Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that differs from the commonly known chronic pain situation in the fact that it does not appear after an injury or is not caused by a medical condition such as arthritis, diabetes or multiple sclerosis for instance. Fibromyalgia is mainly characterized by widespread persistent and constant musculoskeletal pain all over the body. The cause of the disease is generally unknown. That condition is also characterized by what is called fibromyalgia flare-ups that are moments where the symptoms of the disease suddenly worsen.
Fibromyalgia concerns between 2 and 4% of the general population (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6016048/) and is in most cases very difficult to clearly diagnose. Since the number of symptoms reported by people suffering from fibromyalgia can resemble many other diseases or chronic pathologies it can take up to several years for the medical system to put a clear diagnosis and clearly state that the condition causing all the problems is indeed fibromyalgia. The symptoms include pain and tenderness all over the body, extreme fatigue, migraines, trouble sleeping, digestive problems, trouble concentrating etc.
Fibromyalgia is an extremely challenging condition that cannot be completely cured but by adopting a self-care approach the symptoms can become manageable. Research proves that being physically active can help reduce some symptoms and manage the pain (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3165132/), in this article we will discuss how Functional Patterns’s holistic approach could help you get some relief in a sustainable way.
LIVING WITH FIBROMYALGIA
People affected by fibromyalgia tend to describe the same daily struggle to accomplish tasks that would seem basic for the majority of the population. Getting out of bed, going downstairs, brushing one's hair, walking, sitting down, or any other daily task could generate more pain than what they usually feel or induce a fibromyalgia flare up.
Chronic tiredness and sleeping troubles are also symptoms associated with fibromyalgia and that chronic exhaustion associated with chronic pain is a combination that often leads to feelings of anxiety and depression. The constant sensation of pain can also be aggravated by cold, stress or humidity which add more difficulties to go about anything during your day.
The causes of fibromyalgia are still unknown but some scientists have started to wonder if fibromyalgia could be an autoimmune disease, here is an example of a scientific research on the subject (https://www.jci.org/articles/view/144201?key=51bf6d85e305f6b62f87#SEC4). The hypothesis for that experiment done on mice was to that if autoantibodies (they can be described as misguided, pathogenic antibodies, instead of reacting to the antigen they respond to your body’s own proteins, leading to an abnormal immune response that attacks the cells, tissues and organs of your body and contributes to the development of autoantibody diseases) have a role to play in fibromyalgia then healthy mice would develop symptoms of the disease if they get an injection of those antibodies. After being injected with blood plasma from people suffering from fibromyalgia containing those autoantibodies the mice have developed symptoms of the disease. Those autoantibodies would mainly attach themselves to glial cells (these cells are part of the nervous system, they surround brain cells and are involved in the balance of their chemical environment). That way those autoantibodies sensitize the pain receptors situated in the peripheral nervous system. Those pain receptors then become hypersensitive to stimuli and send pain signals to the brain. More research on the subject is being done to try and reduce the amount of autoantibodies present in the blood plasma of people affected by fibromyalgia.
This could be a key to possibly explain fibromyalgia flare-ups even though the list of triggers can be long and different from one person to another. Anything from lack of sleep, diet changes, temperature or weather changes could worsen the symptoms for days or even for weeks.
We will now have a look at what kind of healthy habits can help manage the symptoms.
FIBROMYALGIA AND HEALTHY HABITS
Taking care of one's lifestyle habits is key to try and manage the challenging symptoms of fibromyalgia. What could be classified as healthy habits? Any choice you make on a day to day basis to promote a balanced and thriving organism.
Fibromyalgia self-care general recommendations include the following type of advices:
- Techniques of stress management: meditation, talk therapy, mindfulness exercises etc
- Techniques to manage the pain: anti-depressant, massage therapy, acupuncture, herbal therapy, healthy diet, physical activities etc
Anything promoting a holistic approach to take care of your body is of course a good start to help reduce some of the symptoms of the condition. However it’s important to consider the long term impact of those techniques on your organism. No matter what your body gets exposed to in terms of stimuli it will have a tendency to get accustomed to it. Even an enjoyable and helpful thing like a massage could become a crutch for your nervous system to find some relief and might be harmful in the long run not letting the room for it to find an endogenous way to lower your level of pain.
Deeply understanding how your body works will be paramount to help you thrive with fibromyalgia.
The approach at Functional Patterns is to address every area of your life including your mindset and the people you surround yourself with. All the aspects of the environment you evolve in should be checked in an objective manner.
Stress in general is a major factor increasing the symptoms and fibromyalgia flare-ups. At the most honest and self-preserving level you need to ask yourself whether or not the people you spend time with or listen to are helping you reduce that level of stress or increasing it one way or another. You can start wondering if the conversations you have with those people are helping you have a more objective vision of the world that is surrounding you or if it is maintaining you in a subjective cloud that is not helping you feel grounded.
On the same subject of mindset management you can start asking yourself what you do during your free time. Do you use that time to mindlessly distract yourself watching series or scrolling on your phone? What you could start doing instead is find a meaningful way to be helpful in your neighborhood for example. It does not have to be a huge amount of time but you could be surprised to realize how beneficial it could be for your wellbeing to make meaningful connections with like minded individuals.
Your desire to live better will have to come with strong choices like spending time in nature instead of hanging out in a bar with friends for example. A deep connection with Nature while exposing yourself to the sun (even when it’s cloudy) or grounding your bare feet on earth can have an important impact on your inflammatory level (https://functionalpatterns.com/blogs/articles/embracing-the-earth-the-potential-of-grounding).
Another important aspect you could look into is also how connected you are to your circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is basically your internal biological clock and is very much affected by your light exposure. Depending on the time of the day your body will secrete different hormones and your body temperature will even change to adapt to whether you need to be awake and active or whether it’s time to chill because your bedtime is getting close. Exposing yourself to the first rays of the sun in the morning will set up the rhythm of your internal clock for the rest of the day. In the evening, when the sun has set, avoiding exposure to artificial blue lights while wearing blue-light blockers will help you slowly relax before sleep.
BEING ACTIVE WITH FIBROMYALGIA
Scientific research states that physical activity can be beneficial to reduce fibromyalgia symptoms and flare-ups (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3165132/)
A regular physical activity should then be part of a fibromyalgia self-care routine.
At Functional Patterns (FP) by prioritizing the main functions the human body has evolved to perform we have a countless number of people who have managed to reduce their daily pain level.
Whenever you engage in a physical activity you should ask yourself if the type of activity you are performing is actually helping your condition, as the Functional Patterns’s slogan goes « train intentionally and not habitually ». The idea here is that instead of working out for the sake of moving your body, is that you train to address specific needs of your body and adapt as needed. Various online material provided by Functional Patterns can help you understand the specific needs of your body and situation, so that you can put the most intention into understanding the physical needs of your own body.
When you exercise you need to consider the connections between your different joints, muscles and fascia. Our human bodies have evolved to primarily be able to stand, walk, run and throw (the « big 4 »). All the muscles in your body are connected to one another to help you perform those tasks as a priority.
Most traditional fitness regimen do not consider that fundamental aspect and will make you perform exercises that will isolate muscles too much or arbitrary label some exercises as « functional » without deeply considering how your body performs and how to help it find a sustainable way to reduce your level of pain and fibromyalgia flare-ups.
At FP we also consider that addressing your posture is a critical aspect to help you live in a body that will better deal with gravity and will have a reduced tendency to compensate and create pains.
Here is an example of a posture improvement. You can see on the left picture that some areas of this man’s body lack space, watch how the tissues in his lower back look like they could get more length and how his shoulders look pushed down towards the ground. On the left picture Tomas’s client was reporting constant pain in his lower back and his shoulders. When the picture on the right was taken he reported being pain free and could perform daily tasks without discomfort. The lack of space in the tissues of his back were stopping the cells to perform properly and were causing tissue compressions leading to pain.
By emphasizing moving better, facilitating decompression in joints and less overcompensation, this will result in the nervous system reaching a calm state that will allow your body to regenerate. There’s a chance of feeling not just pain-free, but better than you ever had. FP’s approach is a step by step process and starting with the ’10 week online course’ would be the first stage to start understanding the whole process and get you started on that journey. In this online course, you will get an idea of the level of precision and nuance required to make the adjustments needed for improved movement. Each level of the course is an additional layer to add to your healing journey to address your pain.
Functional Patterns is a result based methodology that has numerous examples of people getting rid of chronic pain or reporting a decrease in pain from an 8/10 down to a 2/10.
Most importantly even in such a tough condition as fibromyalgia some of them have found a sustainable way to manage their pain level without the need of exogenous substances.
Fibromyalgia self-care utilizing FP’s approach will bring you to a whole new vision of what a holistic approach should be when it comes to dealing with your condition, so that you focus more on the things that matter than constantly dealing with pain.
From addressing your mindset, your light exposure, your diet (https://functionalpatterns.com/blogs/articles/grains-the-uncomfortable-truth?_pos=1&_sid=7b9cfa597&_ss=r), your relationship with Nature and most importantly the way you physically train your body to become mechanically more efficient.