How Does Fibromyalgia Start?

by Martin Rutherford, D.C.

Dr. Gates: So then we have question, “How does fibromyalgia start?” And this is a tough question to answer because there are a variety of different ways to approach this question. Symptomatically, we see a lot of fibromyalgia patients in this clinic, and some fibromyalgia patients will have a sudden onset, others will have a more prolonged onset. I’ll let Dr. Rutherford fill you in on that. We can also approach it from the standpoint of what the underlying causes are. So in terms of how fibro starts, we have to look at what are the triggers, so to speak, associated with it. So why don’t I kick it over to you and you can kind of go through your experience with fibromyalgia and how it came about?

Dr. Rutherford: Okay, so I have fibromyalgia. I’m much better now, but when I developed it I was very sick. It started though… How did it start? Can encompass so many things, and we’re not sure what the patient who is asking that question might be asking, but I think I can cover it all. Some people, when they come in here to get their consults done that determine whether this is something that we can help them with or whether they have fibro or not. One of the questions they’ll ask me frequently is, “Is this a genetic problem?” And that’s a tough question to answer.

As far as we know, there’s not genetic fibro gene, but my parents, my mother had her thyroid out. Thyroid is a big part of most if not all fibro patients. Clinical pictures. My aunt had her thyroid out, my grandmother had a goiter, my uncle had multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune problem. So, I had the genetic propensity to potentially develop some sort of an autoimmune problem. In our observations, most fibro patients have an autoimmune component, whether it’s their thyroid, mostly it’s their thyroid, whether it’s their gut with celiac, or even if they have an immune attack against their cerebellum, for things of that nature.

So I had the propensity. That doesn’t mean I had to develop it. Then in college, I was working, I was going to school, I was playing sports, I was getting up early in the morning and doing things to try to practice for the next sport that was coming along, and I wore myself out, and I got mononucleosis and strep throat. That, in retrospect, set off an immune response. Triggers set things off. That point in time, I wore myself out and I was under a lot of stress. Stress is one of the triggers. Triggers can be stress, overwhelming infection, for me, it was pneumonia, for some people it would be a strep, a viral infection, stuff like that. Having a baby, this goes to symptoms. I can’t tell you the number of people who have come in here and said, “I had my fourth child and my entire life fell apart.”

Having a car accident or a surgery, these are traumas. You can talk about the physiology of why this happens, but these are traumas that can immediately set off fibro responses. Or, like me, you could get sick and just get some of them. What did I get? At 21 I got fibro. I didn’t get fibro pain, but I got chronic fatigue, which is a part of most fibromyalgia. And I got weight gain, out of nowhere, and I mean I was an athlete. I could eat the entire training table and not put on an ounce and suddenly I had to watch my weight.

And then, years later, when I went through another significant stress and developed pneumonia at the same time, I then became the patient who had immediate symptoms. I mean, I put weight on immediately, my hair started thinning out, I started getting joint pains, I started getting the sensitivity. I got the sensitivity in my legs and feet that we now know half of patients who have fibromyalgia have peripheral neuropathy. And that all came on at once. So when Dr. Gates said, “This isn’t the easiest question to answer,” that’s the reason. If we get 10 people that come in here, they will have some variation of maybe some, and I didn’t talk about environmental factors, which Dr. Gates is gonna talk about. But there are a lot of other factors, other than an overwhelming infection or those triggers, that would prime you also to be susceptible to get fibromyalgia, and I don’t know if that gets into how does fibromyalgia start.

Dr. Gates: Right, I see what you’re saying. Just to provide a little more clarity on this, we have fibromyalgia patients who come in here who were abused in childhood. We hear a variety of horrific stories. And so, for them, their fibromyalgia really started then because that’s what set them up later in life, depending on what the other circumstances were in their genetic propensities to develop fibromyalgia versus we have the patient who’s in a car accident, and all the sudden their life is changed. The reason why, physiologically, is that your cortisol levels, your stress hormones, can go through the roof when you go through a car accident, same thing with the surgery, versus your course with fibromyalgia was a slow crescendo.

It started out with chronic fatigue, got a little better, started to notice some weight gain, got a little better, and then went through massive stress, and all of a sudden you have small peripheral neuropathy and you have pain all over your body, and nobody knows what’s wrong with you. And so that’s really kind of the clinical picture on how fibromyalgia can start. It’s different for everybody, but we hope this provides a little more clarity.

Dr. Rutherford:: And again, when they’re pregnant or when they have the child or when they get the accident, the cortisol levels go. But again I think, to make the point, there are a lot of other things that cause them to be a compromised host at that point in time that got set off.

Dr. Gates: Exactly. You may have had irritable bowel syndrome, you may a gluten allergy, you may have allergies to 20 different foods that you don’t even know of.

Dr. Rutherford:: A lot of antibiotic therapy as a kid. And we’re not anti-medicine, but a lot of antibiotic therapy that damages the gut. A gut is generally a big part of the fibromyalgia in the clinical picture. So you’re sitting there with maybe a thyroid problem, you’re sitting there with maybe a gut problem, now you get into an accident, now you got a surgery, now you go through a massive stress.

Dr. Gates: That’s how fibromyalgia starts. So you can see it as semi-complicated, but it is all there. There are reasons why you’re in pain, you have fatigue, you have brain fog, you have irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, things of that nature. So if you want more information on this, we have hours of video on this for you to really dig in and sit back and really see what’s going on with your condition. We have lots of references with each video. So go to http://powerhealthtalk.com. Search fibromyalgia and you’ll be able to find those videos. So we appreciate you watching this questionnaire. And this is Dr. Martin Rutherford, certified functional medicine practitioner, also a chiropractor. I’m Dr. Randall Gates, sports certified chiropractic neurologist, also a chiropractor, and we appreciate you watching.

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