Lady Gaga recently came forward about her struggle with fibromyalgia, a unique syndrome that is not yet well understood by the medical community.
Once thought to be a psychological disorder, it wasn’t until 1981 that a scientific study confirmed fibromyalgia is a real medical condition. However, stigmas surrounding the condition still exist. In hopes of raising awareness, Lady Gaga is featured in an upcoming Netflix documentary, “Gaga: Five Foot Two,” which explores her struggle with the chronic condition.
As the diagnosis of the condition has increased, the medical community seems to have become more accepting of the syndrome. However, there are still some physicians who do not believe fibromyalgia is a real condition.
In the Q&A below, Anna Jurik, DC, MS, RD, LDN, an attending clinician at the NUHS Whole Health Center in Lombard, Illinois who specializes in women’s health, sheds light on four important questions about fibromyalgia.
What are some common symptoms of fibromyalgia?
Common symptoms include widespread, chronic pain that is accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory, and mood issues. The main issue is that some of these symptoms can overlap with other diagnostic differentials (other diagnoses). In the end, it becomes what’s known as a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning physicians have ruled everything else out.
Can it be difficult to diagnose fibromyalgia? How does this contribute to existing stigmas?
Fibromyalgia is unique because there are no definitive lab tests or imaging that shows someone has this condition. There is no specific reason why someone may develop fibromyalgia either. These factors may be the reasons why there's a stigma surrounding it. Because the disease is not well defined or understood, it has yet to be widely accepted by the medical community.
For some doctors who do recognize fibromyalgia such as those at Mayo Clinic, current treatment protocols involve combining conventional medicine treatments such as pain relievers, antidepressants, and anti-seizure drugs with complementary and alternative medicine techniques.
What complementary and alternative (CAM) treatments are available for fibromyalgia?
At the Whole Health Center in Lombard, treatment options may include lifestyle changes, nutritional supplements, and various therapies such as:
- Chiropractic adjustments. Regular adjustments can improve body function and the flow of nerve signals.
- Massage therapy. Various massage techniques can help increase blood circulation and relieve muscle tension.
- Hydrotherapy. Constitutional treatments, which alternate hot and cold compresses, stimulate the body’s healing mechanism and can increase overall blood circulation.
- Acupuncture. Inserting tiny needles into certain points of the body can help the body release endorphins, which naturally relieve pain.
How does alternative medicine approach fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia can be treated with alternative medicine through individualized patient care plans and whole health healing. Because fibromyalgia can present differently in everyone, alternative medicine practitioners will identify an individual’s specific triggers, which can include different environmental factors such as diet, stress, or lack of exercise.
Whole health healing is also an effective form of treatment, particularly for those with chronic illnesses like fibromyalgia. Taking initiative by implementing lifestyle and dietary changes can help improve all aspects of well-being. For example, better overall health can reduce inflammation and may improve a variety of other conditions associated with the fibromyalgia such as fatigue and depression.
Unlike allopathic medicine, natural medicine comes with minimal side effects and provides many more treatment options. Most importantly, natural medicine allows patients to take control of their health and well-being in a way that allopathic medicine does not.
The Whole Health Center in Lombard, Illinois offers a variety of natural medicine treatments that can be combined integratively for better patient outcomes. For a full list of services visit the Whole Health Center website or call to make an appointment at (630) 629-9664.
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About the Author
Dr. Anna Jurik