What is this silent, invisible condition and what effect does it have?
Fibromyalgia is considered to be “pain syndrome” and is experienced in ligaments and tendons throughout the body. Although pain levels vary, periods of pain or discomfort are likely to be continuous. Pain as a result of fibromyalgia can manifest itself as an ache, a burning sensation or sharp stabbing pains. Fibromyalgia can cause extreme sensitivity to pain all over the body and even the slightest touch can be very painful.
There are no tests or scans that are able to identify fibromyalgia and there is currently no evidence as to the cause of the condition. What we do know, however, is that it appears to affect the central nervous system and causes changes to some of the chemicals within the brain that are known as neurotransmitters.
Fibromyalgia sufferers have been found to have abnormally high amounts of a substance called ‘Substance P’. This is found in spinal fluid and appears to cause neurons to emit signals warning the brain of pain, even when there is no source of such discomfort. Sufferers of the condition have also been found to have abnormally low levels of Serotonin, Dopamine and Norepinephrine. These are all neurotransmitters. Serotonin is particularly significant as it helps to regulate ‘Substance P’. There is a link to depression when levels of this are low.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of fibromyalgia closely mimic those of other conditions including Lupus, Multiple sclerosis, Rheumatoid arthritis and Chronic fatigue syndrome. Fibromyalgia is usually diagnosed when these have been ruled out.
Other common symptoms include:
Chronic fatigue and feelings of exhaustion, even when the sufferer feels like they have had a good night’s sleep. This can have a debilitating effect on daily life and activities.
Sleep disorder - most fibromyalgia patients have an associated sleep disorder, which is known as the ‘alpha-EEG anomaly’. Researchers have found that fibromyalgia syndrome patients could fall asleep without much trouble, but that their deep level sleep is constantly interrupted by bursts of awake like activity.
Headaches - recurrent headaches or migraines are experienced by approximately 50% of fibromyalgia patients.
Irritable bowel syndrome - 40 - 70% of people who have fibromyalgia suffer from symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome that include constipation, diarrhea, increased stomach gas and nausea.
Multiple chemical sensitivity syndrome - this is a sensitivity to smells, noises, bright lights and some foods and affects approximately 50% of patients.
Further symptoms of fibromyalgia include:
Painful menstrual periods (dysmenorrhea)
Cognitive or memory impairment
Numbness and tingling sensations
Dry eyes and mouth
Dizziness, and impaired co-ordination.
Fibromyalgia is often triggered by a stressful event. This could be physical or emotional. Possible triggers include viral infections, childbirth, surgery, death of a loved one or a breakdown in a relationship. The condition can also flare up with general stress, strenuous activities and even changes to the weather, particularly the cold.
How can hypnotherapy help?
Whilst hypnotherapy is not a cure for fibromyalgia, there are several ways in which it can help to relieve the symptoms of the condition as well as teach ways of responding to pain differently.
There is evidence to support the fact that hypnotherapy is effective for relieving the impacts of fibromyalgia. The journal of rheumatology published an account in 1991 which involved giving half of 40 volunteers hypnotherapy to relieve their symptoms of the condition and the other half physical therapy. Those who were given hypnotherapy had significantly better responses than those who had only undertaken physical therapy.
In fact, hypnotherapy is proving to be one of the best therapies to help to manage pain and many doctors are now recommending hypnosis as a viable treatment for conditions such as fibromyalgia.
As stressful or traumatic events appear to be a stimulus for fibromyalgia, the root cause can be dealt with using hypnosis in order to aid recovery. Co-existing symptoms such as anxiety and stress can also be helped with hypnosis, allowing a sufferer to be better equipped to take control and manage pain. Teaching self-hypnosis and breathing techniques can help develop coping strategies to manage pain, create positivity and reduce levels of depression. Rest is vital to healing and hypnosis can also be used to help to improve quality of sleep and relieve fatigue upon awakening.
If you are finding it difficult to cope with fibromyalgia then hypnotherapy and the benefits it brings is definitely worth exploring some more!