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Fibromyalgia Syndrome as a Cause of Adrenal Fatigue

Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is a medical condition related to the adrenal system that's really a constellation of symptoms strongly characterized by muscle pain, fatigue, and an inability to get a decent night's sleep. The symptoms of FMS are definitely life-altering and can be debilitating, but treatment is available.

Although the cause of FMS is unknown, it may be viral or infectious in origin. One study from the medical journal Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology in 2011 noted that people who'd been diagnosed with Lyme disease, hepatitis C or B, HIV, or parvovirus had a higher incidence of pain and FMS-type symptoms.

Symptoms of fibromyalgia syndrome

If you've been diagnosed with FMS or strongly suspect that you have it, you may have experienced one or more of the following symptoms for at least 3 months:

  • Diffuse pain, characterized by the presence of multiple tender points throughout the body: The classic definition of FMS consists of the presence at least 11 out of 18 possible tender points. The tender points are easily detected by applying firm pressure to specific areas of the body.

  • Sleep that isn't restorative: You can sleep for 10 hours, awaken, and feel as if you haven't slept at all. Often people affected with FMS have trouble falling asleep and suffer from insomnia.

  • Chronic fatigue and exhaustion: This goes hand in hand with the preceding point concerning sleep; however, any type of strenuous activity can leave someone with FMS completely debilitated, often needing to lie in bed for hours or days.

  • Joint pain and headaches: Joint pain, morning stiffness, and headaches often occur with this syndrome.

  • Mental symptoms: Other symptoms can include difficulties with thinking, trouble concentrating, memory problems, and depression.

In many cases, the symptoms of fibromyalgia overlap with the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). The two are often grouped together as one syndrome complex. Recognizable symptoms of CFS include extreme fatigue following exercise, difficulty sleeping, recurrent sore throats, headaches, an inability to concentrate, and problems with memory. For a diagnosis of CFS, the symptoms need to persist for at least 6 months.

FMS can occur on its own, or it can occur with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

Sometimes severe psychological or physical stress or trauma can precipitate the onset of acute FMS symptoms.

If you have FMS, think back to when you first began to experience the symptoms. Did a significant, perhaps life-changing event occur first? Did you have an acute illness? Did the symptoms start after you received a vaccination? Were you involved in a motor vehicle accident or other significant trauma? Did a family member or significant other pass away?

Treatment for fibromyalgia syndrome

Treating FMS is multifaceted; it involves improving energy, improving nutrition, supplementing when needed, and reducing inflammation:

  • Increasing energy: From a cellular perspective, FMS is energy-sapping. The goal of treatment is to increase the energy to the cell. The following supplements can help in this regard:

    • Ubiquinone (coenzyme Q10)

    • D-ribose

    • Magnesium (taken as magnesium malate, the combination of magnesium and malic acid can be a great energy booster to the cell)

  • Handling hormonal imbalances: Testing for and correcting hormonal imbalances is paramount in the treatment of FMS. (Correcting hormonal imbalances is also key in the treatment of adrenal fatigue.)

  • Reducing inflammation: To reduce inflammation, try to normalize your intestine. Looking for and treating fungal overgrowth and promoting healthy intestinal flora is important in the treatment of FMS. (Normalizing bowel flora is important in treating adrenal fatigue as well.) The use of systemic anti-inflammatories and antioxidants can also be very beneficial.

  • Improving nutrition: Eradicate pro-inflammatory foods, instead choosing foods that are anti-inflammatory and alkaline in nature.

  • Embracing exercise: Having FMS doesn't mean you can't exercise. It just means that you need to exercise the right way.

  • Getting some sleep: If you have FMS, it's so important that you do everything you can to get a good night's sleep. Increasing your magnesium intake, using melatonin, and using herbs such as valerian root may help. The use of prescribed sleep aids is encouraged, too.

A possible connection between FMS and the adrenal glands

Ongoing research is looking at a possible connection between FMS and the adrenal glands. In someone with FMS, the level of activity of the adrenal glands is reduced. A malfunctioning of the adrenal gland receptors is a potential problem.

One study from the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology in 2012 evaluated people suffering from FMS-related pain and measured the associated level of cortisol secretion from the adrenal glands. The researchers noted that patients with FMS showed decreased cortisol secretion. The investigators hypothesized that FMS involves a problem with the steroid (cortisol) receptor in the adrenal gland itself.

Another study from the journal Psychosomatic Medicine in 2008 suggests that adrenal gland activity may be decreased in someone with FMS, as researchers found a decrease in the total cortisol released from the adrenal glands.

Further studies are needed, but research suggests that adrenal gland activity is lessened in patients with FMS. But how much is cause, and how much is effect? How much does FMS or chronic inflammation affect the activity of the adrenal glands over time? Conversely, does a primary issue with the adrenal glands cause an exaggerated response to pain and susceptibility to viral illnesses that predispose certain individuals to develop FMS?

One of the keys to treatment is recognizing that many people with FMS also do in fact have adrenal fatigue. Evaluating and treating this is likely an essential component in treating FMS.

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