What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition, particularly associated with experiencing non-inflammatory pain and tenderness in the muscles, ligaments and joints. This syndrome mostly targets soft tissues and muscles in the body. Its incidence is mostly among women than in men. Usually it occurs in the first half of life, but can surface any time from childhood.
Ayurveda believes that this condition is due to the imbalance in certain body energies, particularly located within muscles, tendons and ligaments. It is described as ‘Mansa Dhatugat’ and ‘Mansavrut Vata’. It is generally believed to occur due to vata imbalance. An aggravated vata destabilizes the nervous system, creating hypersensitivity, which in turn leads to pain and tenderness. It is also believed that accumulation of toxins (ama) and ‘shrotorodha’ can also be contributory factors to this condition.
The key symptoms for fibromyalgia include chronic widespread pain on various parts of the body, fatigue, sleep disturbance, anxiety or depression, chronic muscle pain, joint stiffness, memory impairment, mood disturbances, and cognitive difficulties. Sometimes neuronal or psychological complaints, numbness/tingling sensations may also be experienced.
So far, no specific cause has been pointed out for fibromyalgia, although several factors like genetic factors, lifestyle, mental stress, disturbed digestive system, physical trauma, and sleep disturbances are suspected.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, the causes could be poor nourishment, disturbed digestion, nervous system imbalance, stress, and accumulation of toxins in some specific channels.
Ayurvedic Treatment Methods
Ayurveda recommends natural treatment approach to the condition like cleansing therapies, oil massages, diet, nutrition and lifestyle changes.
Cleansing Therapy: Ayurvedic treatment centers incorporate massages daily for a few hours, followed by heat treatment and mild internal cleansing. These treatments given daily for a week or three weeks, form the ideal physical environment for healing.
Oil massage: Daily herbalized oil massage provides a deep soothing and balancing effect to the entire nervous system. The motion of massage creates heat and friction, which improves circulation, and helps cleanse the areas of chemical impurities which could be aggravating and hypersensitizing nerve tissues.
Several herbs are added to the base oil, and the oil is chosen particularly for individual vata balancing influence. The oil allows the herbs to penetrate the tissue beds deeply, thereby balancing the nerve tissues in the affected areas.
Panchakarma Therapy: The pre-purification measures like ‘snehan’ and ‘swedan’ are useful for balancing ‘vata’ and to loosen the toxins. Snehan is the herbalized oil massage. The oil is applied to the entire body with a particular type of massage. Swedan is the sudation or sweating given immediately after snehan. A herbal concoction is added to the steam to further enhance the effect. The daily herbalized oil massage helps in deeply soothing and balancing the nervous system. This is because the motion of the massage produces heat, thereby improving circulation, and cleansing areas containing toxins, which could otherwise aggravate and sensitize nerve tissues.
When consulting an Ayurvedic physician for your condition, you will be generally prescribed appropriate herbal formulas for strengthening digestion, balancing the nervous system and for purifying the body of toxins, including free radicals.
Some effective ayurvedic herbs for Fibromyalgia are roots of ten herbs (Dashamularishta), ‘Triphala’, ‘Guggul’, ‘Licorice root’, and spices like turmeric and giner.
Ayurvedic home remedies
Mix together ashwagandha powder, shatavari powder and bala root powder in equal quantities and store in a bottle. Take a teaspoon of this with warm milk or water with water twice daily.
Make a powdered preparation of dried ginger root, celery seeds and cumin seeds, taken in equal quantities. Add rock salt to taste and have a teaspoon of this with water at bedtime.
At home, massage your body gently with lukewarm sesame oil, and follow it up with hot fomentation. This is effective in relieving fatigue.
Improper diet is one of the main factors that contribute to Fibromyalgia. Certain foods can activate the vata, thereby increasing sensitivity to pain, and aggravating the symptoms of the conditions.
Certain foods that you intake, have the potential to create toxins, and clog the body. It is essential to take easily digestible food, creating micronutrients that are assimilated into the tissues to rebuild tissue strength. For instance, avoid incompitable food combinations, like eating fish, followed by drinking milk. It is essential to maintain proper food timings, have light food and stick to vegetarian diet, as it helps protect gastric fire and avoids production of toxins.
Vegetable juices and soups, coconut water, coconut milk, spices like cumin, coriander, ginger, asafoetida, and green salads are recommended for patients suffering from fibromyalgia. Avoid intake of hot, spicy, fried foods, tea, coffee and alcohol.
It is also said that fibromyalgia will worsen with increase in stress, anxiety and mental fatigue. This is because stress can cause change in hormones and other biochemical responses, which in turn leads to aggravated nervous system and immune response.
Regular practice of yoga (Suryanamaskar and Pranayama) and meditation is highly recommended for this condition. Practice of Shavasana is also very effective for this condition.
There is plenty of evidence to prove that Transcendental Meditation technique are very effective in reducing mental stress factors influencing the condition. Research has shown that it creates the opposite physiological response that stress does, and helps the body recover more quickly from stressful stimuli. Therefore, practising Transcendental Meditation twice a day is an ideal approach to solving the problems of fibromyalgia.
According to Ayurveda, one of the most important factors for balancing Vata and maintaining stability in the nervous system is to have a lifestyle that does not disturb the natural biological clock. Therefore, it is important to eat, sleep and exercise regularly, and not go too far away from your daily routine, as, once the body loses its natural balancing cycle, it cannot cleanse or heal itself as effectively.