Fibromyalgia, Alternative Therapies and the Bio-Psycho-Social

“People still insist on things like holistic healing and things that have no real basis in evidence because they want it to be true-it’s as simple as that”, Stephen Fry

If there is any alternate healing therapy that I have not tried over many years I don’t know what it can be. Chinese herbs, homeopathy, JinShin, acupuncture,  Reiki, osteopathy, therapeutic touch, reflexology to name a few, most of them have not helped; they are not evidence based therapies. They cost me a great deal of money. They kept the practitioners in business. But, of them all osteopathy as a manual therapy was helpful as I thrive on the magic of touch, especially when the therapist is a skilled practitioner. I am also fond of  gentle massage therapy, JinShin, chiropractic adjustments, and especially physiotherapy. Having a therapist who spends an hour with you, working on painful areas of your body can be extremely therapeutic.  Of them all it is physiotherapy (physical therapy as it is called in the US) which has provided me with the most relief . I trust this practice the most as it is evidence based, a research profession situated in a university, sanctioned by grant giving foundations to further their research agenda. I have however heard from many who do not like to be touched and manual therapy is not for them. When I am touched by a therapist who has experienced hands it relaxes my nervous system. For those who do not like being touched by others, I recommend massaging yourself lightly as a soothing gesture. It does not cure but it provides relief and trains the brain to pause and work with paying attention to the moment rather than catastrophic-futuristic thinking which we are all prone to do.

But, alternative therapies and touch are not the only ways in which we should approach fibromyalgia. I have been very fortunate to be steered towards the work of David Butler from Oxford in the UK  and Lorimer Moseley from Australia. Their work on pain and the brain I have discussed elsewhere but is worth repeating. It is not about taking water disguised as an elixir in the form of homeopathy. This is pseudoscience and has proliferated in the past several decades as people with pain become frustrated with living with their chronic condition and want immediate help and cure. This is the case for many of the alternate and complementary medicines. Energy healing, acupuncture, sham treatment, so-called natural herbs and concoctions will not ‘cure’ fibro as a condition that is  bio-psycho-social in nature. The treatment for fibro lies within us. We are the expert of our own lives. It is important for us to explore the most up-to-date brain research and its impact on our bio and psycho aspects of pain and the symptoms that develop from  years of living with chronicity. It is researchers such as Butler and Mosley and the Canadian physiotherapist Diane Jacobs who can keep us up to date about the new science based evidence regarding the brain.

My view of cause and treatment of this condition of ours, which can be very debilitating, remains as postulated years ago: we were born into it perhaps, or we developed it as we grew- the nature/nurture terms are not helpful and are rather loose. We were/are:  highly sensitive persons, our central nervous systems are for the most part in a state of hyper-arousal, we are overly empathetic, we care for others before taking care of ourselves, we tend to think in all or nothing terms, we are hyper-vigilant, quick to turn our thinking into a catastrophic and pessimistic event, we tend to blame ourselves for our condition, and while we are intuitive we tend toward mind reading of others while ‘fortune telling’ about the future. We are a type of people with similar characteristics. The ‘psycho’  aspect has become the ‘bio’ which in turns affects our ‘social’. In the words of sociologists we have a condition that is a social construct, in my view because of the role women have been ascribed in society. Lacking the desire to self care before taking care of others, we lack self compassion. We do not pace ourselves- we rush through life being superwoman, or superman.  Since the pain is in the brain our entire nervous systems are on hyper-alert. It is little wonder we suffer from pain, fatigue and a host of other symptoms that affect each of our systems in turn. Yet, we repeatedly hear of ‘experts’ who postulate that we have less or more of this or that in our endocrine or hormonal systems. A study here and there suggests we have such and such wrong with our biological bodies that makes us different than the ‘norm’ and suddenly a cause is discovered. There is little doubt that after a long episode of this syndrome various systems in the body become debilitated, but one study that explores an organ or certain capacities or inabilities of fibromyalgia subjects is not scientific evidence! Repeated long term, double blind, peer reviewed studies of the bio in fibromyalgia have yet to be done. We are so quick to find symptoms rather than explore cause.

All we do know to this point- to repeat: we are highly sensitive persons and therefore have a predisposition either nature or nurture, to fibromyalgia. Please check out the many books and articles of Elaine Aron as her work is pivotal and so closely aligned with those of us who have fibromyalgia.

Her books and theories regarding highly sensitive persons have guided me toward the theory I put forward in my own book as a cause of fibromyalgia. These are some of her words of wisdom.


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