Fibromyalgia and Ayurveda
The Frustration of Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia (FM) is a difficult syndrome to diagnose and as such it is a frustrating condition for both the sufferer and the doctors who want to offer some relief to their patients. The symptoms are varied and myriad, affecting individuals in the nervous system, musculoskeletal system, gastrointestinal system, genitourinary system (genitals), and dermatological (skin) system. Additionally, there are miscellaneous symptoms that aren’t categorized systemically. It is often a mystery and the exact cause remains unknown. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), the number of adults in the US with FM is close to four million. However, other organizations put the number at twice that amount.
Treatment and Drug Therapies
The usual treatment for fibromyalgia combines exercise, medications, physical therapy, dietary changes and relaxation. Drug therapies include:
· Drugs for pain, including aspirin, ibuprofen and other types of pain relievers
· Antidepressants to relieve depression and help with sleep. Tricyclic antidepressants and serotonin boosters are the most commonly used
· Anxiolytics, which are drugs for anxiety also help with sleep
· Muscle relaxants such as cyclobenzaprine
Alternative Approaches to Healing
Several alternative approaches to healing are also recognized by medical practitioners as useful in the treatment of fibromyalgia. Some of these treatments include:
· Physical therapy
· Myofascial release
· Craniosacral therapy
· Posture and movement training
· Tai Chi
· Stress management
· Nutritional counseling
· Hot baths
· Supplements such as 5HTP, DHEA, MSM and melatonin
What is Ayurvedic Medicine?
Ayurvedic medicine, also known as Ayurveda, is an ancient medical system that originated in India and has evolved there over thousands of years. Considered a whole medical system, each component of Ayurvedic medicine can be used on its own or in conjunction with the other aspects. Ayurveda focuses on the following:
· Integration and balance of the body, mind, and spirit
· Use of various products and techniques to cleanse the body and restore balance, including herbs, massage and special diets
The holistic approach to healing is designed to help prevent illness as well as treat illness through cleansing the body of substances that can cause disease and in so doing, reestablish harmony and balance.
8 Branches of Ayurvedic Medicine
There are eight branches of Ayurvedic medicine:
1. Internal medicine
3. Treatment of head and neck disease
4. Gynecology, obstetrics, and pediatrics
7. Care of the elderly and rejuvenation
8. Sexual vitality
Ayurvedic medicine is practiced in India today where about 80 percent of the population use it either exclusively or in combination with Western medicine.
How Ayuveda is Used to Treat Fibromyalgia
When treating fibromyalgia using Ayurvedic medicine, the idea is to restore basic physiological balance by stopping the causes of imbalances which are at the basis of the condition. An assessment of where the imbalances lie in what is termed the “biological intelligence” that controls the basic functions of the body – digestion, metabolism, elimination, circulation, nervous system and immunity is necessary. After the assessment, the use of natural approaches to address the imbalances produces the lessening of symptoms and in many cases the eventual disappearance of those symptoms.
The herbal approach to treating fibromyalgia centers on the use of turmeric, garlic, licorice root, ginger (as a tea) and various other herbal compounds that are administered in specific quantities throughout the day. An Ayurvedic specialist should evaluate the person to determine exactly what is necessary for that individual.
A specific diet and nutritional system that is suggested for those suffering from fibromyalgia includes the following foods and spices:
· Vegetable juices and soups
· Coconut water and coconut milk
· Carrot, cucumber and beet juices
· Cooked vegetables like squash, zucchini and pumpkin
· Spices – cumin, coriander, ginger, asafetida, garlic, fennel and turmeric
· Green salad with dressing made of lemon juice and salt
· Khichadi (mixture of rice and mung dal)
Since stress exacerbates fibromyalgia, yoga and meditation along with yogasana stretching exercises are recommended to relieve stress, anxiety and tension. While pain medications and antidepressants may work well for some people, for others they are ineffective or the side effects are difficult to deal with. Ayurveda seems to be a viable alternative since it aims to not only heal the body, but it brings healing and peace to the mind and spirit as well.