their fibromyalgia genes. Others may need more stimuli.” Among the environmental factors under investigation by the Arthritis Foundation are physical trauma, viral or bacterial infections and emotional distress.

    Drug Companies Look Ahead
    The growing body of physical evidence has inspired pharmaceutical companies to explore new drugs to treat fibromyalgia, says Daniel Clauw, M.D., a professor of medicine at the University of Michigan and a fibromyalgia researcher who coauthored the NIH-Georgetown study. “There are at least three companies doing clinical trials to get drugs approved for fibro,” says Dr. Clauw. Like existing therapies (see “The Rx Factor,” right), the new drugs can relieve symptoms but won’t cure the disease. “Because we don’t know the cause, we are stuck treating the symptoms,” says Daniel Rooks, Ph.D., director of the Be Well! Tanger Center for Health Management at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

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    Diet Makes a Difference
    Some researchers believe that people with fibromyalgia should reduce their intake of certain foods. For instance, too much monosodium glutamate (MSG) and aspartame may aggravate pain. Excess calories could cause weight gain that, in turn, may worsen pain.

    Eating a balanced diet will help support the immune system, says Leslie Bonci, R.D., a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association and director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

    That means getting enough protein, essential fatty acids, antioxidants and vitamins A, C and E. Foods such as tuna, chicken, yogurt and peanut butter are good sources of protein. Fresh fruits and vegetables, dried fruits and frozen veggies are all good sources of antioxidants and vitamins A, C and E. And essential fatty acids, such as omega-3s, are found in fatty fish, such as tuna and salmon, as well as in ground flaxseed.

    The Age-Old Remedy: Exercise
    Even though medication offers relief, experts say exercise is an essential treatment for fibromy-algia. “Exercise is a must,” says Dr. Rooks. “There’s nothing better for improving function and outlook.”

    Andrea Whitaker, 46, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, agrees. “The worst thing I can do is not move,” says Andrea, who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia six years ago. “Staying immobile is a definite trigger. My muscles just freeze up.”

    According to Don L. Goldenberg, M.D., medical advisor for the Arthritis Foundation, a patient should focus most on cardiovascular workouts such as walking or water aerobics. Besides improving general fitness, cardiovascular exercise improves immunity and elevates mood, he says.

    Stretching is also important. The intense pain of the disease tightens muscles, causing them to shorten and lose range of motion. “Stretching is critical for preventing muscle injury,” says Robert Bennett, M.D., professor of medicine at the Oregon Health & Science University and a longtime researcher in the field. “Ideally, you should gently stretch each muscle group twice a day for about four to five minutes.”

    Strength training also plays a role. A study by Drs. Bennett and Jones found that specially tailored twice-weekly strength-training classes paid off even more than flexibility training did. Jane Walpole has known this for years. In 1989, the 50-year-old from Tigard, Oregon, developed fibromyalgia so severe she abandoned her career as a dentist and gave up kayaking and skiing. Several years later, while caring for her premature niece, Jane found herself constantly lifting the 4 1/2-pound infant. It was painful at first, but she persevered. As the baby gained weight, Jane grew stronger. Now she lifts free weights two or three times a week. “Exercise and weight lifting relieve pain. You just have to take it slow and listen to your body,” she says.

    Slow Down and Breathe
    Before he got sick at age 39, Steve Lindsay, of Tenants Harbor, Maine, worked long hours as a sculptor and teacher. In his free time, he liked to garden, row and hike. “All of a sudden my lifestyle fell apart,” says Steve, who would wake up feeling as though he’d climbed a mountain without preparing the day before. Now 50, Steve says he has learned to accept the limitations imposed by fibromyalgia. “I can’t do everything I used to do,” he says. “I have to pace myself and take it easy.”
    Stress can also exacerbate symptoms. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps teach relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, and techniques for coping with stress. Patients are encouraged to simplify their lives by paring down social obligations and accepting their own limitations.

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    The Rx Factor
    Even with exercise and lifestyle changes, many fibromyalgia patients need medication to help relieve pain, fatigue and other symptoms associated with the disease.


    To prevent inflammation, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve), and cox-2 inhibitors such as celecoxib (Celebrex) and rofecoxib (Vioxx)
    For relief of minor pain, analgesics such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or a more powerful prescription drug
    For muscle pain, muscle relaxants such as cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril)
    For severe pain, strong prescription painkillers such as tramadol (Ultram); opiate agonists; or narcotics, which include oxycodone
    (OxyContin), propoxyphene (Darvocet) and meperidine (Demerol)
    For persistent pain in specific locations, injections of anesthetics such as lidocaine
    To alleviate sleep deprivation, low doses of tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline (Elavil) and nortriptyline (Aventyl); sedatives such as zolpidem (Ambien); or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil) and sertraline (Zoloft)
    Medications to treat other ailments that sometimes accompany fibromyalgia, such as irritable bowel syndrome, migraine headaches, restless leg syndrome and cold intolerance
    Is There Any Alternative?
    Although no alternative remedies have been scientifically proven to treat fibromyalgia, many doctors recommend nutritional supplements, vitamins and minerals along with prescription drugs. “When I first started out, I prescribed only traditional treatments,” says Stuart Erner, M.D., an internist in Albany, New York, who has treated fibromyalgia since the late 1980s. “But I was not getting much response, so I started using nutritional supplements and herbal remedies. The combined approach is generally more effective than traditional remedies alone,” he says. Below, a few of his recommended supplements.*

    Coenzyme Q10 may boost energy, fight off infection and improve cognitive functioning.
    Melatonin and valerian are believed to help promote deep sleep.
    Magnesium and malic acid are thought to relieve pain and fatigue.
    5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) helps improve sleep and mood and reduces carbohydrate cravings.
    St. John’s wort may ease depression.
    * Always check with your doctor before using supplements, as they can interfere with other medications.

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  2. Mikie

    Mikie Moderator

    It's always good to see us get coverage in the media which isn't slanted toward this all being in our minds. Thank you for posting this.

    Love, Mikie
  3. Manwithfibro

    Manwithfibro New Member

    I appreciate the post. My blah blah blah is that what they should really write is this:

    "Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder and nothing really gets rid of it".
  4. zestytx

    zestytx New Member

    you are right.. it is chronic and there's no cure, but the article really said a lot about mapping out a plan and sticking to it. It takes a commitment to diet, exercise, supplements, medications and positive attitude.. and there's nothing wrong with that.

    Note: I didn't say it was EASY! But the article did give a plan... now if we could just get doctors to get serious and believe in the disease or syndrome or whatever. and to get serious about helping us.
  5. lassiecass

    lassiecass New Member

    Hi Debbie,
    Thank you for another great article. I think the balance is so important for treating this DD. I am always looking for knew info and I for one appreciate your posting for all to see. Have a great night or day I am not sure where you are in this little world.
    Soft Hugs,
    Sandy (Cass)