Our Medical Herbalists’ Approach to Fibromyalgia Syndrome

Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) is a severely debilitating condition that affects multiple systems in the body.  Defining symptoms include: –

  • Pain   Severe burning pain and tenderness felt in muscles and ligaments and sometimes joint pain.  Often sufferers experience muscle cramping, numbness and uncomfortable tingling sensations.  Some pain is present at rest but intensifies rapidly after little exertion.
  • Fatigue/Poor Stamina   FMS sufferers feel a marked fatigue that is not much relieved by rest or sleep.  They have very low stamina and become extremely exhausted and feel very weak after little effort.
  • Sleep Disturbance   Typically with FMS sufferers have difficulty sleeping at night but are extremely sleep-prone during the day.  Sleep is non-restorative and FMS sufferers wake feeling tired.
  • In addition to these symptoms a typical patient might also find it difficult to concentrate, might be hypersensitive to loud noise or visual stimuli and  can often note dysfunction in other body systems such as  bowel or bladder instability.
  • Symptoms vary in intensity but it is not uncommon to see patients having to give up their employment and become increasingly limited in their activities and interests as a result of pain and fatigue.  Low mood and increased anxiety are common features of a symptom picture.
  • Diagnosis There are no known, identifiable causes of FMS and diagnosis is usually arrived at by eliminating other illnesses that share a similar symptom picture, for example rheumatoid arthritis, lupus conditions or chronic fatigue syndrome.
  • Having attained a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia from a Rheumatologist or GP people are usually told that there is little that can be done other than using painkillers, trying antidepressant drugs, or emotional therapies.

The Herbalists’ Approach

Our fully qualified Medical Herbalists are uniquely placed to offer effective treatment for the potential causative factors and symptoms of FMS.

Our Medical Herbalists have been trained to a very high standard in conventional medical methods but take a wholly holistic view of the patient and illnesses. In considering the challenges of FMS the aim, during an hour-long first consultation, is to map the syndrome as it affects each individual patient.

The natural compounds in medicinal plants work co-operatively, steadily and gently with the body’s own attempts at remedy and to reinstate healthful balance. The aim of the herbalists’ approach is to halt the disease process rather than simply suppress symptoms.

Through an outstandingly high level of knowledge of medicinal plants and clinical experience as Consultant Medical Herbalists they skilfully choose from several, concurrent approaches depending on the symptom profile.

Reinstate Balance In The Immune System   Some clinical studies suggest that there is a degree of autoimmune dysfunction in FMS.  Herbs like Echinacea, Astragalus and Milk Thistle will be included in a tailor-made prescription if auto-immune symptoms predominate.

Antirheumatics/Anti-inflammatories  Our Consultant Medical Herbalists have an  exemplary knowledge of the potential for herbal anti-inflammatories such as Black Cohosh, White Willow or Tree of Life to modify FMS disease processes – simply put, relief from pain and tenderness means that there is a halt in the disease process.

Hormonal Support   FMS affects women nine times more commonly than men and there is often a correlation with peri- or full menopause status at the time of  the emergence of FMS.  Herbal medicine has a fully justified reputation for excellence in regulating and supporting proper hormonal balance.  Herbal extracts are always chosen individually, not generally, but typically Licorice, Ladies Mantle or Red Clover might be margin-noted.

Nervous System Support  Research suggests that there exists an imbalance in  brain and nervous tissue chemicals, called neurotransmitters, and in the actual pain-conducting nerve fibres in FMS.  Our Consultant Medical Herbalists use herbs such as Oats, Balm or Wood Betony to repair and balance functioning.

Mineral nutritional supplements are often given to optimise neurotransmitter production and restore proper signalling at pain receptors.

Circulation and Oxygenation   The burning, acidic nature of muscle pain felt in FMS is very similar to the pain that athletes encounter if they have over-exercised.  This centres around how the muscles generate energy at a cellular level and blood flow through muscles.  Exciting new research suggests that FMS patients may benefit from herbal extracts such as Rosemary or Pine and supplement programmes that improve circulation through affected muscle groups to ensure good oxygen utilisation for energy by muscles.

A Typical FMS Herbal Programme

Step One: Make An Appointment With One Of Our Consultant Medical Herbalists   At first consultation a full case history is taken.  This ‘mapping’ session involves looking at how FMS affects the individual.  Our Consultant Medical Herbalists discuss which symptoms predominate, they look historically for causative events around the time an individual became unwell.  They note what makes symptoms better and what makes them worse.

Also they detail ones past medical health investigating patterns of illness throughout one’s life.  They enquire about one’s inherited, genetic health through detailing one’s family history and through dietary enquiry they survey nutritional status, plotting potential vitamin or mineral deficiencies which may be hindering a return to full health.

At the end of such detailed enquiry they know which areas need herbal and nutritional supplement support and you are given a short course of herbal medicine and any nutritional supplements indicated.

Step Two: Review Progress   At Revisit Appointment, typically three to four weeks following on from First Visit, there will be an assessment of progress.   At this interval our patients usually note signs if improvement in their condition.  Our Consultant Medical Herbalists might add new herbs to the prescription or add elements to your individualised supplement regimen.

Steps Forward   Patient and Herbalist continue to meet at three or four weekly intervals for review.  As health returns they will weave in coaching in dietary changes, return to gentle toning and stretching exercises and relaxation techniques as appropriate.

By the three month mark we expect our patients to feel very much improved.  By six months the focus is on to what degree herbal support is required.  Some patients still need a very minor element of herbal remedy but many are now able to enjoy a fully rewarding, healthful, active life.