Fibromyalgia: Alternative Treatment Options
Fibromylagia is a condition characterized by fatigue, body pain, sleep difficulties, and depression. To date, there are limited, successful treatment options to fully relieve the symptoms. The lack of successful treatment options is thoroughly frustrating to individuals with fibromyalgia. From a naturopathic perspective, the first part of a successful treatment program is to address the underlying causes and potentially exacerbating factors of fibromyalgia. Simultaneously, I focus on pain management to provide greater personal comfort and pain relief.
The underlying causes and aggravating factors of fibromyalgia are adrenal fatigue, chronic viral infections, food sensitivities, environmental toxicity, and hormone imbalance. To treat the underlying causes, we must use lab exams to evaluate: the state of the immune system; adrenal gland function; food intolerances; toxic burden; and hormone levels. Each of these elements has a treatment protocol that is tailored to the individual’s specific needs. One exception is a treatment that typically benefits all patients and includes low dose naltrexone (LDN).
LDN has been used for pain management associated with chronic diseases, sleep difficulties, and poor immune system function. The pharmaceutical drug, Naltrexone, binds to opioid receptors in the brain and is often used to treat opioid and alcohol dependency. In very low doses, LDN can relieve pain, induce deeper sleep, and improve overall well being. In fibromyalgia patients this means sounder sleep and an improvement in the immune system. With improved sleep, the adrenal glands will also improve function faster and in general, the individual will have increased energy to function in their daily life.
The complications of using LDN are limited. The main issue is relying on the med for pain relief rather than continually working on improving health. In addition LDN must be made by a compounding pharmacist because it is an off-label dose and use. The typical prescription strength for LDN is 4.5 mg taken at bedtime. Based on individual needs, the dose may vary from 3 to 5 mg per day.
For a full range of treatment options, optimal symptomatic relief, and overall improvement in health and wellness, an individualized treatment plan is required. Fibromyalgia symptoms can also improve with temporary use of prescription medications in the beginning stages of treatment. It is extremely important to get an accurate diagnosis from a physician who understands the diagnosing criteria of fibromyalgia. Given the diverse emphasis on body function, nutrition and pain management, an integrative team of practitioners working together creates the most optimal treatment outcomes for a patient with fibromyalgia.
Dr. Shannon Sinsheimer is a licensed naturopathic doctor at Optimal Health Center and a provider for Spectracell Micronutrient tests. She can be reached at (760) 568-2598.