Most patients who we see have already been to many doctors looking for Fibromyalgia pain relief. It’s frustrating and exhausting trying to find a physician who understands how Fibromyalgia affects the body and mind and who is willing to look for underlying causes versus just treating symptoms. Fibromyalgia is a complex syndrome and prescribing Lyrica or other pain medications is not going to fix anything, other than perhaps provide temporary relief.
Dr. Spurlock has been successfully treating patients with Fibromyalgia and other chronic-type illnesses for years. One of the reasons he has such a high degree of success is that he looks for both the root cause of the symptoms and addresses functionality of the immune and endocrine systems.
Pain-Relieving Drugs and Why They Can Do More Harm Than Good
Just about all pain-relieving pain medications have significant side effects whether they are over-the-counter or prescribed by a doctor, especially when taking long-term.
Opioids are narcotic pain medications that require a prescription from a doctor. Not only do they have potentially deadly side effects, they are highly addictive. They include drugs such as Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Fentanyl, and Vicodin just to name a few. Additionally, opioids do not interact well with many other types of medications such as sleep meds, muscle relaxers, anxiety/depression medications, antihistamines, and more.
For the Fibromyalgia sufferer, consequences of opioid use can even heighten pain over time, rather than relieve it. Most people with this syndrome already have a physiological condition called “Hyperalgesia,” which is an enhanced sensitivity to pain. This increased sensitivity will show up on an MRI scan; the parts of the brain that process pain will “light up” brighter compared to someone who doesn’t have Fibromyalgia.
Some research shows that the use of opioid medications disrupts the endocrine system, and for the patient with Fibromyalgia, this can lead to more problems. This particular research study reviewed the effects of opioid use on the hypothalamus and pituitary glands which are both “Master Hormone Regulators” and affect thyroid function, human growth Hormone regulation, estrogen, cortisol, and testosterone. Early indications from this study are cause for concern for the Fibromyalgia patient because of the probability of increasing pain symptoms. 1 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25536970.)
Additionally, opioid addiction has reached epic proportions and has been deemed a national health crisis. While opioids have their place, they are not the answer for long-term Fibromyalgia pain-relief, and we do not prescribe them at Renewed Vitality.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is an over-the-counter pain medication. It is considered an analgesic and controls pain levels through the central nervous system. While not a narcotic, taking too much can cause serious side effects, including overdose. The American Liver Foundation indicates that acetaminophen overdose is the main cause of acute liver failure. One of the main reasons that overdose is can be likely is that acetaminophen is also an ingredient in many other medications and a person might not realize how much they are actually taking. Because Acetaminophen is not a narcotic and mental status is not impaired, it may be difficult to “feel” the side effects until irreversible damage is done.
The FDA says that if more than 4000 mg is ingested in a day, that you should go to the emergency room as soon as possible. Chronic acetaminophen use is quite dangerous for both liver and kidney function. There has also been research which shows that using the recommended amount of this drug and combining it with alcohol can increase the risk of kidney disease by over 100%! 2 (https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/news/20131104/tylenol-and-alcohol-a-bad-mix-study-suggests#1.)
Using acetaminophen for long-term Fibromyalgia pain relief is dangerous because toxicity can occur by using it both acutely and chronically. Side effects can include swelling of the face and mouth, difficulty breathing, fever, hives, rash, and fever. More serious indicators of overdose include mental confusion, upper-right abdominal pain (liver), jaundice, and irregular heartbeat.
NSAIDS (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs)
Advil, Aleve, Motrin, Celebrex, and Naproxen are common brands in this category. They are the most commonly used pain-relieving drugs in the United States because they have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving qualities. Aspirin falls into this category however, it doesn’t have the dangerous side effects that the drugs do. In fact, low-dose aspirin is also given to some patients with cardiovascular disease as both an anti-inflammatory and a blood-thinner.
Most people are familiar with the short-term side effects of NSAIDs such as stomach upset. However, many folks don’t realize that chronic use can have more serious side-effects such as high blood pressure. Kidney function is by high blood pressure and can cause them to have to do more work and can lead to organ damage and fluid build-up.
Several studies have been done which prove the connection between the use of NSAIDs and heart attack and stroke. In 2015, the FDA issued an additional cautionary warning about this risk. It applies to people both with and without cardiovascular disease. 3 (https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm451800.htm.)
Lyrica is the only FDA-approved drug for Fibromyalgia specific pain-relief. It is also an anti-convulsant and used for treating seizures. There has been research completed on the effectiveness of Lyrica for Fibromyalgia pain-relief and the results have been consistently mixed. They help with some patients’ symptoms, but don’t help others’ at all.
The most common side effects of Lyrica are weight gain, constipation, swelling, insomnia, headache, dizziness, and nausea. It seems counter-productive to take a medication for Fibro with these side effects especially because sleep is already such a problem for most sufferers.
More serious side effects can include:
- Increased anxiety
- Memory loss (a problem that those with Fibro may already experience)
- Chest pain and/or difficulty breathing
- Muscle pain (another symptom of Fibromyalgia)
- Thoughts of suicide
- Mood changes
While there are other drugs used for Fibromyalgia pain-relief, these are the most common. While they may help some people, their side-effects far outweigh the benefits, and in
the long run, are only a band-aid for Fibromyalgia syndrome.
Hormones and How They Relate to Fibromyalgia
Hormone regulation and balance is key for the Fibromyalgia patient’s recovery process. There is a gland in the brain called the hypothalamus. It controls the autonomic nervous system (breathing and heart-rate), sleep regulation, body temperature, and the entire endocrine system.
Dysfunction of the hypothalamus gland occurs in people with Fibromyalgia. The pituitary gland, also referred to as the “master gland” is attached to the hypothalamus and directly regulates hormones in the body such as the thyroid, adrenals, and the sex hormones.
Because of hypothalamus dysfunction, a resulting cascade of hormone imbalances can occur. The hypothalamus helps with thyroid regulation. What makes this situation even more complex is that the thyroid, in turn, also helps to support the hypothalamus. Additionally, a thyroid gland that is under-functioning both increases the severity of fibromyalgia symptoms and increases the risk of developing it.
Hypothyroidism and Fibromyalgia share some of the same symptoms. If the thyroid balance isn’t corrected, it will continue to be one of the underlying causes/contributors to Fibromyalgia.
The cells in the body need thyroid hormone for energy. The part of the cell that is responsible for energy production is called the mitochondria. Lots of things can degrade the mitochondria including low-functioning thyroid, Fibromyalgia, and a compromised or weakened immune system. When the mitochondria are affected from this, the entire immune system is compromised which can lead to increased vulnerability to infections and toxins. Additionally, other hormonal imbalances follow.
At Renewed Vitality, our treatment for fibromyalgia always includes a comprehensive thyroid panel of tests. Most physicians only test the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) level. Ours is all-inclusive and looks at the function of every aspect of the thyroid. Dr. Spurlock is up-to-date and years ahead of other physicians on properly diagnosing and treating thyroid disease.
A low functioning thyroid can mimic some of the symptoms of Fibromyalgia such as muscle pain, joint pain, fatigue and more. Getting your thyroid functioning properly will help tremendously with Fibromyalgia pain relief.
Estrogen helps to regulate serotonin levels. One of the roles of serotonin is that it affects our sensitivity to pain. Additionally, estrogen plays a role in keeping adequate amounts of synovial fluid in the joints. This not only helps to prevent arthritis, but keeps the joints lubricated, and thus less painful.
Progesterone is a key player for patients with Fibro because it does several things. First, Progesterone (often referred to as the “calming” hormone) is important for sleep quality. One of the main symptoms of women who have low progesterone is their inability to get good sleep. Sleep problems are also a big symptom for those with Fibromyalgia, so ensuring that this hormone is kept in balance is important. Second, It also has a neuroprotective role in the body which helps the body guard against pain severity.
Testosterone levels in both men and women gradually begin to wane in the late twenties and continue to do so as people age. This is the hormone that gives us the “pep in our step.” It’s also responsible for collagen production which maintains healthy joints and cartilage which give it a “protective” role against pain with Fibromyalgia and other diseases like Osteoarthritis.
Although not completely understood why, the sex hormones affective pain receptors. Additionally, lower levels of these hormones are associated with increased musculoskeletal pain. Some research has shown that for those with Fibromyalgia, they may require slightly higher levels of the sex hormones to aid with pain relief.
Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands. It’s responsible for the “fight or flight” response to stress. Stress isn’t just emotional or mental; it’s also physical and can be caused by poor diet, not getting enough sleep, disease, etc. Chronic stress can cause the adrenal glands to produce too much cortisol. Then, over time, the adrenal glands can become taxed and aren’t able to produce enough cortisol. This is referred to as “adrenal fatigue.”
Adrenal fatigue symptoms contribute to physical and mental feels of fatigue, heightened pain responses, weakened immune systems and more. Additionally, since the adrenals also produce small amounts of estrogen and testosterone, if they’re not functioning optimally, this can further reduce these other hormones.
Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) for Fibromyalgia Pain Relief
When used in higher doses as an opioid “antagonist,” scientists realized that while LDN was effective in treating opioid addiction, it had no chronic pain-relief benefits. However, it was through these studies that they discovered that it does help with chronic pain at very low doses. The amount given for pain control is 1/10th of what is prescribed for opioid addiction. We offer this treatment to our patients at Renewed Vitality.
A small study was completed in 2009 and showed that 60% of women felt significant pain-relief from LDN than those taking placebo. A second and larger study was later done which showed the exact same results as the first study. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3962576)
Free Yourself from Fibromyalgia – The Big Picture
Fibromyalgia is a complex syndrome that can debilitate a person’s quality of life and health. In order to successfully treat this disorder, a multi-faceted approach is required to both address the underlying causes and to build the immune system back up.
- Address pain and sleep disturbances
- Rejuvenate the mitochondria and increase energy production
- Balance hormones
- Treat the immunity factor
- Explore unique causes
For more information on this six-step treatment protocol, click HERE: https://www.renewedvitalitymd.com/fibromyalgia/
Dr. Spurlock has over 18 years of experience working with patients who have Fibromyalgia and has helped many patients free themselves from the grip of this debilitating syndrome. Our practice is located in Dallas, Texas though we do have patients come from all over the United States to find relief from Fibromyalgia. Once treatment begins, our patients usually start to feel better within just a month or two.