Making sense of fibromyalgia and chronic pain

by | Feb 9, 2011 | Connective Tissue Treatment, Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain | 1 comment

tender fibromyalgia oints

…a tidal wave of chronic illness…

The New York Times – September 9, 2009

That’s what medical students experienced when they spent a summer observing the real-world environment of community medical practice:  “A tidal wave of chronic illness” overwhelming patients and the overworked doctors trying to help.

How can you find your way through the chaos of chronic pain or another long-term illness and re-emerge with a healthy future to look forward to?

It won’t be easy.

Dr. Jeffrey Moss is one of the nutrition authorities I turn to to learn more about the causes and treatment of chronic illness.  He offers extensive educational materials for doctors – including newsletters, web postings, and seminars.  He’s constantly combing through the mountains of research on nutrition and chronic conditions.

“There’s an “expanding group of chronically ill patients truly becoming a “500 pound gorilla in the room” in that, despite being treated repeatedly for their illnesses, they rarely “get better.”  In contrast, they receive an endless amount of treatments for the ongoing acute exacerbations of their relentless, never ending, ever expanding list of chronic ailments that form “a ball and chain” that they drag with them for months and years.” (Dr. Moss)

How do we respond to this epidemic of chronic pain and other ailments?  There’s one approach that’s doomed to fail…

“Treatment based on symptoms – This is often impractical and of questionable efficacy in chronically ill patients.  Why?  Chronically ill patients, for the most part, present with highly complex, highly varied lists of signs, symptoms, and diagnoses that make efficacy more difficult to attain and patient compliance a challenge due to issues of practicality (and finances).” (Dr. Moss)

On a similar note, treatment based on traditional medical definitions of individual “diseases” (such as diabetes, thyroid deficiency, etc.) is also likely to be ineffective.  Chronic problems are complex, multifactorial, and overwhelming — both for the patient and the fragmented health care system.

To his credit, Dr. Moss – even though he makes a living by selling high quality nutrition supplements to doctors’ offices – also sees the limitations of fancy nutrition testing and supplementation protocols:

  • The process is too convoluted.
  • Not all of the diagnostic tests  are widely accepted within the medical world.
  • The supplement regimens can get out of control, with patients swallowing scores of pills morning, noon, and night.
  • It’s expensive, and
  • In the end, just like with any other medical procedure, you still have to wait and see what results you get, and then modify your program accordingly.

Over the past year and a half, Dr. Moss has shared with his readers (including me) an important insight about the catastrophe of chronic illness.

In reviewing the research literature, he was struck by the similarities between

  • chronic pain (and other debilitating conditions like chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, diabetes, stenosis, multiple chemical sensitivities, arthritis, back pain, and so forth) and
  • the problems of patients hospitalized with severe, acute diseases

It turns out that there are lots of scientific journal articles about the metabolic and physiological responses to severe, acute illness.  Dr. Moss had the insight to sift through the literature to discover how these acute phase responses – which are beneficial, natural defenses – can morph into chronic pain and its sister disorders.

I offer a functional medicine approach to chronic pain that tries to strike the right balance. I don’t recommend running every possible diagnostic test in the search for every minor imbalance. Instead, I try to select the specific tests, based on your symptoms and your case history, that will be most likely to give use information you can put to immediate use.

Find out more via email at, or call me at 212-400-9663.

1 Comment

  1. JPRC Neuro Spine Centre

    Fibromyalgia is a serious pain condition in many regions of the human body. The article shows great information regarding chronic pain. Thanks!


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