Fibromyalgia: Ask the Ayurveda Health Expert

1. Situations that do not create pain in others create pain for me. Why am I so sensitive to pain?

People with fibromyalgia are not actually more sensitive to stimulus than others. Research shows that fibromyalgia subjects cannot detect electrical, pressure or thermal stimuli at a lower level than normal subjects.

What is unique for fibromyalgia sufferers is that they experience pain at much lower levels of stimulation than most people do. Modern medicine explains heightened pain sensitivity through several interesting theories. They are all based on the fact that in order to experience pain it must first

  1. be generated in the periphery of the body,
  2. travel through the spinal column and
  3. activate the brain.

Fibromyalgia patients have evidence of neurochemical imbalance in the last two areas of this process, the spinal column and the brain.

  1. In the spinal column two biochemicals, substance P and nerve growth factor, are four times higher in people with symptoms of fibromyalgia. These chemicals heighten the transmission of stimuli to the brain.
  2. Evidence also suggests that the normal inhibitory signals from the brain down the spinal cord are diminished in fibromyalgia allowing stronger stimulation to flow up the spinal cord to the brain
  3. There is also an abnormal activation of the areas in the brain associated with pain.

These imbalances both amplify the transfer of pain stimulus to the brain and decrease the normal inhibition of these signals, resulting in experience of pain at levels of stimulation that do not normally cause pain.

2. What new perspective can a system of natural health care like Maharishi Ayurveda bring to understanding of Fibromyalgia?

The most common imbalance seen in Ayurveda is a disturbance of nervous system activity in the physiology. According to Ayurveda, the "Vata" principle controls the overall level of excitation and activation of the nervous system. Fibromyalgia is a classic "Vata" type imbalance. Ayurveda contains more information on how to treat a "Vata" imbalance than for any other type of condition.

Ayurveda gives extensive descriptions of what types of foods, behaviors and experience imbalance Vata. This information helps an Ayurveda practitioner better understand what created the fibromyalgia condition in the first place and what factors could continue to worsen it. By understanding the root causes of fibromyalgia, it is easier to restore balance of Vata.

3. I often feel tired all the time and have trouble sleeping. Even when I do sleep I often do not feel rested when I awake. What can I do for better sleep?

Poor sleep can be a major contributing factor to the start of fibromyalgia symptoms and to them continuing. Also, often the pain of fibromyalgia comes first and then the sleep becomes disturbed. It is important to break the cycle of poor sleep causing symptoms and symptoms causing poor sleep.

Performing our daily functions in a regular routine is one of the most important things we can do for balancing Vata. Therefore, going to bed at the same time each evening establishes an important biological rhythm in the body and helps balance Vata. Also, Ayurveda describes in great detail how going to bed before 10 p.m. creates the most restful and healing sleep. There are many other Ayurveda recommendations for better sleep that depend on each individuals unique physiology, but regularly going to bed by 10 p.m. is important for almost everyone.

4. What role does diet play in fibromyalgia? Can diet help cure the condition?

There is a saying in Ayurveda: "Without proper diet, medicine is of no use. With proper diet, medicine is of no need."

There are certain types of foods that imbalance Vata, create an overly activated and hypersensitive nervous system and thereby contribute to worsening fibromyalgia symptoms.

For example, raw vegetables do provide freshness to the body but in excessive quantities they create indigestion and aggravate "Vata." Also, heavy hard-to-digest foods, eaten at late evening meals, are very hard-to-digest and can create toxins that exacerbate fibromyalgia symptoms.

On the other hand, fresh, sweet (not unripe or acidic) juicy, fruits are very nourishing and balancing to the nervous system. Also, drinking ample quantities of room temperature to warm water throughout the day can aid the body in its natural cleansing and healing processes. Eating the largest meal of the day at lunch when digestion is strongest is also recommended.

5. What role can exercise play in reducing symptoms?

Exercise can play an important positive role as long as it is not overdone. Overexertion in heavy work or exercise can deplete the body's reserves so necessary for healing and balancing the system.

Regular, non-weight bearing, aerobic exercise can often help symptoms, but please consult your personal physician for help in determining the amount of exercise appropriate for you.

At The Raj, we help people by drawing on a wealth of knowledge regarding subtle physical conditioning and flexibility programs contained in Yoga asana postures and Yoga breathing techniques. Raj classes teach both general postures and breathing techniques, as well as specific ones, picked by your Ayurveda Health Consultant, individualized for your condition.

6. Do massage and heat help fibromyalgia?

Modern medicine often recommends massage and heat treatments. In Maharishi Ayurveda some gain the greatest benefits when they are able to take them through several days in a row of classical Ayurveda herbalized oil massage and heat treatments.

These classical Ayurveda therapies help eliminate toxins and impurities from the system and are very helpful in increasing flexibility and often reduce pain. Also, the specific Ayurveda herbs we choose for the massage and heat treatments are a great aid in cleansing, balancing and nourishing the tissues that are most tender and sensitive to pain.

In order to have the ongoing benefit of herbalized massage, almost everyone is instructed in a the classical Ayurveda herbalized oil massage and continues to practice it daily at home because of its balancing and healing effect.

7. What role does mental stress play in fibromyalgia? Can stress management programs relieve symptoms?

Fibromyalgia often begins after some mental, physical or emotional trauma. Also many individuals experience their symptoms worsen when they come under extra stress. The body has a very powerful neuroendocrine response to perceived challenge, which is well documented to exacerbate many disorders.

Since life by nature will always have some level of challenge, it is important to be able to help the body quickly return to its neuroendocrine baseline after stressful experience. In fact, stress isn't necessarily bad for the physiology, unless the body is unable to restore biochemical balance after the experience of challenge.

We recommend the Transcendental Meditation® program, since there are over 600 studies showing the benefit of the practice, many published in highly regarded scientific journals. Practicing a mental stress management program like the TM technique is an essential part of a natural approach to fibromyalgia.

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