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Q & A: FIBROMYALGIA

Q. My sister has fibromyalgia. She feels miserable, has muscle pain and is always tired. I would like to be supportive and help her by finding effective treatments. What do the experts in this field recommend to relieve symptoms?

A. Fibromyalgia syndrome is a chronic disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and nonrestorative sleep. Your sister is tired because she is not getting good quality sleep. Therefore her body is not able to replenish her energy and get the rest provided by deep sleep. Her constant muscle pain, fatigue and the many other symptoms associated with FMS interfere with her ability and motivation to complete necessary chores, perform effectively at work and socialize. You are helping her by giving your compassion, support, and understanding.

Most of the treatments outlined in this column are recommended by FMS experts. However individuals with FMS are unique in how they experience their symptoms and how they react to the suggested treatment. Therefore it is wise to work closely with your medical treatment team. Also, keep trying proven methods in different dosages and degrees and stay current with the research by reading credible newsletters and web sites.

Treatment for FMS requires a comprehensive, and interdisciplinary approach to control symptoms. Each person's recipe for relief will be different, and there is no definitive answer to why some things work well for one person and not at all for another. However, if you look at medicine in general, the trial-and-error approach is used for many medical conditions. There is no one-plan-fits-all, nor is there a cure. For more information on research and treatment update attend the educational conference, Fibromyalgia Awareness Main Event, or F.A.M.E. 2000, at the Universal Sheraton Hotel, Universal City, CA. on May 19-21 and check out the Arthritis and Fibromyalgia web sites and newsletters in this column or attend the International Awareness Day For FMS May 12. The following nonpharmacologic treatments are just a few ways to manage the symptoms of FMS:

Educate yourself. The more you learn about FMS the more you understand and the less frightening it is. With time you will realize that it is a treatable and valid medical condition that is not life threatening. Itís important to have a self-help, self-care philosophy and join a FMS support group. Support groups offer current information, physician referrals, validation, acceptance, networking, goal setting and reinforcement. You can also attend an ARTHRITIS FOUNDATION FIBROMYALGIA SELF-HELP COURSE. It's a education course designed to provide skills and support to people with FMS or sign up with the FRIENDS HEALTH CONNECTION. They help individuals cope through the power of friendship and the empowerment and mutual inspiration that friendship can offer.

Eat healthy. Choose supplements that meet your dietary needs. Many nutritional supplements are effective in reducing FMS symptoms. Supplements such as SAMe, Magnesium, L-carnitine and NADH are just a few. It is critical to follow a balanced diet and take a multivitamin containing at least 50 milligrams of the B-complex vitamins. Beyond these, consider adding L-carnitine a natural fatigue fighter and NADH a natural energy producer. As the cells become more energized the body becomes stronger and more vitalized. Recent studies indicate that people with FMS have low levels of magnesium. NATURAL CALM, an organic magnesium drink with superior assimilation, replenishes those levels as it relaxes the body, reduces muscle pain and promotes sleep. FMS individuals using a combination of malic acid and magnesium hydroxide report improvements with reduction of muscle fatigue, soreness, and pain, and an increase in exercise tolerance.

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