When our bodies are healthy and balanced, our nervous system works to protect us from injury through pain signals. By scraping our arm on a rock, we injure the skin. If this wound is left unchecked, we could lose blood and even incur an infection on the wounded area. The pain message sent to our brain brings our attention to the scrape so that we take the necessary steps to prevent further injury (pulling away from the rock, treating the wound, etc.). For the sufferer of fibromyalgia, however, the brain receives messages from the nervous system of pain that may not be indicative of harm to the body.
In this disorder, the sufferer experiences widespread pain through many if not most parts of the body on an ongoing basis. This symptom is often described as a dull ache, and is accompanied by other debilitating symptoms like fatigue, headaches, and even mental conditions like depression and an inability to concentrate. And while Western research processes continue to investigate the nature of this condition, it is speculated that the brain’s heightened sensitivity to the pain signals is a reflection of chemical imbalances in the brain. With these imbalances, the sufferer may experience pain that in another person wouldn’t actually exist. This condition is typically associated with genetics and even certain forms of emotional trauma, and is known to be far more common in women than in men.
There aren’t any purported Western modalities that outright cure a person of fibromyalgia, for the various medications like painkillers and antidepressants are intended to lessen and manage the associated symptoms. Some medical professionals will recommend lifestyle and diet changes so as to lessen the generally poor health of a fibromyalgia sufferer, sometimes with satisfying results. It has also begun to be acknowledged that certain alternative therapies like acupuncture have been known to lessen the incidence of pain in fibromyalgia sufferers.
When we consider matters of the nervous system in relation to Ayurvedic tradition, we will more than likely center our focus on the relative balance or imbalance of the Vata dosha. While the Pitta dosha reflects the fire that metabolizes energy and the Kapha dosha reflects the body as a container for that energy, the Vata dosha is concerned with how the energy and body move within itself and in the world around it. This includes the nervous system, in that any given message carried from the nerve endings to the brain are a series of movements and therefore nervous disorders are likely to reflect a Vata imbalance.
In the specific case of fibromyalgia, the diverse array of associated symptoms – like fatigue and headaches – may shed light on any given individual’s imbalances being more complex than simply a derangement of Vata energy. With that said, because of the apparent impairment of the nervous system in fibromyalgia sufferers, we can assume that balancing the sufferer’s Vata energy is likely to lead to a lessening of symptoms. With healthy movement within the body will come far more reliable signals to the brain.
Assuming that the sufferer is primarily experiencing a Vata imbalance, an Ayurvedic practitioner will likely recommend a Vata-balancing lifestyle including a diet of cooked, grounding foods and Vata-balancing herbs. It is also probable that various therapies like oil massage and pouring techniques (shirodara) can help to settle the imbalanced energy, as well as more elaborate purgation therapies like pancha karma. Because of the often deep-seated and individual nature of fibromyalgia, a specialized regimen is recommended.
When we neglect to establish the root cause of one illness, it can turn into another, stronger illness in the future. The first step in resolving a specific ailment or disease in the body is to assess the nature of our lifestyle and make general modifications. Living our day-to-day life with a deliberate intention to improve our health will help us to both resolve the disease we are suffering from and prevent further incidence of it and other diseases in the future. The following lifestyle changes will both help to generally resolve imbalanced Vata energy, and specifically help to lessen symptoms of pain.
Favor cooked foods over raw and dried foods, as these foods are not only easier to digest but will help to ground the body.
Favor nourishing foods such as white basmati rice, barley, ghee, milk, and cooked vegetables.
Melt ghee over cooked foods on a regular basis, as this can help to lubricate the large intestine and create more regular movement of the bowel.
Be sure not to go without nourishment for long periods of time, as a lack of food can lead to excessive lightness and exacerbate symptoms of pain.
Take a tablespoon of ghee or sesame oil with half a cup of warm water.
Commit to a regular sleep schedule, allowing for at least seven or eight hours a night.
Abstain from excessive amounts of masturbation and oral sex, and try to avoid anal sex. These various activities can lead to derangement of Vata energy.
Avoid rapid movements and sit quietly for some time throughout the day.
Avoid long conversations.
Stay out of the wind and the very hot sun.
Massage the body with slightly heated sesame oil on a daily basis.
Stick to more sweet, sour, and salty tasting foods.
Commit to a practice of sitting still for some time each day.
Avoid sitting on cold and tiled surfaces.
Unless sitting cross-legged or resting in Hero’s pose, avoid sitting on a very hard surface.
Enlist the help of an Ayurvedic practitioner to administer oil enemas, medicated oil massages, and other treatments that help to nourish the body and provide it with the support it needs to resolve symptoms of pain.
Ayurveda teaches us that disease and sickness is derived from poor digestion and inappropriate food choices, so we make deliberate and conscious choices as to what foods we do and do not put in our body. When we suffer from a specific ailment, we then have an opportunity to make even more specific food choices to increase the chance of resolving the body’s imbalance. Food needs to be in season, in moderate combinations of one or two food groups, not too hot or cold, in a modest enough quantity to allow for room left over in the stomach, consumed without too much liquid which hinders digestive power, and fresh and not left over from more than a few hours before. The following foods will help to settle excessive Vata energy and therefore resolve symptoms associated with fibromyalgia.
Rice (white basmati)
Whole wheat (unbleached)
Almonds (soak overnight, then peel skin before eating)
Yogurt water (lassi) mixed with the herb trikatu
While some foods can help to balance an aggravated dosha, other foods can cause further imbalance. Dry and cold foods as well as pungent, bitter and astringent tastes will dry out the body and aggravate the Vata dosha; sour, salty and pungent tastes as well as spicy foods will add more heat to the body and aggravate the Pitta dosha; sweet, sour and salty tasting foods will add heaviness to the body and aggravate the Kapha dosha. The following foods can aggravate Vata energy and therefore intensify symptoms associated with fibromyalgia.
Most legumes including green lentils and garbanzo beans
Raw and cold foods
Dry foods like dried fruits and snack bars
Generally, Ayurveda discourages the consumption of too many cold beverages, as doing so hinders the strength of the body’s digestive fire. Instead, favor room temperature or hot beverages to encourage the strength of the digestive fire.
Herbs are used in the Ayurvedic system much like Western medicine utilizes medicines and vitamins and can be taken like a tea 2 to 3 times a day. Herbs aid in the digestion of food, the breakdown and elimination of toxins, and strengthen the cellular structure of our system for greater vitality. Herbs become more potent once mixed with other herbs of similar properties. Mix 2 to 4 different herbs from the below list together by adding a quarter to a half teaspoon full of each, for a total of 1 teaspoon of herbs total. Drink these in a half a cup of hot water.
When applied therapeutically to specific ailments, yoga postures provide an opportunity to strengthen the body, rid the body of toxic matter, and restore balance. The postures included in this section can be practiced as part of a more general sequence or can be focused on in short sessions. When first exploring yoga postures, it is best to only practice them for twenty or so minutes per day and build up from there once the body becomes more flexible. The following postures will help to foster greater health of the nervous system and therefore resolve symptoms of pain associated with fibromyalgia.
Knee to chest
Aromatherapy utilizes the fragrances of essential oils when applied to the skin. Essential oils can burn the skin and therefore must be diluted with a base oil such as sesame, coconut, sunflower, canola, or mustard oil. Mix 1 fluid ounce of base oil with about 12 drops of essential oil before applying to skin. You can also just mix 5 drops of base oil to one drop of essential oil if using on one spot.
Fibromyalgia can be treated with myrrh, sandalwood, and cinnamon oil.
Use a sesame oil base.
Apply oil between the eyebrows, in the third eye region of the face. Oil can also be applied to the affected areas associated with pain.
Ayurvedic tradition suggests that repeating certain words or sounds can help a person suffering from an ailment restore subtle balance to nerve tissue and enhance one’s mental clarity. Different sounds are prescribed to either repeat mentally or chant outwardly. These sounds are also used and repeated in the mind for the purpose of spiritual growth.
To help control and resolve fibromyalgia, repeat the syllable “Sham” for several minutes a few times a day and build more practice over time.
Controlling the breath is a central practice toward developing peace and stillness in the mind and body. When the breath is under our control, we are no longer at the mercy of the senses that are stimulated by everything and lead to greater fluctuations of the mind. When applied to the context of resolving specific ailments, the breath is used as a tool for developing lung capacity, heating the body, cooling the body, and resolving mental afflictions like anxiety and stress.
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