Do you think you may have fibromyalgia? Are you unsure on what to do if you do have fibromyalgia? To help understand what fibromyalgia is and what type of treatment is available, I have interviewed therapist Robin A. Hubert, M.F.T.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I am a Marriage and Family Therapist with a private practice in Los Angeles, California. A Mind/Body Psychotherapist, I specialize in Somatic Experiencing. I incorporate knowledge and awareness of the body and the Autonomic Nervous System, our survival responses, to work through many kinds of trauma including emotional traumas. According to SE, trauma is a result of stuck or frozen survival responses. Survival responses can be triggered during accidents, including a relatively simple fall, illnesses, medical procedures, lack of emotional attunement or abuse in childhood, physical attacks, war trauma, and more. If we have been able to move through the physiological processes after a traumatizing event, we can bounce back to health and well-being. However, if our survival responses remain charged but stuck inside us, we may experience all kinds of symptoms such as anger, depression, lethargy, social withdrawal, addictive processes, anxiety, aggression, and physical pain ‘” even perhaps fibromyalgia.”
What is fibromyalgia?
“Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain syndrome that is considered by many Mind/Body healers to be connected to dysregulation in the Autonomic Nervous System, our internal survival response system. Although the exact origins of fibromyalgia are unknown, the chronic pain and discomfort experienced by people suffering from it are clear evidence of the disorder. Fibromyalgia is syndromal in nature as it often triggers pain and dysregulation in various systems of the body such as the musculature system and the digestive system. It is also thought that there may be genetic markers for fibromyalgia, and that only if triggered by stress or trauma will they begin to express themselves.”
“The dynamics of fibromyalgia are complex. One could say fibromyalgia is actually a part of a coping strategy for an over-aroused nervous system. One way of coping with trauma or stress is to suppress it in the body. This is not typically a consciously deliberate act, but one that for some people assists them for a while to avoid overwhelm from the aftermath of a threatening event. The problem is that the longer the survival energy remains sequestered in the body, the deeper this particular pattern for coping becomes. Without the nervous system discharge and regulation, it is as if a person is going through life pressing their internal gas pedal and brakes at the same time. The coursing survival energy, the gas, is constantly being managed and suppressed by the body’s brakes, the muscles, joints and other systems, often manifesting as muscle tension, headaches, and many other pains and symptoms. From this point of view, we can perhaps understand the exhaustion that many people experience as they cope with fibromyalgia.”
“Again, this is a pattern that is usually not deliberate, however, a person can become aware of the mechanics of this process within themselves and begin to learn ways to release the energy instead of keeping it trapped. In the case of chronic pain syndromes, the Somatic Experiencing work is extremely careful and subtle because it is so easy to trigger Fibromyalgia pain and symptoms. Over time, Somatic Experiencing works to help the individual gradually rebuild resilience in their bodies as they begin to regain their nervous system’s natural capacity to pendulate between activated states and resting states. In this process, little by little, the excess survival energy is released and the body begins to reorganize itself.”
What are the signs and symptoms of fibromyalgia?
“Fibromyalgia cannot be identified by any test, the only proof is the many people who complain of the symptoms. People suffering from fibromyalgia often complain of muscle aches and joint stiffness, headaches, neck tension, digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, sleep problems, low energy, chronic fatigue, global internal burning sensations, restless legs syndrome, anxiety and depression, among other symptoms. The symptoms seem to at times subside and then can be triggered by events that are subtle and not so subtle. For example, getting a massage, which most would find healing and relieving of muscle tension could actually trigger pain and tension and a full blown fibromyalgia episode. Any stressful event in life can also trigger fibromyalgia pain.”
What type of impact does fibromyalgia have on a person’s life?
“The challenge in a person’s life brought on by fibromyalgia can be dramatic and utterly devastating when you are now left to cope with a tremendous amount of pain that keeps you from partaking in your normal life activities like work, hobbies, social activities, family events, daily routines, etc… People who do not suffer from fibromyalgia often find relief from stress, muscle tension, depression, anxiety, and other disturbances by exercising, getting massage, getting active, talking about their problems, but for those with fibromyalgia, these very activities can mark the onslaught of an episode of pain, disability, and acute sensitivity. It is understandable that one might experience depression and anxiety under these circumstances.”
What help is available for someone who has fibromyalgia?
“Most people suffering from fibromyalgia begin their search for relief and healing through the traditional medical model, which looks at the structural dynamics of the body, whether the muscle, nerve and bone structures are in order. Pain medication is often prescribed, along with diet and exercise or physical therapy suggestions. Physiatrists, pain specialists, are also consulted.”
“Less commonly consulted for help with fibromyalgia pain are Psychotherapists. A Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) or a Social Worker (LCSW) with Somatic Experiencing training is well equipped to understand both the emotional and psychological aspects of a person’s experience, as well as the biological and systemic conditions that are concordantly expressing themselves. Body Workers are also extremely skilled in working with body dynamics.”
“Guided meditation, mindfulness practices, gentle exercise, and emotional support can also be helpful along the way.”
What last advice would you like to leave for someone who has fibromyalgia?
“Consult your doctor to rule out the possibility of structural problems. Don’t jump to surgery or other more dramatic means of pain management. Many symptoms can be lessened and even alleviated with the right attention to and knowledge of one’s Mind/Body connection. Stay away from the things and situations that bring on pain. This may be impossible or paradoxical for some individuals and worth exploring in psychotherapy. If massage, acupuncture, chiropractic adjustment, etc… do not work for you, resist the insistence of others who think they know what is good for you. Consider trying to work with a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner. We can be found at www.FoundationforHumanEnrichment.com. Just announced is the new dba “Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute” that better expresses the endeavors of Somatic Experiencing.”
“Remember, the mind and body have incredible capacities and abilities to transform and heal. Behold the miracle of the scratch that heals with a little time! Science and technology can now also show us, via brain scans, that the mind and its intrinsic relation to the body can also heal in time. May you find health and well-being along your path of healing!”
Thank you Robin for doing the interview on fibromyalgia and treatment. For more information on Robin Hubert or her work check out her website on www.HubertTherapy.com.
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