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Aches and pains all over?

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By Source: Healthwatch • • January 1, 1999

Chronic fatigue syndrome is no longer a figment of the imagination, but a part of the hectic pace of life today. Fitness expert Peg Jordan looks at a variant of chronic fatigue, "fibromylagia".

For the past few years, I grow very fatigued easily and my muscles seem to hurt all the time. I've been to many doctors and they all say I need to get more exercise, but I am unable to exercise due to the aches and pains all over. Have you ever heard of such a condition?

You may fit the profile of chronic fatigue syndrome with fibromyalgia. Chronic fatigue emerged in the Eighties as a condition scorned as existing more in the imaginations of sufferers than in reality. Soon, however, it became evident that chronic fatigue syndrome truly was a serious and debilitating condition that was resistant to most things modern medicine had to offer. Today, physicians specialise in the treatment and rehabilitation of what was once dubbed the mysterious disease of young, urban, overworked professionals. Treatment can range from anything from experimental antibiotics to a suggested regimen of lifestyle changes: more rest, stress management, meditation and better nutrition.

Today, a little known condition called `fibromyalgia' is receiving much the same controversy. While some pain sufferers are diagnosed with depression, others are offered hospital support groups as a means as feeling better about their untreatable condition. Characterised primarily by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep disturbance and other symptoms, it is considered to be a variant of chronic fatigue syndrome. The two conditions often reside within the same individual. The person generally has adequate energy in the early morning, but fatigue sets in right after noon, and by early evening, he or she can barely keep awake. However, the worst part of the condition is the chronic aching of muscles in the arms, lower back, legs and even hands and feet. They often take so much pain relief medications, that there is a threat of liver and stomach damage from the medication itself.

The average fibromyalgia sufferer has gone at least ten years before being correctly diagnosed, seen at least 12 doctors, and tried 15 to 18 medications. Because of a lack of any obvious causes found in physical exams, blood tests and x-rays, most have been told that their sole problem is hypochondria _ and that the entire condition is something their minds have dreamt up!

According to Ross A. Hauser, MD, author of Prolo Your Pain Away! Curing Chronic Pain with Prolotherapy (Beulah Land Press, 1998), nearly anyone who has had muscle pain long enough and seeks enough medical opinions will eventually be labelled with this diagnosis. `After spending a monthly salary on treatments and diagnostic tests, and after suffering a lot of frustration and misery, the person will be given that all-inclusive, ``so everyone will know I'm not crazy'' diagnosis: fibromyalgia,'' said Dr. Hauser.

Fibromyalgia sufferers are ten times more likely to be women than men, more frequently between the ages of 20 and 55. The women I've seen as a holistic nurse practitioner often complain that their heads ache, their muscles have perpetual pain and their lives are careening out of control with no relief in sight. They are often trying to balance raising a family with going to school or earning a living, supplementing the family income, or helping their husband's family with a long list of chores, everything expected of a ``good wife.'' Eventually the physical toll is too much, and their bodies collapse with this diffuse set of symptoms. It's as if the body stages a revolt. Experts now estimate there are millions of people suffering with this mysterious ailment in every industrialised nation.

I find that the people who recover best from this condition do so by following a course of treatment with traditional, not modern medicine. Both Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine are better equipped to make sense of the long list of complaints and to offer treatments that address the root cause of the ailment, rather than a palliative approach. Both systems of medicine also incorporate a more comprehensive understanding of energy (chi for the Chinese, prana for the Ayurvedic) and how it may be depleted or rejuvenated.

Is there a cure for chronic constipation? I've had this problem since childhood, and I'm afraid of taking any more laxatives.

Besides a balanced diet with plenty of nutritious fibre and whole grains, you should be drinking at least 6-8 glasses of water a day. This will provide the bulk fibre needed to maintain healthy peristalsis or intestinal activity. In addition, I offer this advice from a reader and physician, Dr. B. Rajaiah, Principal of the Kakatiya Mahila Degree College in Hanamkonda. He writes with the following advice. ``Constipation is one of the most common ailments but there is a natural, easy, and effective way to prevent it.'' Drink one full glass of water after rising from bed and refrain from sleeping after you drink. Then proceed with this exercise for 30 minutes. Sit in a comfortable position, cross- legged. Breathe in for 10 seconds, filling the lungs with air. Chant AUM aloud for ten seconds or until most of the air is exhaled. Hold your breath for ten seconds and contract your abdominal muscles inward as if you were going to touch your spinal cord. Hold this posture for ten seconds, then slowly breathe in and out through your mouth easily for about five minutes.

Repeat the same process no more than five times. When finished, lie down flat for at least 20 minutes. You should be able to increase the breath holding and contraction to 12 seconds as you progress. By the fourth week, you should be able to hold your breath for 15 seconds. If you can practice this every morning, within four to six months, you will experience a more normal bowel function. Dr. Rajaiah's experience is that this will not only improve digestive function, but assist metabolic conditions such as diabetes as well.

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