In the first part of this article, I began to summarize some of the main points of agreement about fibromyalgia that are emerging as a scientific consensus. You can catch up with the first part of the article here.
Here are some further important points about fibromyalgia:
- Another aspect of fibromyalgia is “dysautonomia”. That means your autonomic nervous system is off balance.
- The “autonomic nerve system” refers to the outgoing nerve signals that control so-called “automatic” functions – such as digestion, the caliber of blood vessels, heart rate – basically, all internal processes.
- The autonomic nervous system has two basic sub-components that we call the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. They counterbalance each other to control bodily action.
- The sympathetic system revs us up in the face of a threat or to chase down that antelope we’ve just spotted across the savannah. When the sympathetic system is at a peak, more blood is sent to the muscles and less to the digestive tract, for instance.
- In contrast, the parasympathetic system enhances our ability to digest food, rebuild our tissues, and heal from an injury.
- In our modern age, doctors take it for granted that most patients will have too much sympathetic activation. A physician is almost never wrong in advising a patient to meditate, practice relaxed breathing, chew food more slowly, listen to relaxing music, etc. – activities that enhance parasympathetic tone and calm down our fight or flight reactions.
- The typical fibromyalgia sufferer is an even more extreme example of autonomic imbalance. Your sympathetic system is flying high and your parasympathetics are overwhelmed.
- There’s a new generation of drugs out there for fibromyalgia. They’re not pain relievers like aspirin or ibuprofen – those drugs target the peripheral pain signals coming into the brain from the rest of the body. The newer fibromyalgia drugs are centrally acting – they target the way the brain processes pain.
- The best treatment for fibromyalgia is highly customized and takes into account the specific symptoms you’re experiencing and, importantly, the psychosocial dimensions of your situation.
Based on this scientific knowledge and my many years’ experience treating patients with chronic pain, I’ve summarized key treatment recommendations. I’ll cover them in Part 3 of this article.