This is a little extra blog in honour of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Awareness Month.
Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
The Tide is Turning...
We all have off days, days when we haven't got the energy to face the world. But imagine having this every day?
For the 250,000 chronic fatigue sufferers in the UK, this is a reality. It is estimated that 1 in every 25 people suffers from a chronic fatigue condition, such as Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or ME.
Women are 2-4 times more likely than men to suffer with fatigue conditions.
And yet it seems little understood by the world of medicine.
Standard Treatment for Chronic Fatigue Conditions
Current NHS treatments often only aim to 'manage' the symptoms using medication, which has a limited effect. People can be left with no hope of any relief from their symptoms, trapped in a life they feel they no longer have control over.
Fatigue with Extras...
Chronic fatigue is not just tiredness - it goes way beyond that. Unlike muscular fatigue, chronic fatigue is generally not improved by sleep and can result in whole days being lost in bed as a person strives to recover from carrying out an activity.
As if the fatigue itself were not enough to deal with, it is often associated with other symptoms such as poor concentration, pain in muscles and joints, headaches, poor sleep, food intolerances, restless legs and Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
As fatigue and pain are invisible conditions, sufferers can look well on the outside but be fighting a constant battle on the inside.
However, the tide is turning and understanding of these problems is increasing.
Current research is indicating a powerful emotional element in many chronic health conditions that is not addressed in conventional treatments.
Modern medicine tends to see the body as a machine to emended through drugs or surgery. It splits the body onto sections with specialists dealing with each separate part.
Research is now showing that our bodies don't work like this.
Each bit is connected and interacts with the rest of our bodies, including our minds.
There's a wealth of research [1-21] that shows how negative emotions (anger, fear, shame, guilt, sadness) create a 'stress' response that impacts the body resulting in illness, such as fatigue, pain and digestive problems, if it is prolonged.
Mind Body Medicine
Standard treatments focus on medication to 'correct' the chemical changes that occur in the body. However, an alternative known as Mind Body Medicine is fast growing in popularity.
This approach seeks to remove the cause of the chemical and physical changes simply by reducing the stress response.
Sounds too simple to be true?
Reviews of patients with fibromyalgia treated in this way showed that 25% went into complete remission and another 25% experienced moderate reduction in their symptoms . Although this doesn't sound huge, the control group who had access to any other therapy, including drugs, showed no improvement whatsoever.
How does it work?
Mind Body Medicine aims to teach you about the connection between your emotions and your health.
You will learn what your triggers are and become aware of the influence of past stressors on your body.
You will also learn a range of proven techniques, such as therapeutic journaling and mindfulness meditation, to reduce your stress response by dealing with current and past emotions more effectively.
You learn how to break that cycle of stress, fatigue and pain to take control of your health.
This promotes a sense of empowerment and hope - both critical for recovery.
The significance of words is phenomenal. The sooner the medical world come to realise this the better. I have often heard a patient's hope being dashed by well-meaning health care workers as they feel the patient shouldn't hold on to 'false hope'.
People diagnosed with CFS or Fibromyalgia are usually told there is no cure, there is nothing they can do to help themselves, they will not recover - there is no hope.
In my opinion, is there such a thing as 'false hope'? Nobody knows with certainty what will happen in the future. Some people will do better and some worse than the statistical expectation. Some will defy the experts and make a full recovery. Some will continue to live life unaffected by their 'disabling' diagnosis.
Why could this not be you?
As Dr Jelinek, author of 'Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis', says, "Is it not better to live positively in hope than negatively in depression?"
To live in hope is giving your body a fighting chance to regain health (as discussed in Placebo and Nocebo Effect), letting the positive energies communicate with your cells rather than the destructive negative energies.
If you, or someone close to you, suffer with chronic fatigue, I hope this gives you the hope and belief that you can make a difference. You don't have to live the rest of your life like you are doing - change and recovery IS possible.
Connecting Mind and Body for Health
 Scotta L et al. Small adrenal glands in chronic fatigue syndrome: a preliminary computer tomography study. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 24(7): 759-68. Oct 1999.
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