What's the Best Way to Treat Fibromyalgia? A Holistic Approach

October 18, 2009
Keli Rising

Fibromyalgia is a complex illness, especially when there are some healthcare professionals who do not consider it to be an illness. However, there is a high prevalence of fibromyalgia (3-4.7% of the general population) and patients who have it experience poor quality of life and place a high economic burden on themselves, their families, and society.

This session focused on using a holistic approach to treating fibromylagia. Manuel Martinez-Lavin, MD, National Cardiology Institute in Mexico City, Mexico, started off by saying he was going to discuss a different perspective of fibromyalgia based on the new complexity science, which could provide an explanation for fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a complex illness, especially when there are some healthcare professionals who do not consider it to be an illness. However, there is a high prevalence of fibromyalgia (3-4.7% of the general population) and patients who have it experience poor quality of life and place a high economic burden on themselves, their families, and society.

"Fibromyalgia is a major health illness," said Martinez-Lavin.

When describing complexity science, Martinez-Lavin explained, "The only way to understand a complex system is through a holistic approach." The autonomic nervous system is a complex system and plays a key role in fibromyalgia, because it helps maintain the body's equalibrium, like regulating blood pressure and breathing and pulse rates. Results from a study that Martinez-Lavin was involved with, suggested that an alternation in fibromyalgia is due to the disfunction of the autonomic nervous system. Patients with fibromyalgia lose normal day and night cycle and have constant sympathetic hyperactivity.

The major issue is: why do these patients have pain? A silver lining to the pain associated with fibromyalgia is that the pain does not harm the body; it's stimuli independent pain. Treating patients with antineuropathic agents have been found to be relatively successful in fibromyalgia., which is yet another reason why some healthcare professionals think fibromyalgia is a neuropathetic disorder.

Based on the studies Martinez-Lavin has been part of, they have found that healthcare professionals have to take a holisitic approach to treating fibromyalgia because the approaches have had more success than pharmacologic treatments. He explained how important it is to engage patients and families in the rehabilitation process, validate symptoms, compare the neuropathic nature of pain, and give advice on self-help groups for patients.

Martinez-Lavin concluded by saying, "It is difficult to diagnose and treat fibromyalgia."