Living with Fibromyalgia

FibromyalgiaFibromyalgia – also known as fibromyalgia syndrome or fibrositis – involves chronic, widespread pain in the joints and muscles. Often it’s accompanied by fatigue, difficulty sleeping, headaches, depression and trouble concentrating.


Buchu products won’t cure fibromyalgia, but there’s evidence that buchu can relieve joint and muscular pain, helping making fibromyalgia easier to live with.


How common is fibromyalgia?

According to the American College of Rheumatology, fibromyalgia is the second most common disorder affecting people’s musculoskeletal systems, after osteoarthritis. It affects as much as 3% of the world’s population. Most fibromyalgia sufferers are women, although the disorder can also occur in men and children.


What causes fibromyalgia?

Despite being so common, fibromyalgia isn’t properly understood. It’s a complex disorder that’s often misdiagnosed and that may have multiple causes.


In the past, fibromyalgia was sometimes regarded as a purely psychological disorder. Today it’s accepted that fibromyalgia isn’t “all in your head”. It’s a neurobiological condition, involving the activation of inflammatory pathways in the brain. Physiological and chemical differences are clear in the brains of those who suffer from the condition.


Although it’s accepted that fibromyalgia affects the way people’s brains process pain signals, it’s not clear what the underlying cause is.


Fibromyalgia has a genetic component – you’re more likely to develop it if anyone else in your family has it too. It also has a strong association with other types of disorders. For example, it’s especially common among those already suffering from conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.


In addition, fibromyalgia sometimes occurs after psychological or physical trauma, whether this involves a prolonged period of stress or a more sudden incident, like a car accident. Some studies have even linked fibromyalgia to childhood stress.


So research suggests that genetic, environmental, psychological and neurobiological processes may all play a role in triggering the condition, although the triggers may differ from one case to another.


Fibromyalgia symptoms

A characteristic that doctors look for when diagnosing fibromyalgia is chronic pain, lasting three months or more, that affects areas in all four quadrants of the body. In other words, the pain occurs in areas on both sides of the body, and above and below the waist.


In practice, people with fibromyalgia may experience more localised pain, often in areas like the face, jaw, neck, shoulders, lower back and hips. The areas where pain is felt may also shift over time.


Other symptoms often (but not always) associated with fibromyalgia include:

  • stiffness of the joints
  • fatigue
  • sleep disorders, including sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome
  • difficulty concentrating
  • short-term memory problems
  • numbness and tingling
  • depression
  • headaches
  • abdominal cramps and irritable bowel syndrome.


Diagnosis of fibromyalgia

For fibromyalgia sufferers, getting a clear diagnosis of the condition can be a long and frustrating process.


There’s no clear-cut medical test for fibromyalgia, and the symptoms of the disorder overlap with those of several other, common diseases. As a result, the process of diagnosing fibromyalgia starts with excluding other possible causes of the symptoms you’re experiencing.


For example, a doctor may attempt to rule out rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and Sjogren's syndrome; a range of neurological disorders that can cause pain, as well as symptoms like numbness, tingling and headaches; and psychological disorders, which are often associated with generalised pain.


A problem that adds to the difficulties is that fibromyalgia often accompanies other conditions, making it difficult to isolate and diagnose.


Despite the challenges, there’s better awareness of the condition than there was in the past. This makes it more likely that doctors will recognise fibromyalgia based on the set of symptoms that sufferers typically experience.


Treating fibromyalgia

Currently there’s no known cure for fibromyalgia. However, a range of medicines and self-care approaches can make it easier to manage this potentially debilitating disease.


Pharmaceutical treatment of fibromyalgia

Types of medicines commonly used to treat fibromyalgia symptoms include:

  • painkillers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, and prescription drugs such as tramadol
  • anti-seizure medications like gabapentin (marketed as Gralise or Neurontin) and pregabalin (marketed as Lyrica), which have been shown to help reduce pain associated with fibromyalgia
  • antidepressants like milnacipran (Savella), duloxetine (Cymbalta), amitriptyline and fluoxetine (Prozac), which may help relieve pain and promote better sleep, as well as addressing depression.


Several of the pharmaceutical options for managing fibromyalgia are associated with unpleasant side-effects, especially if they’re used for long periods. Given that fibromyalgia is a chronic condition, lasting anywhere from months to decades, it’s important to balance the benefits of medicines against the potentially negative effects of their long-term use.


Home treatment of fibromyalgia

In a survey, over 80% of fibromyalgia sufferers reported that their symptoms got worse with stress. Effective management of both physical and emotional stress is an important aspect of living with the disease.


Managing stress appropriately involves ensuring that even on good days when you’re in less pain, you don’t over-exert yourself. Take regular breaks and recognise cues from your body to slow down. Also handle emotional stress, for example by exercising and using techniques such as meditation and deep breathing.


Research indicates that regular exercise can reduce the pain and other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. Even if it’s difficult at first, it’s important to incorporate exercise such as walking, swimming or cycling in your daily routine. Therapeutic forms of exercise such as tai chi and yoga are often recommended.


Getting enough sleep and eating a healthy diet can also help you manage fibromyalgia, reducing pain levels and boosting your ability to cope.


Applying cold packs can ease joint and muscle pain in specific locations, and a hot bath or heat pads may help relieve stiffness.


Alternative treatments for fibromyalgia

Well-credited alternative treatments for fibromyalgia include massage therapy and acupuncture, both of which may relieve pain and help you relax.


Evidence suggests that a range of supplements can help fibromyalgia sufferers. These include:

  • drugs that boost serotonin levels, including SAMe (S-Adenosyl-L-Methionine) and 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) – which, according to the results of a study, may ease the pain and stiffness associated with fibromyalgia, as well as treating depression
  • the hormone melatonin, which may encourage better sleep and reduce fibromyalgia pain
  • St. John’s wort, commonly used to treat mild depression.


Buchulife joint health
In addition, the buchu oil used in our BuchuLife Joint Health Soft Gel Caps has been shown to relieve joint and muscular pain associated with chronic conditions. Unlike many pharmaceuticals, our buchu products have no nasty side-effects, even when used over the long term. With powerful anti-oxidants, vitamins and calcium and iron, our Joint Health capsules may also give your immune system a boost.