Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia

Mind body approaches to Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome at the Trauma Recovery Clinic

Fibromyalgia is a condition featuring widespread chronic pain, fatigue, hypersensitivity to light and sound and other stimuli, and a variety of other debilitating symptoms. (For a more comprehensive list of symptoms of both fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, please scroll down).

We find, as well as characteristic tender points throughout the body, deep and pervasive fascial (connective tissue) restrictions which increase stiffness, weakness, pain and exhaustion. As well as this, as if it were not enough, the autonomic nervous system is often both ‘on red alert’ and exhausted, causing further emotional and physical symptoms.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

CFS is a condition of persistent, unexplained, debilitating tiredness and exhaustion, which is not caused by exercise or exertion. It does not improve with rest or sleep and it is severe enough to significantly reduce daily activity. It is often accompanied by headaches or sore throat, loss of memory and ability to concentrate, and tender lymph nodes in the neck and arm pit. Sufferers also have pain in muscle tissue and joints, and fascial adhesions similar to the symptoms of fibromyalgia.

In fact, the symptoms of fibromyalgia (FMS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (FMS) overlap to a great deal and it is widely accepted that their possible causes are the same. In FMS the dominant feature is pain and in CFS it is exhaustion.

Mind body approaches to FMS and CFS

At the Trauma Recovery Clinic we address fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome using a combination of myfascial release, craniosacral work and visceral manipulation for pain and discomfort, and our autonomic nervous system approach to trauma and overwhelm in the body to re-set nervous system self-regulation.

To treat pain and discomfort in the connective tissue, our first aim is to release fascial restrictions, tender points and trigger points. This helps enormously in restoring mobility and decreasing pain. For nervous system self-regulation we use our approach for traumatic stress as the most effective means to release physical tensions built up through emotional stress, physical or mental stress, trauma or overwhelm.

We have extensive experience with both syndromes and a very good success rate in the reduction of pain and fatigue with the combination of our two approaches.

Physical techniques

Physical techniques for fibromyalgia sufferers are selected according to how much depth or pressure the client can take on a given day. Techniques vary from very light, superficial fascial release to deep fascial release. All of the techniques have the following in common:

They are applied indirectly, holding the area of restriction until it releases, not trying to force a release.

They bring about an increase of hydration of the ground substance, the collagen fibres and the whole of the fascial system, allowing for easier movment.

They increase the distance between the collagen fibres, allowing for further hydration and a decrease in capilary compression, or compression around pain-sensitive areas.

Tender points, specific areas of the body which are particularly tender or painful in fibromyalgia sufferers, are treated gently, as are trigger points (common in anyone, wherever there is myofascial restriction or a physical or physiological response to trauma).

Direction and timing of release is determined entirely through feedback palpated through the practitioner’s hands. A release in one area benefits the entire fascial system.

Autonomic nervous system re-regulation

In cases of trauma or prolonged duration stress, the self-regulation capacity of the autonomic nervous system may be disturbed, resulting in a ‘normal’ setting which is hypersensitive, unresponsive or erratic.

Through tracking the visible and felt sense of your autonomic nervous system response to stressful situations, for example, noting what happens in the body when you are anxious, and allowing the autonomic nervous system to complete necessary physiological responses such as heat discharge, trembling, etc. we can gently enter the autonomic nervous system’s ‘hardwiring’ and bring about fundamental changes to the way you are able to respond consciously and unconsciously to stressful situations.

At the Trauma Recovery clinic we offer clear and concise explanations of how our nervous system and our body encode and use our life experiences, and how this encoding can affect our underlying feelings, posture, physical wellbeing and non-conscious responses, as well as our autonomic nervous system responses.

Then we focus on autonomic nervous system re-regulation. This involves gentle, calm exercises to track responses in the body and re-regulate the autonomic nervous system so that responses to triggers are normalised and integrated into the whole body, creating a new and healthy ‘normal’ setting for the nervous system.

For more information about Myofascial Release and Somatic Experiencing, please go to Our Approach.

Symptoms of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome

Symptoms of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are many and varied, ranging from pain to fatigue, nervous system hypersensitivity to sound and light, to mood swings and emotional overwhelm or shutdown. This is a more comprehensive list:

• Widespread constant pain in muscles, soft tissue, connective tissue and joints

• Headaches and migraine like symptoms

• Skin very tender or painful to touch

• Burning, tingling, ripping sensations or pins and needles

• Stabbing, like knives or needles going in

• Shooting pans

• Restless legs

• Spine pain

• Numbness, no feeling, fogginess, cotton wool

• Tender points

• Trigger points

• Deep aching like tooth ache, sick pain

• Pain that moves, or you can’t identify where it is

• Terrible stiffness

• Muscle weakness

• Nausea

• Giddiness, lack of balance, lurching, visual disturbances like blurring

• Dry eyes alternating with watery eyes

• IBS, constipation, bloating, diarrhoea

• Allergies and sensitivities

• Heightened sensitivities to light and sound, smell and touch

• Sensitivity to cold, feeling the cold very easily, low body temperature

• Persistent low grade fever

• Tender lymph nodes in neck or arm pit

• Sore throat

• Increased sensitivity to pain (often due to the increase in substance P, a chemical that tells the body that there is pain in an area

• No energy, exhaustion, felling wiped out all the time

• ‘Flu’ like symptoms

• very long recovery time after any type of exertion

• Disproportionate response to treatment and exertion; normal massage or deep tissue treatment will bring days of pain and inflammation; expending too much energy will result in days of not having any energy at all or even not being able to get out of bed.

• Anxiety – not least about the condition itself

• Depression – usually because of pain and tiredness. In most cases if there is depression it is caused by the condion rather than being the cause of the condition.

• Irritability

• Mood swings

• Inability to sleep, or likelihood of waking up and not etting back to sleep.

• Increased REM – dream time – sleep and less deep restorative sleep; waking up feeling as if you have not slept at all.

• Night sweats

• Brain fog or ‘fibro fog’, poor concentraion, memory loss, poor short term memory.

What are the causes of FMS and CFS?

The following have been defined as the most likely causes of either of these conditions:

• Severe shock, physical or emotional

• Trauma, as one-off event or enduring circumstances, often lying years or decades in the past

• Bacterial, viral or fungal infections

• A list of at least 81 commonly prescribed drugs producing side effects similar or identical to CFS and FMS

• Environmental, dental, drug or heavy metal toxicity