Asklepia Monograph Series
By Rob Kuehn and Graywolf Swinney
WHAT IS FYBROMYALGIA?
Fibromyalgia is generalized muscular pain and fatigue. It has been described as rheumatism in the muscles rather than the joints. Indeed the name Fibromyalgia literally means pain (myalgia) in the muscles and fibrous connective tissues or the ligaments and tendons (fibro). It is often referred to as a syndrome because of its multitude of apparently unrelated symptoms. It is also considered by some to be an auto-immune disease.
Prior to 1980 Fibromyalgia was seldom diagnosed. Now it is believed to affect approximately 2% of the U.S. population, or about 5 million people, and is one of the most common diagnosis made by rheumatologists. It is difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are common to several other conditions, and little in outer appearance indicates its presence or its intense inner pain and discomfort. Nineteen out of twenty are females. In spite of this prevalence, some authorities still question that it as an organic or medical illness.
To the persons with it, it feels very real and can be physically and mentally crippling. On occasions Fibromyalgia sufferers (FMS's) can become so disabled, depressed, or caught in a mental fog that going to work or even simply getting dressed is painful and seems overwhelming. It often brings with it depression and frustration. In part this is because family, friends, co-workers, caseworkers or Physicians, no one seems to understand the FMS's experiences. Frustration and depression are also experienced because FM it is not considered to be curable. FMS's feel very alone or isolated in the hopelessness of their pain and discomfort.
At the Institute for Applied Consciousness Science (IACS), we have worked successfully with this condition and are convinced that it is a body-mind condition, a physiological manifestation of deeper consciousness structures and dynamics or emotional-thought-perceptual patterns. These patterns (listed later) underlie both physical and mental symptoms and are common to many if not most FMS's.
We are also convinced that Fybromynalgia cannot be cured by medications alone. The types of drugs used have little direct impact on consciousness patterns. We find that changes may, however, be achieved through the Consciousness Restructuring Process (CRP). There follow some facts and speculations about Fybromyalgia based in our experiences working with it. An introduction to the Consciousness Restructuring Process (CRP) is also included .
THE SIGNS and SYMPTOMS of FIBROMYALGIA
A symptom is what is experienced and reported by the patient. For example a symptom is being tired, feeling hot or fatigued, or pain in a certain location.. A sign can be measured or observed, for example a measurable weakness in muscle strength, a 101 degree body temperature or bruises and swelling.
PAIN AND TENDER POINTS:
Intense muscular pain is the most prominent symptom and is generally felt all over the body. Although it may first appear in one region, such as the neck and shoulders, eventually it spreads to other parts of the body. Fibromyalgia pain is described in a variety of ways from burning or gnawing to sore, stiff, and aching. It varies with changes in the weather, time of day, activity, stress levels and sleep patterns. It is felt deep in the muscles, and some claim it feels similar to a severe flu. For some, the pain is so severe that it becomes debilitating and perhaps even crippling.
No single medical test identifies Fibromyalgia, and to all outer appearances the individual appears healthy. However, careful probing and exploration of the muscles reveals tender areas or points at specific sites. The presence and pattern of these characteristic “tender points” (Figure 1) along with the pain is what identifies Fibromyalgia. The tender points are almost always bilateral or symmetrical in the body. The tender points at these specific sites are used for diagnosis, but other muscle and soft tissue sites may also be tender.
FATIGUE AND SLEEP DISTURBANCES
About 90 percent of FMS's describe moderate to severe fatigue, lack of energy, decreased exercise endurance or the type of exhaustion felt with flu or lack of sleep. Often diagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome, these symptoms are common. The fatigue, often more troubling than the pain, diminishes the ability to perform even such routine tasks as getting up and dressed.
Many FMS's report sleep disturbances, sleep only a few scattered hours a night and seldom very deeply. Before the deep Delta level of the sleep cycle is reached, Alpha waves are produced and jolt them into REM or other surface levels of sleep. Many may startle themselves into wakefulness. In many ways this is similar to the startle awake reflex in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and it is associated with deep fear or anxiety. FMS's insure their safety by maintaining "alert status" throughout the night. The sleep disorder may be the responsible for chronic fatigue and many other symptoms.
Delta level sleep is associated with the production and release of certain Hormones (e.g. HGH) that repair and regenerate muscle tissue. This deficiency may thus account for some of the reported physical discomforts. Delta sleep is also associated with the brain's production of neurotransmitters such as Serotonin, Melatonin, Norepinephrine and Dopamine. These effect mood, sleep patterns, and the immune system, and may be responsible for the mental symptoms.
About 25 percent suffer from depression, anxiety, distracted or fuzzy thinking and have difficulty with concentration or performing even simple mental tasks. These mental symptoms may be diagnosed as psychiatric disorders (e.g. bipolar disorder, attention deficit disorder or chronic depression) and lead to use of anti-depressants, lithium or other drugs with severe side effects that are not likely to alleviate, and may exacerbate the condition. Numbness and tingling in the hands, arms, feet, legs, or face are also signs but can suggest other disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome, neuritis or even multiple sclerosis. Undiagnosed FMS's generally undergo numerous inconclusive tests for such conditions.
OTHER SYMPTOMS AND SIGNS
Two types of headache, (muscular or tension headaches, and migraines), are also often associated with Fibromyalgia. Abdominal pain, bloating and alternating constipation and diarrhea (known as irritable bowel syndrome or “spastic colon”) are too, as are bladder spasms and irritability that cause urinary urgency or frequency. The skin may be affected by poor circulation and is often excessively sensitive to temperature changes, resulting in changes in skin color.
In fact, we have noted that most FMS are hypersensitive with respect to one or more of the senses. Light and sound sensitivity are reported most often but so are taste, smell and skin sensitivity to temperature or pressure.
Fibromyalgia is often diagnosed through the elimination of other conditions that could also account for the symptoms. Laboratory tests or X-ray cannot diagnose the disease but do help in this elimination. A careful history and physical examination can also rule out other conditions. However, reports of widespread pain in combination with tenderness at most of the specific locations shown in figure 1 (tender point testing) are the most definitive test to confirm a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia.
WHAT CAUSES FIBROMYALGIA?
No one yet claims this knowledge. It is known that this syndrome is sensitive to stress. Physical illness, emotional trauma, hormonal changes, a stressful environment, an automobile or work related accident, and physical or mental abuse have all been associated with its onset. Low quality sleep is another factor. There are other speculations but nothing definitive.
It is considered to be psychogenic, meaning having origins in the psyche or mental state. We too have noticed several common psychological or mental factors, and a partial listing follows. Most FMS's report one or more of these in their lives.
· Either a mentally and/or physically abusive, or a highly restrictive childhood.
· Unsatisfactory and/or abusive relationships, past and/or present. Abuse may be perceived or it might indeed be actual.
· Type A personality profile, driven and often bordering on compulsive or controlling.
· Strict or even very rigid and severe standards. They may be unable to forgive themselves or others for “transgressions” or variance from them.
· Emotional sensitivity or fragility, and denial or holding back of emotions that are seldom if ever, expressed.
· Many are obsessed with a cause, for example one with saving abused children, another with saving the forests and the environment.
· Most often they are focused on outer environment rather than inner self.
· So far most of the studies at the Institute have involved women and we have noted that there often is or was an intense, almost symbiotic relationship with the mother. The father is most notable in his absence, meekness and lack of support. When the mother is still present, the relationship tends to be a love-hate, dependent-independent struggle.
We suspect that with this disease, the cumulative stress, fear and frustration lead to constrictions in not only emotional and/or mental activity but also in somatic functioning. For example the pattern that underlies the constrictive emotional mechanism also operates on the somatic level. On this level, for example, it may constrict blood vessels that feed specific muscles or the brain itself. This restricted blood flow to the brain and to various muscles starves them of the oxygen needed to function properly.
Restricted blood flow and oxygen supply to and within the brain is probably the reason for the thinking and mental fuzziness reported by many FMS. Restricted blood flow to the brain is also known to be a major cause of migraines, another common FM symptom. The restricted blood and oxygen flow to muscles can result in cramps or contraction, causing the deep muscle pain. Hormonal deficiencies (associated with the deep or delta sleep disturbances) may have similar effects.
MEDICATIONS AND OTHER ALLOPATHIC TREATMENTS
Many FMS's report that anti-inflammatory medications used to treat rheumatic conditions do not seem to have as much impact on Fibromyalgia pain as do aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen. These medications all, however, seem to provide some limited relief.
Amitriptyline (Elavil), doepin (Sinequan), cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril), may be perscribed to help relax and aid in attaining deeper sleep These drugs increase the hormones that modulate sleep and pain. However many report that although these medications do help them to rest, they do not do much to reduce the general symptoms. DELTA levels of sleep are not reached, at least not long enough for it to generate and release sufficient hormones and neurotransmitters needed by the organism for healthy function. We speculate that perhaps the medications may also interfere with the deeper functions of delta sleep just as many of them also inhibit dream activity in REM.
Allopathic treatment for this disease is to isolate and independently treat each of its many symptoms. Therefore FMS's often find themselves on a multitude of various medications and suffer many side effects.
One surgeon claims that a restriction in the upper neck vertebrae is responsible for the symptoms of FM. This has not been confirmed and neck surgery has resulted in only one limited success out of several procedures tried.
Some alternative supplements and treatments may provide relief for some symptoms. Use of blood oxygenators such as MSM and Homozone has reduced the severity of some symptoms, i.e. pain, chronic physical and mental fatigue. Also ozone treatment, that is using a tent and exposing the skin of the lower body to an ozone rich environment has also helped reduce symptom severity in another instance. This symptomatic relief is not, however, a cure.
CONSCIOUSNESS RESTRUCTURING PROCESS
Dreaming Yourself Better
The Institute for Applied Consciousness Science (IACS) has developed and uses a Consciousness-Restructuring Process, (CRP) to treat Fibromyalgia. It utilizes REM-dream consciousness. A brief description of the process follows.
Imagination/REM-based, the process explores the sensory nature and roots of a dream or a symptom. REM is attained through breathing techniques. Using imagination in this state, the patient begins to notice and identify images and/or sensations suggested by a dream symbol, or by a symptom itself. These sensory images are followed to their source, that is, to the consciousness structure that shaped and formed them. This Process is often described as a “Dream Journey” because while not necessarily every journey starts with a dream, all journeys take place in REM.
Peoples' lives, behaviors and physiology are based on perceptions of self and its relationship with the world. Past and present experiences create consciousness structures that are stored as the neural patterns and shape these perceptions. This body-mind phenomenon underlies our personal and unique experience of self and reality.
CRP allows the experience of this structure as a primal self image. It is a sensory, existential, (meaning self, the world and the relationship between them) self-image, and becoming aware of and accepting it as self presents the means to restructure it. Studies at IACS demonstrate that fear-based patterns of consciousness such as these seem to be the body-mind's foundation for illness conditions of all types.
Dreams occur in REM sleep while the brain is in its most complex and chaotic synaptic firing dynamics. In this extremely complex neural state, it is generally thought that the brain is organizing the stimuli and experiences from daily activities, and developing new neurological firing patterns in the nervous system to help assimilate, integrate or deal with them. These dream state or chaos/complexity brain dynamics are needed to balance and heal our complex organism.
Our dream experience is shaped by these inner, consciousness patterns (neural firing patterns) that also shape our behavior and physiology. Every dream, among other things, is a self-portrait, but an impressionistic one. Each dream symbol represents different aspects of self, although since dreams are holographic in nature, any part or symbol in a dream also contains the whole.
By imagining the sensory experience of becoming one of the dream symbols and following this sense of being to its source, we directly experience the consciousness dynamics and patterns underlying it. These dynamics at this primal level incorporate the disease patterns. This "exploration" is accomplished using imaginary sensory images that arise from the subconscious. Sensory imagery is used because it is the first input and most basic way reality is experienced It is not the same as our perceptions which are usually skewed based on our individual life experiences and memories.
At this source, our primal, sensory, existential image (meaning an image that defines self, world and the relationship between the two in a sensory way), is experienced. This “existential hologram” or neural pattern is our deepest sense of "what and who we are" and incorporates the consciousness pattern that underlies and fuels the disease.
In REM, this out-of-ease neural firing pattern is influenced by the chaos in the brain activity and "dissolves" into it. This is experienced as a release into unstructured or unbound consciousness field. Since the mentored is fully identified with it as a sensory self, the release or dissolution also occurs on a somatic level.
It is known from neurobiology and studies of the role of chaos in the brain, that in REM new neural patterns are most easily formed. The restructuring of a pattern is experienced as a quantum like shift in consciousness and is a sensory experience of a new yet familiar being or self emerging into awareness. The new structure is easeful, balanced and a healed sense of self. It restructures the organism both mentally and physically by forming new neural patterns, which change both body and brain chemistry through the pineal and pituitary glands. This altering of the body's and brain’s chemistries, in turn restructures the immune system and other presentations of the body and personality. This eased consciousness state is reflected on all those levels.
With reference to FM we suggest that the changes in self image and body chemistry experienced in the journey relax fear and tightness and open up constricted arteries, restoring blood supplies to starved muscles and organs. It may also increase oxygen supplied to the digestive system to relieve the spastic colon symptom.
The CRP is a co-consciousness procedure, which usually involves two people, a Mentor and a Mentored. A journey lasts about an hour to an hour and half. After CRP treatment has begun, it is quite possible to feel worse before feeling better. It takes the mind-body time to adjust to the changes that are occurring. During this phase of change and adjustment, FMS's are encouraged to be patient, to stay open and to just notice things that might be different.
During journeys the healing sensations are felt somatically or in the body. For example “temperature” changes are often encountered. The body, in essence, applies its own heat or cold packs to stressed or tensed muscles. It is also important to note that the dream journey belongs to the dreamer and even though accomplished in REM consciousness, there is still full awareness of the self and environment. Their own imaginative process determines every step.
Following the journey, mutual dialogue gives context to the experiences, and relates them to the dream or symptoms. This is referred to as re-entry and is mutual sharing of hunches, thoughts and observations. A context for the often-confusing imagery experienced during the journey is established. Most often symptom relief begins within the first few journeys.
For further information, or to schedule an interview please write or call.
I.C.S.T. P.O. Box 301, Wilderville, OR 97543.
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