You may have read in the news recently that Lady Gaga has had to cancel her tour as she is suffering from fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a long term, extremely debilitating condition that causes widespread pain and tenderness in many parts of the body. It affects 4% of the population, (women:men ratio is 10:1), and is often brought on by a stressful or traumatic life event.
The main symptoms are pain, often worst in the neck and back and sometimes affected by the weather; severe fatigue and "brainfog"; and poor sleep. Some sufferers also experience poor circulation, tingling or numbing of the fingers, irritability, headaches and IBS symptoms. Certain points on the body can be very painful just by touching them. It often comes and goes in flare ups. Fibromyalgia can be very difficult to diagnose as there is no single test - in fact it is often a "diagnosis by exclusion" as doctors rule out various other conditions such as thyroid problems or rheumatoid arthritis, which can take years and sometimes makes sufferers feel that it is “all in the mind”. Previously it was unclear what causes fibromyalgia but recent research suggests it could be due to an abnormality in the blood vessels and the nerves associated with them. How do you treat it? There is no known cure, but orthodox methods of treatment include physiotherapy, psychological therapy and drugs such as painkillers and antidepressants. Often, patients turn up to see a herbalist as they don't want these, or they've "tried everything". A herbalist will look at the whole picture - as always starting with diet and lifestyle and then using herbs to ease pain, improve circulation, support the nervous system and immune system, and improve stress levels and sleep quality. There can be a vicious circle where pain interrupts sleep, causing stress, which then makes the pain worse and keeps you awake. Supplements such as magnesium, omega 3 fatty acids and vitamins C and E may be required and Epsom salts baths can help with the pain and sleep problems. Keeping active with activities such as swimming, walking or yoga is helpful for your general health and aids circulation, stops you “seizing up” and is good for insomnia or broken sleep. If you see Lady Gaga, give her my number!