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Fibromyalgia, sometimes associated with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), can manifest in a variety of symptoms that make an accurate diagnosis difficult, however, it is believed to be auto-immune related. The onset of fibromyalgia, sometimes called fibrositis, usually follows exposure to infectious microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi, and/or viruses, or after times of trauma. The chief difference between CFS and fibromyalgia is that the dominant symptom of CFS is fatigue but in fibromyalgia, it is a chronic pain throughout the body. As a whole, conventional medicine has achieved limited success in treating fibromyalgia. In many cases, conventional physicians fail to detect it all together, despite the fact there are over 6 million Americans affected by it - the vast majority being women between the ages of 34 and 56. Symptoms of fibromyalgia can be so severe that approximately one out of every four people who suffer from fibromyalgia are unable to work.

In 1990, the American College of Rheumatology created an official diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia which states a patient must first exhibit pain for at least three months in the majority of the following muscle sites: back part of the skull on either side, the lower vertebrae of the neck (C5-C7), the upper back (trapezius), the shoulder blades, the second rib, the femur (top of the thigh bone), the buttocks, and the knees.

Fibromyalgia was first written about in 1816. It received official medical confirmation as being a distinct disease in 1904, however, it was not until 1987 that the American Medical Association finally recognized it as a disabling disorder. Even today, many conventional physicians fail to realize that fibromyalgia is not due to physical inactivity, which can cause muscles to atrophy and weaken, but most commonly occurs in physically active people. In addition, many conventional doctors misdiagnose fibromyalgia patients, telling them that they are suffering from psychological conditions, such as depression, and that their symptoms are "all in their head." By contrast, practitioners of alternative medicine take fibromyalgia very seriously and employ comprehensive treatment programs specifically tailored to the needs of each of their patients so they can effectively address fibromyalgia's many underlying causes.

Types of Fibromyalgia: There are two classes of fibromyalgia.

Primary fibromyalgia occurs for no known reason but is considered auto-immune-related.

Post-traumatic fibromyalgia occurs as a result of trauma, such as back strain, a fall, or whiplash. Both types of fibromyalgia typically exhibit the same range of symptoms.

The primary symptom of fibromyalgia is severe muscle pain throughout the body that can often be debilitating. Typically, the pain occurs due to a tightening and thickening of thin tissue, known as myofascial, which supports your body's muscles. However, fibromyalgia pain is not limited to the muscles alone, it can also affect the joints and nerve endings.The areas of the body most affected by fibromyalgia pain include the upper back, hips, knees, neck and rib cage - all of which can become even more painful when touched.

Fibromyalgia is usually associated with multiple symptoms which commonly include allergies, anxiety and depression, generalized body stiffness, dizziness, fatigue, gastrointestinal disorders (including irritable bowel disease), insomnia, irritability and mood swings. Other symptoms can include dry and/or watery eyes and heightened sensitivity to cold, light, smells and sounds. There can also be a sensation of numbness or tingling in the body and a pronounced intolerance to exercise and physical activity. In women, dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation) can also be a part of the fibromyalgia syndrome.

There is not one specific cause for primary fibromyalgia. Certain commonalities in patients provide a better idea of the factors involved in its onset. These include dental amalgam fillings, hormone imbalances, infection, neurotransmitter imbalances, sleep problems, problems with the thalamus gland and physical trauma. Other factors that can play a role include chemical and food allergies and sensitivities, dysfunctions in muscle metabolism and chronic stress. Breast implants can also contribute to fibromyalgia because the implant materials can weaken the body's immune system.

Dental Amalgam Fillings: Dental amalgam fillings are composed of 50 percent mercury, a highly toxic compound. Much scientific research, primarily conducted in Europe where many countries have now banned the use of mercury amalgams, proves that such fillings greatly increase the likelihood of heavy metal poisoning in the body's glands and tissues. These studies showed that mercury vapors escape from the fillings daily and settle into various areas inside the body where it can cause a wide range of health problems, including fibromyalgia. If you have dental amalgams, consider having them replaced by a holistic (biological) dentist trained in their removal.

Hormone Imbalances: Many people with fibromyalgia also exhibit diminished levels of the human growth hormone (HGH) and cortisol. HGH, which is produced by the brain's pituitary gland, is important for muscle health. The body's production of HGH starts to decline at an average of 14% every ten years after age 20. People with fibromyalgia may experience imbalanced HGH production which primarily occurs during the first hours of sleep.

Cortisol, which is produced by the adrenal glands, is sometimes referred to as the stress hormone because it is during times of stress that it is most frequently secreted. Chronic stress can produce excessive amounts of cortisol leaving the adrenal glands exhausted and unable to sufficiently regulate your body's energy supply. Cortisol imbalances can eventually cause chronic fatigue, muscle pain, and stiffness, immune problems, and sleep disorders, therefore it is believed that there is a correlation between imbalanced cortisol and fibromyalgia.

Infections: Many cases of fibromyalgia occur after infections that have invaded the body with harmful microorganisms. Two types of viruses that are often associated with fibromyalgia are influenza type A, (primarily affects the autonomic nervous system and the lungs) and hepatitis C. Other infectious agents include bacteria, fungal infections, and parasites.

Neurotransmitter Imbalances: Research has shown that people with fibromyalgia have higher than normal levels of Substance P, a neurotransmitter that helps mediate the body's response to pain, and lower than normal levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that acts as a natural painkiller. On average, Substance P is 200% to 300% higher than normal in fibromyalgia patients, causing them to experience pain in situations where pain would not be experienced by normal, healthy people. The lack of serotonin further exacerbates this problem and interferes with restorative, deep, sleep.

Sleep Disorders: People who suffer from fibromyalgia often exhibit abnormal brain wave patterns during the deepest stage of dreamless (non-REM) sleep. This stage of sleep is essential for proper repair of your body's tissues, as well as the production of antibodies to protect against infection and the secretion of human growth hormone. The inability to enter into this deep, restful sleep stage is a significant factor in patients with fibromyalgia.

Thalamus Dysfunctions: People with fibromyalgia often suffer from the imbalanced functioning of the thalamus gland. Located in the brain, the thalamus gland regulates how your body senses internal and external stimuli. When it doesn't function properly, it can result in signals from the body to the brain to be falsely interpreted as pain.

Alternative Professional Tests for Fibromyalgia: Practitioners of alternative medicine rely on both conventional and nonconventional diagnostic tests in treating fibromyalgia patients. Conventional medical testing includes blood, stool, urine, stress and the thyroid gland. In addition, testing is also done to determine a patients' nutritional profile - checking for imbalances and deficiencies - using hair analysis, DMSA challenge test, and a functional liver detoxification. Practitioners may include stress and hormone tests to determine overall functioning of the endocrine system and possible hormonal imbalances.

Nonconventional tests can include a darkfield blood analysis and electrodermal screening (EDS) - both of which are capable of revealing health issues that other diagnostic tests can miss.

Darkfield microscopy involves the use of a darkfield microscope. Unlike traditional microscopes, a darkfield microscope is specially adapted to be able to examine live blood cells that are then magnified onto a video screen. This allows physicians trained in this diagnostic technique to detect evidence of illness by pinpointing visual distortions in the walls of the blood cells as well as spotting harmful microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses in the bloodstream. Such microorganisms are commonly found in the bloodstream of fibromyalgia patients.

Electrodermal screening is a noninvasive diagnostic technique that measures the electrical output of specific points on the hands, face, or feet such as acupuncture meridian points at the beginning or end of energy meridians. The electrical signals given off at these points provides information about the health status of the body's organs and organ systems. This screening can also be used to detect the presence of toxins, energy and hormonal imbalances and harmful microorganisms. In the hands of a highly skilled EDS practitioner, EDS can often detect hidden factors contributing to fibromyalgia.