Fibromyalgia is a term used to describe widespread muscle pain and tenderness, which is often accompanied by fatigue, memory problems, and mood swings. Sound familiar?
It’s a chronic health condition that is often triggered by something stressful. This could include an injury, an infection, an incident that cause emotional or psychological stress. It can come and go in waves, with flare-ups causing a range of debilitating conditions such as insomnia, cognitive dysfunction, acid reflex, swelling, and numbness or tingling in the limbs.
Fibromyalgia isn’t a progressive disease, so it won’t get worse over time, but it also won’t get better unless you figure out what caused it and what’s triggering each wave of symptoms. This is where functional medicine comes in. It’s an evolution in medical practice that doesn’t just prescribe drugs to mask symptoms, but takes the time necessary to correctly diagnose and treat the root cause of the issue. It’s the key to living a pain-free life for many years to come.
If you’re tired of living with unexplained aches and pains, call the team at Tri-Cities Functional Medicine. Our team is committed to helping you find the answers you need to live a life of abundance.
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Key Things to Know About Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is an extremely common condition; however, it’s often misdiagnosed. Generally speaking, you should see your doctor if you’ve been experiencing pain throughout your body for three months or more and you haven’t been able to identify the cause. Fibromyalgia can occur in any part of the body and generally occurs on both sides equally.
Early Signs of Fibromyalgia
The first thing you’re likely to notice with fibromyalgia is general aches and pains that aren’t clearly linked to an illness or injury. If you have the flu, for example, you would expect to have some aching muscles. Or if you have an injury, you would expect to have localized pain.
Fibromyalgia is different because it can feel random. You might find that parts of your body just start hurting. It commonly occurs in the arms, shoulder, legs, hips, back, and neck. The pain can be severe enough to stop you doing daily activities, and it can vary from acute sensations like burning or stabbing through to general feelings of soreness or stiffness.
Fibromyalgia also commonly includes these symptoms:
- Muscular issues, including twitches, cramps, aches, numbness, or tingling
- Digestive issues, including acid reflux, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and nausea
- Mental health issues, including irritability, depression, anxiety, and memory problems
Fibromyalgia is also more than just a little tiredness. It’s being exhausted to your bones, with a lack of motivation and a constant feeling of brain fog that won’t lift no matter how much sleep you get. Symptoms are variable and everyone experiences them differently.
How is Fibromyalgia Different to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
This is a great question – we’re so glad you asked. It’s true that many of the symptoms we’ve just listed apply to both fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.
However, while the defining characteristic of fibromyalgia is pain, the defining feature of chronic fatigue syndrome is exhaustion. It’s very likely your doctor will talk to you about both conditions during your initial consultation. A thorough physical examination, detailed health history, and a comprehensive blood chemistry analysis will help shed some light on your symptoms.
What Causes Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia commonly has a root causes and a number of triggers that can cause flare-ups to arise. More research is required to understand exactly how it occurs, but at this point, scientist can link the condition to four main causes: stress, infections, trauma, and genes. At this stage, science indicates that fibromyalgia may lower the body’s pain threshold by confusing the brain and nervous system, which causes them to overreact to normal pain signals.
Stress can have a profound impact on the body. Fibromyalgia has been liked to chronic psychological conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and it can sometimes appear after your body has exhausted itself fighting off an infection, healing an injury, or recovering from an emotional or physical trauma. Health history is a very important element to a successful diagnosis, because things such as spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, or rheumatic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus are important sign posts.
Genes, gender, age, and lifestyle factors also play an important role.
How is Fibromyalgia Diagnosed
As we mentioned at the start, fibromyalgia can be difficult to diagnose. That’s because many of the symptoms can be explained by other illnesses. There’s no simple test you can take, which means you need to rely on your doctor’s experience and expertise. If any of the symptoms we’ve described so far are ringing a bell, schedule a discovery call with us to see how we can help. Our doctor specializes in fibromyalgia. We will be able to help you rule out any other potential causes and make a conclusive diagnosis, so you can take the right steps to start reversing your symptoms and restoring your health.
Generally speaking, however, fibromyalgia may be a possibility where you have widespread aches and pains for three months or more. There are specific tender points on the body that are characteristic of fibromyalgia. This also means pain on both sides of the body, above and below the waist, that you can’t explain any other way. The doctor will also speak to you about the other potentially contributing factors we described above.
Fibromyalgia Treatment Options
The good news is that effective treatments are available. However, the approach differs widely between conventional medicine and functional medicine. Both styles are practiced by licensed physicians, but they focus on different aspects to achieve different outcomes. Here are some of the key differences you should know about before choosing a doctor:
- Conventional medicine: Conventional medicine focuses on treating the symptoms so you can get back to your normal activities. This typically includes the prescription of drugs, many of which you will need to take for a prolonged period of time. This can include over-the-counter pain relievers such as Advil or Tylenol, antidepressants to treat fatigue and help you sleep, and anti-seizure drugs to reduce symptoms. However, none of these treat the root cause, which means your symptoms will simply be masked.
- Functional medicine: Functional medicine focuses on finding the root causes. Treatments typically start by identifying and reducing stressors in your life and using national remedies to reduce pain. This could include a healthy and balanced diet designed to optimize muscle function and reduce inflammation and increased water consumption to flush our toxins, as well as exercise to help get your muscles moving again. Your doctor will also help you identify any toxins and foods that are triggering responses and any vitamin or mineral deficiencies that are stopping your body working as well as it should.
The key thing to take away from this is that conventional medicine will help you mask symptoms, but you’ll have to keep living with the underlying conditions and taking the prescribed medications potentially for the rest of your life. Functional medicine, on the other hand, is designed to help you get your life back by restoring your body to optimal functionality.
Starting Functional Medicine Treatment
If you’re sick of putting band-aid solutions on complex medical issues, and you’re ready to find the answers you need, it’s time for you to consider a functional medicine approach. As we mentioned at the start, our clinic is based in Tennessee. We offer a simple three-step process:
- Watch a free on-demand webinar. We have one available on inflammation, chronic pain and stress-related disorders, which will help you better understand your symptoms and learn about the steps to can take to reclaim your health.
- Schedule a free discovery call. Speak to one of our Practice Member Coordinators to get a better understanding of our process. We’ll chat about what you’re going through, how you’ve already tried to address your concerns, how our practitioner and support team can help, and a plan of action for your first appointment.
- Meet Dr. Joseph Radawi. Dr. Radawi is a board-certified family medicine physician who moved across to functional medicine when he realized conventional medicine didn’t have the answers his patients needed when it came to chronic conditions. He’ll work with you to implement changes that will optimize your life-long health.
Still have questions? Contact our helpful team today.
Tri-Cities Functional Medicine is located in Johnson City, Tennessee, and serves patients throughout East Tennessee and into Virginia and North Carolina. These areas include but are not limited to: Washington County, TN, Sullivan County, TN, Carter County, TN, Greene County, TN, Knox County, TN, Bristol, TN, Holston Valley, TN, Tri-Cities, TN, Walnut Hill, TN, Elizabethton, TN, Greeneville, TN, Morristown, TN, Blountville, TN, Bluff City, TN, Kingsport, TN, Jonesborough, TN, Colonial Heights, TN, Limestone, TN, Knoxville, TN, Bristol, VA, and Abingdon, VA.