Fibromyalgia is a condition that is associated with generalized discomfort* and stiffness as well as sleep problems and fatigue. Fibromyalgia is often accompanied by headaches or migraines, depression and/or anxiety, loss of ability to concentrate and even irritable bowel conditions. According to the latest data from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2005, fibromyalgia affects approximately five million Americans and it is seven times more commonly diagnosed in women than in men.

Fibromyalgia is a difficult problem to deal with for both patients and healthcare providers because, like many ongoing discomfort* disorders, it does not result from tissue damage like an acute injury, such as a sprained ankle, for example. There are also no specific diagnostic tests like imaging studies or blood tests for fibromyalgia. This often leads both patients and providers to the incorrect conclusion that fibromyalgia “isn’t real” and that the problem is “all in your head.” Medications are largely ineffective for fibromyalgia and can even make the symptoms worse in some cases. This often leads patients down the path of taking lots of supplements or doing other alternative treatments, which may or may not be very helpful.

Fibromyalgia, like other ongoing or chronic discomfort* disorders, is difficult to understand because on the surface, there is “nothing wrong.” In other words, there is no injury, tissue damage or stimulus that is causing the discomfort*. So where is it coming from? There is a somewhat old-school misunderstanding of discomfort* that it is an input into the brain. In reality, discomfort* is an output. Pain is a protective mechanism that is created by processing information in the brain. When your brain decides that your body needs protection, it creates what we know as discomfort*. It’s hard to think of discomfort* in this context, but in many ways, discomfort* is your brain’s version of a warm, protective blanket intended to keep you safe and free from harm. Weird, huh?

What happens in chronic discomfort* disorders like fibromyalgia is that the nervous system is sensitized in a way that it is more likely to create discomfort*. This can happen from trauma and injury, infections, in cases of psychological or emotional stress and sometimes because of medications being used. The brain essentially resets its discomfort* threshold point so that it takes less input to cause the discomfort*ful output. To the frustration of everyone involved, the discomfort* is no less real, yet there is seemingly nothing that is causing it.

Fibromyalgia experts agree that the best way to handle the symptoms is through lifestyle, and this is true of most chronic discomfort* disorders. Doing everything you can to reduce stress, set yourself up for good sleeping habits, eating a nutritious whole food diet and getting lots of movement and exercise are the things that will help reduce the over-sensitivity of your nervous system. RockTape can be an important part of this because you can use it over the most sensitive areas when you move or exercise and the added input into the brain can help it to normalize and reset when it decides to output discomfort*. Some of our practitioners have reported success with simple approaches like using one long strip from the neck to the bottom of the spine running right over the spine. We don’t know why this approach works but I have experience from my own practice that suggests it is worth trying.

Other RockTape products like the RockNRoller, RockBalls and RockBands for assisted stretching techniques and mobility can be helpful, too. The long, slow, controlled movements used in self myofascial release techniques can help trigger relaxation in your body and the movements create helpful information for the brain in an attempt to take it out of “threat mode.” It’s important for fibromyalgia patients to really understand and embrace the reality that they are not doing damage to their bodies when they are experiencing the discomfort* of fibromyalgia, so they should be encouraged to do more, rather than less and RockTape is here to help.