Fibromyalgia pain: Resetting the hypothalamus with diet, sleep, excercise

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WASHINGTON, October 30, 2013 — For fibromyalgia sufferers, increasing movement and re-setting the hypothalamus are critical first steps in reducing pain and restoring wellness.

Victims of fibromyalgia (FM) suffer from fluctuation in body temperatures, making them hot one minute and cold the next. The feeling can range from feverish to shivering.

SEE RELATED: Fibromyalgia solved: Not in the mind, but a very real physical ailment

A recent report from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), based on research by Dr.’s Rice and Albrecht suggests blocked AV shunts in the hands and feet do not permit the smallest blood vessels called ‘capillaries’ from exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide, providing nutrients and receiving warmed blood thus affecting the function of hypothalamus. The hypothalamus, located in the brain, is the gland that regulates body temperature.

As a result of the blocked shunts, body temperature drops. When the hypothalamus tries to stabilize core body temperature, it ramps up heat in the same manner as a home furnace to bring core body temperature to an average of 98.6 degrees. This ramping up by the hypothalamus can make FM victims feel feverish and uncomfortable. When the body does come close to core temperature, FM victims lose heat rapidly through the hands and feet, making them cold and the process begins anew repeatedly.

Hot, cold, hot, cold-it never ends.

Lack of physical activity from FM also can disrupt hypothalamic action. Other reasons for disrupted hypothalamus include improper nutrition and poor nerve and muscular system function.  

SEE RELATED: Fibromyalgia: Drs. Rice and Albrecht help those who suffer

Physical activity is important to maintain a property functioning metabolism and homeostasis, a balance of body systems such as muscles, organs, nerves, sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. Yet FM pain often restricts movement. For non-injury chronic pain such as idiopathic FM, the role of muscle movement is deliberately restricted due to painful muscles from a build -up of lactic acid and myofascial pain within muscle and connective tissue. This seems an impossible conundrum; an FM victim must be physical yet cannot from pain.

Frustration sets in and depression can follow, which also limits the desire to become more physical.  Chronic fatigue also contributes to inactivity. Moreover, many with FM actually fear movement because they anticipate pain, and remain inactive as to not exacerbate pain.

The first step to recovery of FM is to reset the hypothalamus to norm and overcome pain. This is not easy, but re-setting will work if those with FM work at it.

The first edict is simple: keep your hands and feet warm. When the head or portions of the trunk get cold, the hypothalamus protects the brain by drawing heat away from limbs, hands and feet. When embarking on the program of wellness, wear a hat whenever possible, even when sleeping.

SEE RELATED: Fixing fibromyalgia pain: Relief found in REM sleep

This simple gesture will help regulate the hypothalamus.

Because the American Medical Association has ignored FM for so many years, treatment has generally fallen to ‘alternative’ practitioners. Alternative simply means unsupported by the American Medical Association. However, alternative treatments and practitioners vary widely in terms of efficacy, safety and knowledge. Many forms of alternative medicine or therapy are ineffective and in some cases dangerous. This field is strife with charlatans.

There are many alternative, holistic, homeopathic and naturalistic healers including some chiropractors, who claim to re-set the hypothalamus with injections or pills of human chorionic gonadotropic hormone (hCG).

As with many so-called miracle weight loss products designed to re-set the hypothalamus, this therapy restricts one to a 500 calorie per day diet. 500 calories daily is irresponsible and unhealthy and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued warnings of using hCG. More importantly, there is absolutely no science behind the claim of re-setting the hypothalamus with such treatments. FM victims are best to disregard these unsupported claims.

Dallas Texas based physician Dr. Stephan Rodrigues specializes in pain and FM. He has more than 30 years of experience in practice and 15 years experience in treating pain and FM.  

Dr. Rodrigues, along with many doctors, massage and physical therapists, recommend reducing muscle pain to allow movement as the first healing measure to restore temperature control.

The pain FM sufferers feel (non-injury) is called ‘myofascial’ pain and even more pain is sourced from lactic acid build-up in muscle tissue. All pain is considered myofascial until proven otherwise.

An article by Dr. Rodrigues in the National Pain Report (NPR) further describes myofascial pain as affecting muscle fiber, connective tissue and nerves. Normally, muscles will repair themselves but when overwhelmed, healing “falters”.

An incomplete repair creates trigger points (TP’s), and when enough TP’s accumulate, the result is weakness, stinging, burning pain and achiness and “burns deep” into tissues. Lack of proper oxygenation produces muscle ache from build-up of lactic acid in muscle tissue.

The resulting imbalance of homeostasis will affect hypothalamic function.


Paul Mountjoy is a Virginia based writer and psychotherapist


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