Functional Medicine for Fibromyalgia Care
Fibromyalgia is a condition that is estimated to affect about 1 in every 50 people. It can be devastating to a person's quality of life.
What Is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a condition in which a person experiences widespread symptoms, the most common of which include:
• Muscle pain and fatigue
• Trouble sleeping or sleep disturbances like chronic nightmares
• Memory problems
• Low mood or depression
• Painful joints
While the exact cause isn't known, scientists believe that fibromyalgia's symptoms are caused by an interference with the way the brain processes pain signals, so a minor pain source suddenly causes major pain. Some cases of fibromyalgia seem to be triggered by infections or physical injury while others can be traced back to incidents that caused severe mental trauma.
What Is Functional Medicine?
Functional medicine is a treatment modality that seeks to understand a person's physical and emotional symptoms as part of the whole person, looking for an underlying disease process to explain them. This is in contrast to a system where individual symptoms are diagnosed and treated in a vacuum, without consideration of the whole person and the root cause of the illness.
In the functional medicine model, the practitioner and patient are partners in the patient's diagnosis and treatment. The patient's needs--physical, social, emotional, and spiritual--are all considered during the process.
Genetic and environmental testing are important components of the practice of functional medicine; a person's DNA and various factors related to their environment are considered to be crucial in determining which illnesses that person might develop or be prone to. That understanding can be helpful in diagnosing the cause of current symptoms as well as identifying risk factors to help avoid future illnesses.
How Can Functional Medicine Help with Fibromyalgia Care?
Conventional medicine generally treats a person's fibromyalgia symptoms individually with medications. Pain medications, drugs to improve sleep, and antidepressants are all commonly used, and the patient might suffer negative side effects from the drugs as well as partial or no relief from symptoms.
In contrast, the functional medicine model may be an ideal approach to the fibromyalgia patient because it looks for the cause of a person's condition rather than focusing primarily on reducing symptoms. There are many symptoms associated with this condition, and the causes or triggers can be varied and complicated. A practitioner sits down with a patient and evaluates all of the person's symptoms, with attention to all previous symptoms and occurrences in the person's life, as well.
By looking at all aspects of the fibromyalgia patient's history, current health, genetics, environment, and desires for future outcomes, an individual root cause can be highlighted and a treatment plan that addresses it can be formulated. For example, patients with psychological trauma that appears to have triggered the condition might benefit from talk therapy, but they must understand the connection and participate fully in the treatment in pursuit of the desired outcome.
Functional medicine is highly individualized, and that is especially helpful with a condition like fibromyalgia, which is complicated and multi-faceted. A one-size-fits-all approach, with focus on the symptoms as they wax and wane, is likely to leave the patient with only a cursory control of the condition.
Fibromyalgia. (n.d.). Retrieved from mayoclinic.org: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fibromyalgia/symptoms-causes/syc-20354780
(n.d.). Retrieved from mayoclinic.org: