Fibromyalgia symptoms get a lot of press. Are you dealing with widespread pain, fatigue, brain/cognitive impairments (aka fibrofog)? What about digestive disorders such as IBS, IBD, etc.? Or perhaps you’ve experienced a weakened immune system, dizziness, headaches, muscle spasms, tooth/jaw problems, and/or thyroid-related disorders?
The symptoms list goes on. (And on…)
And with so many symptoms, it’s easy to wonder if fibromyalgia is real or not – after all, how can one person have so many different things wrong!? But medical evidence proving that fibromyalgia is real has long ago put that myth to rest.
A Collection of Chronic Illness Conditions
I’d like to help clarify things a bit by putting our symptoms into categories. And it’s important to note that the info shared here applies to the symptoms of all chronic illness-related conditions – not just fibromyalgia.
Because this post takes a root-level look at symptoms, it applies to all chronic and autoimmune health challenges such as ME/chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, migraines, lupus, diabetes, Alzheimer’s syndrome, POTS, chronic Lyme, endometriosis, and various thyroid conditions. It also applies to digestive system disorders including IBS, IBD, Crohn’s, colitis, celiac, etc.
This list is far from comprehensive. For a complete list, visit The Autoimmune Registry.
Of course, each of these conditions has its own collection and subset of symptoms. The intention here is to look at the systemic nature of symptoms.#Fibromyalgia and #ChronicIllness #Symptoms - A Systemic View. Click To Tweet
Fibromyalgia Symptoms by System
Fibromyalgia, and chronic illness/autoimmune conditions in general, are systemic challenges. This means they affect multiple systems of the body. It’s a circular challenge in that the various systems of the body both contribute to and generate symptoms.
I’ve listed several of the main body’s systems below and their related symptoms. Please note that this list does not include every system of the body. Instead, it focuses on the ones mainly affected by and responsible for symptoms of chronic illness.
Here they are in no order of priority.
This system, in part, sends communications between the brain, nerves, and muscles. It is negatively impacted by chronic symptoms AND contributes to the production of chronic symptoms. It’s primarily made up of the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system.
- Overstimulated ANS (Autonomic Nervous System) from chronic STRESS – Nervousness, anxiety, restlessness, increased heart rate, tendency to hold your breath, easily startled, moderate to extreme fatigue, constantly on edge, feel as if both the gas pedal and brake are applied simultaneously (tired but wired), poor sleep, relaxation difficulty, looping thoughts, etc. This is often mentioned in connection to the fight, flight, and/or freeze response.
This system is responsible for the fluidity of muscle movement and for the body’s ability to stay flexible. It includes the skeletal structure (bones), and muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage, and connective tissue.
- Impaired muscle function – Muscle pain, muscle stiffness, spasms, poor ability to repair from injuries (both minor and major), etc.
- Joint /connective tissue dysfunction – Joint pain, a tendency to sprain and slow healing of joints, joint stiffness, costochondritis, etc.
Immune and Lymphatic System
The immune system is a complex network of biological processes. This network guards the body against infections such as viruses, bacteria, and pathogens.
- Immune system weakness/dysfunction – Impaired ability to tolerate foodborne bacteria (frequent bouts of food poisoning), a higher propensity for colds, flu, etc. Higher likelihood of allergies (both airborne and food-related) in general. A higher likelihood of a weakened immune system in general.
- Pathogens/infections – More likely to suffer from ulcer-related infections, stomach viruses, and bacterial infections. Also vulnerable to pathogens such as parasites, fungi, and protozoa.
The digestive system is ground zero for the health of the body as a whole. It’s typically the first system to review and observe when looking to heal from chronic health symptoms. This system begins with the salivary activity in the mouth, and moves to the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and then wastes are processed through elimination.
- Digestive system discomfort — Bloating, gassiness, flatulence, constipation, diarrhea, slowed transit time, stomach/intestinal pain, nausea, etc.
- Digestive system disorders — Barrett’s esophagus, reflux, GERD, IBS, IBD, colitis, Crohn’s, SIBO, dysbiosis, leaky gut (intestinal permeability), diverticulitis, diverticulosis, celiac’s, lactose intolerance, gastritis, pancreatitis, etc.
- Food/Nutrient/additive sensitivities — Likelihood of over-reactivity to certain nutrients such as wheat/gluten, processed dairy, added sugar, chemical additives, corn, soy, etc. Also potential reactions to caffeine, nicotine, heavy metals, grains, beans/legumes, histamines, nightshades, eggs, nuts, oxalates, etc.
This system uses an interwoven system of chemical communications to the body via hormones. Hormones are highly-sensitive and are generated, activated, deactivated, and regulated by biochemical signals of the body. Main endocrine system glands include the thyroid, adrenals, thymus, pituitary, etc.
- Hormonal imbalance – Inability to maintain/regulate core body temperature, fatigue, hair thinning and/or loss, heart arrhythmia, erratic menstrual cycles, PMS, hyper/hypothyroidism, PCOS, diabetes, adrenal dysfunction, Cushing’s syndrome, infertility, headaches, etc.
This lesser-known system is responsible for the health and regeneration of hair, skin, and nails. It’s also responsible for the process of sweating.
- Impaired physical appearance – poor skin elasticity, the potential for rashes, skin sensitivity, skin pain (allodynia), rapid aging of skin, skin flushing or blotchy redness. Poor hair health, thinning or loss of hair, dull hair, poor hair strength (breaks or splits easily). Weak nail health, splitting/cracking nails, spots or ridges on nails, etc.
- Impaired sweating – Either excessive or limited ability to sweat.
There’s always more to discuss. Other related symptoms may include circulation, respirator, heart-rate challenges, waste/elimination challenges, etc.
Categorizing Chronic Illness and Fibro Symptoms
For the purpose of illustrating the systemic nature of chronic illness symptoms, I tried to place symptoms within the categories listed above. Anyone who has experienced at least some of these symptoms will recognize that many of these symptoms can be placed in multiple categories.
And many of the disorders/challenges can also apply to multiple categories. So, feel free to move or shuffle the symptoms that apply to you into the categories that make the most sense.
The takeaway here is
the symptoms of chronic illness
are multi-systemic in nature.
In my experience and expertise as a fibromyalgia coach, I recognize that a multidisciplinary approach is necessary to address the healing process.
Do you have a plan in place?
Basic Healing Math
Healing the body from chronic health challenges involves some simple math — basic addition and subtraction. Obviously, there’s nothing simple about healing from chronic challenges, but the fundamental principles are rather straightforward.
–There are some behaviors/elements that need to be avoided — Subtraction.
–There are some behaviors/elements that need to be included or increased — Addition.
Review the systems above. You can probably already see a few things to add or subtract from your healing plan.
I’m also fond of sharing an approach I call, The Restoration Trio. For more information on this multidisciplinary protocol and more on creating your own healing plan, click HERE.
If you’d like to discuss this further or have questions, feel free to hop onto my calendar and pick a time to chat that’s good for you.