Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and Fibromyalgia (FMS)

Over my 20 years of practice I constantly come in contact with patients suffering from chronic “energy” conditions like Fibromyalgia and CFS. Almost all of them are frustrated with the medical approach of more and more medication… often in the form of Trepiline (Trepiline is an international name for amitriptyline, a tricyclic antidepressant used for the treatment of depression. It may also be used for certain chronic and neuropathic (nerve) pain and for prevention of migraine headaches) and maybe some anti-inflammatories thrown in. I agree that both of these conditions can be difficult to treat and when frustrated with the lack of improvement it could be easy to fall into the trap of prescription medication… BUT there is a better way. These conditions are treatable in a natural and safe way, it just takes a bit of time and dedication. Both FMS and CFS are conditions in which the energy systems of your body are in distress and fail to operate properly. There can be a number of causes and although proper evaluation of these causes and triggers is definitely necessary, the one thing that you can start doing right now is to take care of your nutritional needs to get you on the right track. In my approach, I coach my CFS and FMS patients on proper nutrition and supplementation to support their energy systems and provide a better foundation for optimal health.

When following our comprehensive treatment plan for either CFS or FMS, patients typically see an average 90% improvement in quality of life and a decrease in pain by over 50%. After a proper 5-step treatment protocol that looks at various factors including sleep, hormones and gut health many patients will recover to the point of complete resolution of their symptoms.

These are very treatable diseases, albeit fairly lengthy treatment plans that might take up to 12 to 24 months to see lasting results.

It is very important to recognise that both of these syndromes can be caused and aggravated by a large number of different triggers. When all these different contributing factors are looked for, and treated effectively, patients will improve significantly!

What It Feels Like

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and fibromyalgia (FMS) are characterised by a mix of severe exhaustion, insomnia and “brain fog” symptoms. In fibromyalgia, widespread pain is also present.

CFS can begin gradually or suddenly. When it occurs gradually, it’s most often triggered by hormonal problems (for example, low thyroid), autoimmune illnesses (such as lupus), or Candida overgrowth. It can also begin suddenly, feeling like a drop-dead flu that you can’t fully recover from. Other common symptoms may include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Bowel disorders
  • Recurring sinus or respiratory infections
  • Weight gain (an average 14kgs)
  • Low libido

There are literally dozens of other symptoms as well but these are the most common ones that are often first reported.

Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is predominantly characterized by severe pain—sometimes all over the body and sometimes only in specific areas. These painful areas can be transient or permanent. FMS pain is initially caused by a shortening or tightening of the muscles caused by decreased energy in the body. It’s similar to the way your muscles get tight after a heavy workout. Restoring energy production is the key to helping the muscles relax and the pain to go away.

The chronic muscle pain also triggers nerve pain and central sensitisation, which results in a feeling of “brain pain.” There are actually seven distinct types of pain in fibromyalgia, all of which can be effectively treated.

Diagnosing CFS and Fibromyalgia

Although there are dozens of health tests that can be performed that will reveal abnormalities that indicate fibromyalgia, I don’t find any of them necessary for making the diagnosis. The combination of inability to sleep despite being exhausted, feeling brain fogged, and experiencing widespread pain is generally enough to indicate fibromyalgia. The health organisations CDC and ACR have established a checklist of criteria that can assess the possibility that you have either of these illnesses. If you’d like to see what this checklist predicts for you, download and complete our Energy Questionnaire and email it to Dr Solomon at peter@mychiropractor.co.za

Although medical testing is not absolutely necessary to make the diagnosis, very thorough testing is needed to determine the underlying causes of the illness in order to design an effective treatment protocol.

What Causes These Illnesses?

CFS/FMS acts as a “circuit breaker,” with the hypothalamus decreasing its function to protect the individual in the face of what is perceived to be an overwhelming stress (just like blowing a fuse). This centre controls sleep, hormones, temperature, and blood flow/blood pressure/sweating. When you don’t sleep deeply, your immune system also stops working properly and you’ll be in pain. In addition, if your muscles do not have enough energy, they will get stuck in the shortened position, also contributing to pain.

This “energy crisis” can be caused by any of a number of infections, stresses or injuries.

Some of you had your illness caused by any of a number of infections. In this situation, you can often give the time that your illness began almost to the day. This is also the case in those of you who had an injury (sometimes very mild) that was enough to disrupt your sleep and trigger this process. In others, the illness had a more gradual onset. This may have been associated with hormonal deficiencies (e.g., low thyroid, estrogen, testosterone, cortisone, etc.) despite normal blood tests. In others, it may be associated with chronic stress, antibiotic use with secondary yeast overgrowth, and/or nutritional deficiencies. Indeed, we have found dozens of common causes and factors that contribute to these syndromes.

Understanding this helps us understand the symptom complex seen in CFS/fibromyalgia. Restoring energy production so that your hypothalamic “circuit breaker” turns back on, and eliminating what blew your fuse in the first place, also gives us many ways to effectively treat you!

There are the 5 key areas that need to be addressed to treat CFS and FMS. They are:

  1. Sleep
  2. Hormonal Deficiencies
  3. Immunity/Infections
  4. Nutritional Supplementation
  5. Exercise (as Able)

If you’d like a more thorough investigation into your CFS, FMS or Adrenal Fatigue, send me an email at peter@mychiropractor.co.za or call the clinic on 021 785 4855 today to make an appointment and let us start putting together a treatment plan for you.