Fibromyalgia syndrome is a common form of generalized muscular pain and fatigue. The condition is referred to as a “syndrome” because it has a set of signs and symptoms, which occur together. (A sign is what the physician finds on examination; a symptom is what a person reports to the doctor.) Fibromyalgia is often misunderstood, as almost all of its symptoms are common in other conditions.
What causes or triggers fibromyalgia?
There is no known cause of fibromyalgia. Many different factors, alone or in combination, may trigger this disorder. A number of stresses (illness, physical trauma, emotional trauma, hormonal changes) may precipitate the generalized pain, fatigue, sleep and mood problems that are characteristic of fibromyalgia. In recent years, studies have shown that in fibromyalgia the muscle is especially vulnerable to decreased circulation and minor injury.
What is Fibromyalgia?
- A term that means pains in the fibrous tissues of the body (muscles, ligaments and tendons).
- Widespread musculoskeletal pain and (sometimes profound) fatigue disorder for which the cause is unknown.
- A diagnosis of exclusion. Routine lab tests reveal nothing abnormal.
Diagnostic criteria consists of:
- Widespread pain in all four quadrants of the body for a minimum of three months.
- Having at least 11 of 18 tender points that cluster around the neck, shoulder, chest, hip, knee and elbow regions of the body.
- An invisible and very individual condition.
Other symptoms include:
- Stiffness throughout the body.
- Cognitive difficulties in “laying down” short-term memory, in concentrating, in being overwhelmed easily, experiencing word mix-ups, difficulty in speaking or writing words you want to use.
- Non-restorative sleep.
- Problems with balance, vision and clumsiness (i.e. dropping or bumping into things, tripping).
- Digestive disturbances (i.e. recurring bouts of diarrhea and/or constipation plus major discomfort in the stomach and abdomen).
- Allergic reactions to common substances or odours.
- Hypersensitivity to weather, patterns, light, noise, pollutants.
- Inability to tolerate exercise.
- Pain is the most prominent symptom. Often felt all over. It may start in one region such as the neck and shoulders and appear to spread over a period of time. Fibromyalgia pain has been described in a number of different ways: burning, radiating, gnawing, sore, stiff and aching. For most people with fibromyalgia some degree of pain is always present. Pain is mainly felt in the muscles. There is a specific pattern of “tender points” which can be found on careful examination of the muscles.
- Fatigue and Sleep Disturbances. Approximately 90% of people with fibromyalgia describe moderate or severe fatigue with a lack of energy, decreased exercise endurance, or the kind of exhaustion felt with the flu or with lack of sleep. Fatigue can be more of a problem than the pain. Generally people with fibromyalgia wake up tired. Scientific studies indicate that most people with fibromyalgia have abnormal sleep patterns, especially with an interruption in their deep sleep.
- Nervous System Symptoms. Changes in mood and thinking are common. Many individuals feel down although only 25% are truly depressed. Many others will feel very anxious. Generally the depression and anxiety seem to follow the onset of the fibromyalgia symptoms and may be the result of the fibromyalgia rather than a cause of it. Some researches feel there may be a “biologic link” between fibromyalgia and some forms of depression and chronic anxiety. As is often the case with other chronic illnesses, sufferers may report difficulty concentrating or performing simple mental tasks. There is no evidence that these problems become more serious. Similar problems have been noted in many people who suffer from sleep disturbances or mood changes. People with fibromyalgia may have a feeling of numbness and tingling in their hands, arms, feet, legs or sometimes in their face. These feelings can suggest other disorders (carpal tunnel syndrome, neuritis, MS). People with fibromyalgia often undergo numerous tests for other conditions only to find that the test results are normal.
- Other Problems. Headaches especially from muscular tension and migraines are common. Abdominal pain, bloating, alternating constipation and diarrhea, which may resemble irritable bowel syndrome. Similar bladder spasms and irritability may cause urinary urgency or frequency. Skin and circulation are often sensitive to temperature and moisture changes, resulting in temporary changes in skin colour.
How is Fibromyalgia Treated?
Current treatment includes:
- Medication to diminish pain and improve sleep.
- Exercise programs that involve muscle stretching and improve cardiovascular fitness.
- Relaxation techniques and other measure to help relax tense muscles.
- Educational programs to help one cope with fibromyalgia.
Essential oils can be very helpful in pain relief, improving sleep patterns, relieving stress and addressing emotional problems such as depression and anxiety.
Application of appropriate blends
- Gentle massage of the painful muscles.
- Daily baths with essential oils (To turn it into a detoxifying bath add 2 handfuls of Epson salts and 1 handful of rock salt to the bath water). Remember that essential oils do not dissolve in water so add an equal number of drops of emulsifier, or if you don’t have an emulsifier add an equal number of drops of liquid soap to disperse the essential oil droplets through the water.
- Inhalation – a drop on the pillow at night to aid sleep.
- Diffuser/aroma lamp with a blend to address the anxiety and/or depression.
Each sufferer of fibromyalgia experiences the syndrome in his or her own unique way. Personally I don’t believe that there is one right blend of oils for everyone.
Oils for muscular pain include:
Basil, eucalyptus (glob, radiata & smithi), ginger, litsea cubeb, black pepper, Roman chamomile, fir, helichrysum, juniper, lavender, marjoram, peppermint, rosemary clove and vetivert.
Oils for insomnia include:
Basil, litsea cubeba, mandarin, Roman chamomile, lavender, marjoram, rose, sandalwood and vetivert.
Oils for depression include:
Basil, bergamot, clary sage, grapefruit, lemon, lemongrass, litsea cubeba, Roman chamomile, juniper, lavender, marjoram, peppermint, rosemary, rosewood, rose, sandalwood, ylang ylang and vetivert.
Oils for anxiety include:
Basil, bergamot, clary sage, lemon, mandarin, petitgrain, Roman chamomile, cypress, geranium, juniper, lavender, marjoram, rosemary, rose, sandalwood, vetivert and ylang ylang.