There are a number of illnesses and conditions that modern medicine has struggled to understand, define, diagnose and treat. Conditions such as Chronic Fatigue, Restless Legs Syndrome and other related conditions such as Fibromyalgia are real and debilitating to those who suffer from the bodily symptoms which then create suffering in the mind of those afflicted.
Fibromyalgia has several definitions. One definition is Fibromyalgia syndrome, which is described as pain felt in soft or connective tissue with no obvious signs of trauma. The term “no obvious signs of trauma” means that there is no obvious cause at the physical level such as strained muscles, injury or accident as a precedent or cause to the condition.
The presence of Fibromyalgia is a low or mid level chronic condition that persists over time and the discomfort then goes on to create bodily discomfort which in turn creates fatigue and sleep deprivation. The long term effects of this condition can be to cause depression in the sufferer as there is a known link between long term sleep disorders, pain in the body, and the resulting onset of depression.
The pain symptoms are also different across individuals. Some report a dull ache and individual muscle sensitivity, others report stabbing pain, others movement triggered pain and discomfort, whilst others find a burning sensation or a throbbing effect. These may all be isolated to one limb or area of the body, or across the entire body, and the areas may change or shift over time.
Other sufferers have some form of relationship to their immune system as the onset of illness, flu’s, colds, infections, and viruses seem to trigger an attack, which compounds whatever other illness they have. The presence of stress and anxiety appears to be a trigger as does the emotional repression of anger and rage in the body by people who report being “too nice” to express their emotions.
This last dynamic which centres around the emotional life of the person appears to be a causal factor rather than a symptomatic trigger, based on our work with Fibromyalgia sufferers in therapy. It is the opinion of the Energetics Institute that Fibromyalgia has as one of its causes the presence of unresolved trauma in the life of the person, and/or a poor relationship between the person and their own emotional life.
Sufferers report different long-term outcomes. Some report getting worse and the onset of additional or secondary symptoms over time, while others do not get worse or better over time, while others go into remission over time. There is no atypical design for this condition, which makes diagnosis and treatment difficult.
We have had a number of Fibromyalgia sufferers present for therapy to deal initially with the depression caused by their Fibromyalgia. In seeing the depression as a symptom of both their Fibromyalgia, and also where applicable, as symptoms of old developmental or episodic adult trauma, or a poor emotional expressive life, we have found Fibromyalgia often resolves itself over time by treating it as a symptom based on one of these causes.
Sufferers have previously or currently been undertaking pain medication, exercise routines, chiropractic and massage treatments, nutritional supplements, naturopathic detoxes and yoga in an attempt to heal their condition, but have reported only limited benefits from such treatments.
Pain studies have shown that incomplete pain signals in the body can cause them to be re-sent and even amplified. Fibromyalgia sufferers appear to have a pain-signaling problem that is of this nature. Trauma researchers have identified the role that our 3 key vagal nerves have in dealing with and exhibiting trauma. The Vagus nerves have been shown to have “communication problems” when traumatised. This is conjecture but a possible framework under which Fibromyalgia exists without showing causes and origins. It may turn out to be a nervous system “network” problem.
Fibromyalgia patients often experience firm knots in their muscles, often causing restricted movement and radiating pain. This is similar to the chronic holding posture of the hypertonic fear/immobilised response that we all potentially have as a survival response. The Vagus system may be activating this type of response in an uncoordinated way. It is possible that trauma causes “noise” floods the Vagus system nerves and activates muscle contractions, pain, twitches, cramps, and other signals. It is in conjecture but is plausible.
We at the Energetics Institute have found that deep organic breathing techniques which are integrated into body, mind, postural and bioenergetics routines work to restore what appears to be temporary Vagal balance and regulation. The exercises when done as a daily routine have been reported by clients to allow them to live what is subjectively described as a more normal Parasympathetic state where they feel “safer”, grounded, present and oriented towards social interaction rather than survival fight or flight preoccupations.
This creates the space for these clients to examine whatever childhood developmental trauma and abandonment/neglect issues they often seem to have, and/or classic abuse or developmental trauma in their personal history. The sensorimotor trauma resolution work we undertake with clients, as articulated by Dr. Pat Ogden’s pioneering Sensorimotor work, further assists in lessening the Fibromyalgia symptoms over time.
In fact we often find that the Fibromyalgia symptom of pain or bodily sensation, when isolated and focused on, may be tracked back to a blocked and incomplete survival response initiated perhaps as early as childhood, but which was frustrated, discontinued or overwhelmed by trauma. Resolution of these blocked impulses appears to assist in the lessening of the Fibromyalgia onsets, duration and severity of symptoms. In this context Fibromyalgia appears to have a relationship to trauma.
These body psychotherapy and trauma principles and treatments offer a potential way forward for Fibromyalgia sufferers. Please contact us for further information or to book in for an assessment conducted and treatments explained in further detail.
For more information about Fibromyalgia and a fuller version of this article I refer you to our new article Fibromyalgia – The Phantom Pain Condition.
“Richard Boyd is a Body Psychotherapist, counselor, author, and the CEO of Energetics Institute and Corporate Energetics”
MBA,BBus,AdvDipCEBPsych,Cert Coaching AICE,AIFM,ExtDISC Certified
Visit him at http://www.energeticsinstitute.com.au/