Complex pain & fatigue conditions require a complex approach to treatment.

Chronic pain & fatigue syndromes, such as fibromyalgia (FM) and myeloencephalitis (ME)/ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) are complex conditions that are often misdiagnosed, disregarded and misunderstood. At Infuse we know that these conditions are not just ‘between the ears’, that they are not mood-disorders and – although rarely demonstrated by blood tests – that there is something very real going on in the bodies of these people. People affected are often times people who used to be very driven, ‘type A’ personalities who‘s busy lives have abruptly come to an halt and they no longer are able to the things they loved to do. Work, hobbies, and social life all pose way too many demands on the limited energy reserves available, causing dramatic changes to the lives of these people. No wonder that many experience grief and depression over the loss of the life they once lived and even the person they used to be. I wished I could say we offer the magic pill that many have been hoping to find in their search for a cure. We don’t. But we do offer hope and support to gradually move towards a better quality of life, ultimately a life with less pain, better sleep quality, more energy, and improved cognitive and physical function.

factors-present-in-complex-pain-syndromesIn recognition of the complexity of chronic pain & fatigue syndromes, we offer personalized holistic treatment plans, utilizing a wide variety of natural therapies. Depending on each patients’ individual needs, interventions are chosen from clinical nutrition, herbal medicine, homeopathic medicine, Asian medicine (acupuncture, herbs), mind/body medicine, hydrotherapy, lifestyle counseling and education. In addition to individual services, we run educational support groups. The aim is to identify and remove aggravating factors, while at the same time supporting and strengthening the body’s functions. Multifaceted conditions require a multifaceted treatment, which approaches the issue from many different angles. Examples of common area’s that might be addressed are discussed below.

Diet & Nutrition

diet or drugsDiet is a vital component of the treatment plan. While certain foods can enhance inflammation, others are essential for the body’s systems to perform. Whether it is the immune system, the neurological system, or other systems, without the right levels of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, essential fatty acids, anti-oxidants, or other essential nutrients, those systems and processes can’t function optimally. To fully appreciate the importance of the things you feed your body with, imagine what would happen to a machine that is not given the right fuel – everything will just stop working! The human body is much more complicated than any machine, and its ‘fuel’ mostly comes from the foods we eat.

What is considered healthy food by most people may not always be the right choice for you. There are certain common irritating foods (including vegetables from the nightshade family, dairy, wheat, gluten, sweets and processed foods) that can contribute to inflammation in the body. Eliminating these foods from the diet can lead to a significant decrease in pain, stiffness and inflammation (see study). While an elimination diet might seem challenging at first, it is helpful to focus on those things you can eat, rather than on those you can’t. Cookbooks like The Fibromyalgia Cookbook and Meals that heal inflammation can help to get inspired and develop new ways of cooking.

In addition to eating a healthy diet, food intake can be complimented with supplements (specific to each persons individual needs) and high dose intravenous nutrients, for example the Meyers cocktail. In a small study  on people with fibromyalgia who did not improve with standard medical interventions, a weekly ‘modified Myers Cocktail’ was given for eight weeks.  By the end of the study, pain levels were reduced by 60%, and energy levels were improved by 80%.

Improving circulation

Studies have shown that many people with FM/ CFS have reduced blood flow to the part of their brain that controls sleep, pain signal processing, temperature control, cognitive function, etc. This may explain why some sufferers of fibromyalgia experience ‘brain-fog’, where they find it difficult to think or concentrate. Ways to improve circulation include hydrotherapy and exercise. It is important to start with very gentle forms of exercise, such as restorative yoga, to prevent exercise induced setbacks. In addition to the impact on the brain, improved blood flow throughout the body can help reduce inflammation, pain and stiffness.

Reducing toxic burden

Environmental toxins can interfere with various tissues in the body, of which some of the most sensitive types are the neurological tissues and hormonal glands. The first thing to do is identifying and removing toxic elements from the environment (home, work, etc), by using environmental exposure questionnaires and, if necessary, by testing for certain toxins, like heavy metals. The next step is to address any nutritional deficiencies to ensure proper organ function. Organs of elimination, such as the liver, kidneys, lungs, skin, lymphatic system and bowels, are responsible for removing toxins from the body and thus need to be in optimal condition before starting on a detox regimen. If accumulated toxins are being mobilized before ensuring proper organ function, they might lead to worsening of symptoms, also known as ‘healing crisis’.

Stress & energy management

pacingStress management is important for anyone, but particularly for people with chronic pain and fatigue. Stress costs a lot of valuable energy and stress induced hormones exacerbate inflammation. Likewise, when you do have some energy it might be tempting to immediately start doing all those things you are dreaming of doing, resulting in a big crash that might leave you with even less energy and more pain than before. Pacing is key to recovery. Pacing is about finding the right balance between spending enough time on an activity to enjoy it, without pushing yourself so hard that it causes you to crash the next day. Some resources and worksheets to help you find the right balance can be found here. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and/ or mindfulness based techniques can help cope with the emotions & stress resulting from having a chronic condition. We offer Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) groups on a regular basis.

By |2018-01-28T17:50:22+00:00January 15th, 2015|Chronic pain & fatigue, Fibromyalgia & CFS|Comments Off on Complex pain & fatigue conditions require a complex approach to treatment.

About the Author:

Dr. Lineke Heus is a Naturopathic Doctor and mindfulness coach. She helps people live their life from a place of balance in body, mind and soul through a combination of healing modalities.