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Fibromyalgia (FM) – Diagnosis and Management Strategies

Until recently, fibromyalgia (FM) was felt to be a condition that could only be diagnosed after eliminating other conditions that are more “testable.” While recent studies indicate the possibility that someday MRI and/or blood tests may be used as part of the diagnosis process, it doesn’t change the difficulty doctors and patients face when it comes to treating FM.

We have all felt tired and burned out in the past and thought nothing of it. Can you imagine feeling that way all the time? That degree of fatigue, inability to concentrate, fear of driving a car, confusion, depression, anxiety, and sleep deprivation can be overwhelming. Frequently, healthcare providers seem to have little or no compassion for those coming to them with these symptoms. It may be that they feel helpless, as most treatment approaches utilizing pharmaceuticals either don’t work as well as they’d like or may create side effects can be worse than the condition.

Studies suggest a combined approach of exercise, diet, sleep aids, and stress management techniques such as yoga, deep breathing, and meditation seem to result in the greatest degree of patient satisfaction. Some simple breathing techniques that any of us can do to reduce stress include deep inhalation through the nose and out through the mouth repeated several time in a row. This works best if you can find a quiet place, close your eyes, concentrate on only the breathing, and inhale slowly and longer than the exhale portion. This is to be repeated several times in a row, usually at least three times and can be performed as often as needed throughout the day. Another very effective approach when you want to rapidly reduce stress, is forceful rapid blowing, like blowing out candles on a birthday cake. This technique can improve your ability to concentrate, make you more alert, and can even help when taking tests. To gain further control of stress, many doctors recommend starting a yoga or Pilates class where these and other techniques can be learned. There are also stress management DVDs or CDs that can purchased online.

Diet is also important since food is the fuel our bodies run on. If you put diesel fuel into your regular gas engine car, the results will not be good! The engine will kick and sputter and eventually die after gumming up the fuel lines. This is analogous to eating too many refined carbs (simple sugars), eating transfats, eating too excessively and/or eating too quickly.

There is a general dietary approach that is very effective in both improving quality and producing a “full” feeling without the need to eat a large quantity of food. The basic premise is to eat like humans did back in the Paleolithic era, when our ancestors were hunters and gatherers. This means grass-fed animal meat, fruits, and vegetables are the primary foods consumed. This also means minimizing the grain-related foods we currently eat a lot of such as bread, pasta, crackers, cookies, etc.

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