Breaking the Cycle of Chronic Pain:

Heal from Fibromyalgia and Other Pain Syndromes

by Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Pain

Every year, millions of women cope with pain. Women are more likely to experience chronic pain syndromes, such as Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, migraines, and other painful conditions, than men. This has a lot to do with your life’s circumstances—and what you believe your life can be like. Layered onto this are real physiological factors that affect the overall health of your body and your ability to heal.

Unlike acute pain, which is usually severe but only present for six months or less due to tissue damage and inflammation that is usually the result of an injury, chronic pain is either the result of persistent tissue injury (present for more than six months) or the ongoing activation of pain receptors. This can lead to changes in your brain that result in increased nerve sensitivity. Over time, this depletes the neurotransmitters in the brain, especially serotonin, which may explain why people with chronic pain are more likely to experience depression and anxiety. Similarly, people with chronic depression and anxiety are more likely to develop a pain disorder due to concomitant changes in their brain’s neurotransmitters.

Acute pain isn’t necessarily bad. It is often a message to slow down and wait for your body to heal. Acute pain can also be associated with normal body processes, such as “growing pains” or labor. In this case, acute pain is a sign of a positive change that’s taking place in the body. Chronic pain, on the other hand, is indicative of deeper physical and emotional issues and requires a take-the-bull-by-the-horns approach—something that seems counter-intuitive to many women dealing with chronic pain syndromes, such as Fibromyalgia.

What Is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is an often-misunderstood disorder. Yet, fully 5 million Americans (primarily women) suffer from this chronic condition. From a medical perspective, Fibromyalgia is a complex nervous system disorder that is often triggered by a one-time event or a repeated pattern or stimulus. It is a syndrome diagnosis with many different recurring symptoms. People with Fibromyalgia experience widespread pain in the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and other soft tissues in the body. They may also experience severe fatigue and disturbed sleep. Other common symptoms include brain fog, depression, and vague intestinal issues. People with Fibromyalgia are often overly sensitive empaths.

For a long time, Fibromyalgia was not considered a real condition, yet for people with Fibromyalgia the suffering is real. Healing from Fibromyalgia can be a challenge as most people with Fibromyalgia don’t respond to the standard set treatments, which are primarily aimed at reducing pain and typically fall short when it comes to alleviating fatigue, brain fog, and other debilitating symptoms. That is why a holistic approach is necessary.

10 Ways to Relieve the Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

When you are in pain and unable to sleep, it can seem like a vicious cycle. Sometimes the first step to healing is to reduce the symptoms. There are some natural ways to help ease the pain that comes with Fibromyalgia and other chronic pain syndromes.

  1. Take magnesium. Fully 80 percent of the population is magnesium deficient, and a large percentage of women with chronic pain syndromes are also deficient in this important mineral. In addition, stress and pain medication can deplete the body of magnesium. A double blind, placebo-controlled study showed that magnesium malate helped improve the pain and tenderness associated with Fibromyalgia. Magnesium is also essential for maintaining healthy serotonin levels in the brain. Try 500 mg of magnesium twice a day with food. You really can’t “overdose” on magnesium because it’s excreted in the stool, although too much can cause diarrhea. If that happens, just cut back on the dose.
  2. Try accupuncture. In Chinese medicine, where there is pain there is a blockage in the flow of energy, or chi. Acupuncture helps release stuck, stagnated chi. It also helps the body release its own opiates (pain-relieving neurotransmitters similar to those in oxycodone, Percocet) and other addictive narcotics. Producing these substances naturally eliminates pain as well as the chance for overdose, mental dullness, or other adverse side effects from taking opiate drugs.
  3. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet. Inflammation is always present in some form or another in chronic pain syndromes. In “classic” Fibromyalgia, inflammation may not appear to be systemic, but rather is present deep within the nervous system and the microglia of the brain. Removing foods that cause inflammation can significantly reduce pain. Try the Whole 30 way of eating. Simply eat organic, fresh, unprocessed foods, including lots of fruits and vegetables. And, make sure you get enough omega-3 fats. Aim for 1,000 to 2,000 mg EPA and DHA per day. Four ounces of wild Alaskan salmon contains 1,300 mg. Ground flax and hemp seed are also good sources. Eliminate foods that are known to cause inflammation—such as dairy, gluten, sugar, and soy—for a month. Some people may also need to remove grains. If you decide to add these foods back into your diet, do it one at a time and notice how you feel. An anti-inflammatory diet may help you lose weight, and people who lose weight often find that their chronic pain disappears. Finally, intermittent fasting can help ease inflammation and related pain.
  4. Do a gentle detox. Certain supplements can help reduce the symptoms of Fibromyalgia and chronic pain by assisting your body in removing toxins. Due to possible metabolic dysfunction, people with Fibromyalgia and chronic pain may produce more toxins or have a more difficult time clearing them from their bodies. The build-up of these toxins can actually contribute to the pain and fatigue of Fibromyalgia. Try N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) supplements. Glutathione is another supplement that can help with gentle detox. In addition, studies show that glutathione levels in the brains of Fibromyalgia patients are low. You can also do try skin brushing daily as a gently way to remove toxins. Saunas can also help, although you’ll want to start slowly and see how you feel.
  5. Obtain optimal Vitamin D levels. An overwhelming number of studies show that at least half of all people (my guess is it’s closer to three quarters) with unexplained chronic pain, including Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and other musculoskeletal pain, have low vitamin D levels (less than 20 ng/ml). You want your vitamin D levels to be 52 ng/ml or higher (but not higher than 100 ng/ml). This may require taking 5,000 IUs of vitamin D per day for a few months. After that 2,000–3,000 IUs per day is usually enough to maintain the optimal level of 52 ng/ml for people with chronic pain.
  6. Take supplements. It’s always a good idea to support your body as you are recovering from an illness or transitioning to a more active lifestyle. Start by taking a pharmaceutical grade multi-vitamin/mineral supplement. Some studies show that lactate, a bi-product of anaerobic metabolism that causes pain, fatigue, and other symptoms, is high in people with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. This suggests that energy metabolism in people with Fibromyalgia is impaired. Martin Pall, Ph.D.’s NO/OONO protocol uses supplements that address oxidative stress and high lactate levels, including glutathione, magnesium malate, mixed tocopherols, Buffered C, flavonoids, CoQ10, folic acid, zinc, and others.
  7. Move your body. Exercise may be the last thing you want to do when you’re in pain. However, it is very important to move your body if you have pain. For one thing, exercise, and movement in general, increases endorphins, which make you feel better both physically and emotionally. However, too much exercise can worsen pain syndromes, so you’ll need to experiment with different forms of exercise and how much makes you feel better. Your goal is to increase blood flow to your tissues, bringing them oxygen and nutrients essential to the healing process, and to keep your joints and spine as fluid as possible while keeping tissue inflammation to a minimum. Ultimately, this will help get rid of your pain and help you stay pain-free. Start slowly with simple stretches and gentle movement exercises such as walking and yoga. Build your way up to movements that require more exertion but don’t leave you feeling pain or fatigue. You may want to enlist the help of a physical therapist, neuromuscular therapist, or professional trainer.
  8. Relax. Being a couch potato will not make chronic pain disappear. However, relaxation is an important element to your recovery because it can help reduce stress and lessen muscle tension and pain. Try meditation, guided imagery, an Epsom salt bath, or simply set aside quiet time every day. Daily relaxation can be the most effective health ritual you’ll ever employ and has been known to reduce symptoms of depression, pain, stress, and anxiety. Plus, it can help you achieve better, deeper sleep and enhance your quality of life.
  9. Get physical therapy. Physical therapy can be a great way to begin moving through and easing your pain. Find a physical therapist who deals with chronic pain. They can also teach you self-care techniques for easing symptoms at home, as well as lifestyle changes to help shift your focus toward regaining control of your life without focusing on chronic pain and limitation.
  10. Enjoy a massage. Massage and other forms of body work are good medicine. Working with a massage therapist or neuromuscular therapist can help ease your pain and get you moving again. Be sure to work with someone who is knowledgeable about chronic pain conditions and stay away from deep tissue work until you are feeling better.

Resolve Unhealthy Emotions to Heal Fibromyalgia

The physical pain of Fibromyalgia can become all-consuming, keeping you from addressing your deeper emotional pain. As long as a woman believes that her degree of pain is related only to an unhealed back or neck or other body part, she is not likely to feel relief. In addition, when someone lives on disability benefits and no longer has a vocation or avocation, the chances for pain improvement are very slim.

Emotions play a huge role in the chronic pain cycle. And research has shown that emotional pain, such as the pain of rejection, registers in the same place in the brain as physical pain. This explains why emotional pain can intensify physical pain, and vice versa. Where pain shows up in your body can be a clue to what is causing your emotional pain. For example, pain in the muscles represents resistance to change – it literally restricts your ability to move or act! Similarly, sleep disorders can be related to trust issues. You must learn to trust that it is okay and safe for you to relax.

Most women with Fibromyalgia are driven and lead stressful lives. Some women with Fibromyalgia and other pain syndromes are empaths who are so busy dealing with their perceived obligations to others that they leave little time for themselves. These women often have difficulty establishing boundaries and lack the ability to balance activity with rest, while others may be intolerant or impatient of people or circumstances beyond their control. In my experience having seen many women with Fibromyalgia and chronic pain, there is always a deep emotional wound that has not been addressed, whether it’s a relationship, a job, or other life situation. And, they often long for something that they believe is out of their reach, whether or not their belief is true.

That’s why the first step toward finding true relief from chronic pain is to identify and change the thought patterns and emotions that are underlying and contributing to it. This can literally change your biochemistry and your life circumstances.

Here are 7 ways you can change thought patterns that contribute to pain:

  1. Start Tapping. Tapping, or Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), is a technique that everyone can use. Tapping does not “treat” Fibromyalgia or chronic pain in the way western medicine or even Traditional Chinese Medicine does. Instead, it addresses your unique pattern of energetic constriction that is showing up as pain, as well as the underlying negative feelings, beliefs, and self-talk. Learn more about Tapping (EFT).
  2. Change your environment. The theory of epigenetics states that our environment (which shapes and includes our emotions) affects our DNA. Support your body and cells with lots of natural light and nutritious food. Get out in nature and watch a sunrise or pick some flowers. You can also wear Chakra colors to support emotional healing. For example, wear blue, the color of the Fifth Chakra, to help support your ability to speak your truth.
  3. Try cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a form of talk therapy that can help you identify and release negative beliefs and emotions and deal with trauma. CBT can be especially beneficial for people dealing with chronic pain from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A specific form of CBT called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or ACT, is aimed at helping people with chronic pain make positive behavior changes rather than focusing on symptoms reduction.
  4. Resolve feelings of shame. Girls and women tend to turn shame inward. Shame gets internalized as a lack of self-worth. Shame can be at the core of many illnesses, including depression and chronic pain. Releasing shame and re-establishing self-worth begins with self-love. Learn my “6 Easy Steps for Releasing Shame.”
  5. Express your anger. In our culture, women are taught from a young age not to express their anger. Unexpressed anger when held for a long period of time puts you at risk for a number of health problems, including depression, anxiety, heart attack, and stroke. There are many techniques you can use to release anger, including simply using your intention and saying, “I choose to release this anger from my body.” Learn more.
  6. Do an energy clearing. An energy clearing wipes the slate clean so you can start over. You can perform an energy clearing yourself or work with an energy healer. When doing an energy clearing, it’s important to clear any ancestral energy and past life energy that may be the root cause of your negative emotions and pain. You do this simply by choosing the emotion you want to release, then asking your Spirit to go through time—through your ancestry, your soul’s lineage, and your soul contracts—to identify and clear all of the causes and situations that have contributed to that emotion.
  7. Use a Divine Love petition. Divine Love is the greatest healer of all. You can use a Divine Love petition to clear your symptoms and the underlying causes. Be sure not to use a diagnosis, but rather address the symptom you are seeking to relieve. For example, you can say “widespread pain” as your symptom. To learn how to use a Divine Love petition, go to the World Service Institute.

Recovery from chronic pain is possible for anyone willing to change their perception of the sensations in their body. The brain can be trained to turn down the volume on pain perception. But you must engage your will in order to get better. The very act of deciding to move forward in your life engages your will. This releases natural, pain-relieving opiates and moves chi. On the other hand, looking for evidence of disability increases the pain response in your body.

Here’s what I want you to know: Regardless of what has happened in your life, you have the ability to engage your will and move forward. When you do this, you will begin the process that reprograms your mind and body toward health, resilience, and a pain-free life.

Do you have chronic pain? What are you really aching for? What are you doing to heal? Please leave your comments below.

Additional Resources

 

Last Updated: October 23, 2018

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and a leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. Recognizing the unity of body, mind, and spirit, she empowers women to trust their inner wisdom, their connection with Source, and their ability to truly flourish.

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  1. Lada Wecker
    2 weeks ago

    Dear Dr.Northrup,
    I am currently listening to “Dodging energy vampires” on audible on my subway commute from Brooklyn to Manhattan. Your description of “My Mother” borderline is so incredibly spot on. I could never understand why oh why I was so incredibly tired and sleepy when I was around her- she would scold me for that. The countless suicide attempts and threats throughout my childhood for any reason she deemed fit, she even went as far as to show me the gun and poison she kept in the house which she intended to use.
    Although I left Germany and moved to New York 20 years ago, my relationship with her only worsen. We currently don’t speak, and it’s ok that way. I don’t think this relationship can ever be fixed unless I give up on my life.
    I just wanted to thank you from all my heart for your books and your show on Hay House, I listen religiously to everything you have to say in hopes to be able to heal myself.
    Thank you!!!
    Lada

  2. Brenda
    3 weeks ago

    Yes, I agree with Jean, you just cannot sit at home and expect recovery from your pain, you have to move and expect your life to improve by it. Movement and exercise is the best remedy. Be positive!

    1. Christiane
      1 week ago

      This is so true. And it takes discipline, faith, and will.

  3. Michel
    3 weeks ago

    I have very bad peri symptoms with pain and brain fog …etc
    Do you still see patients ?

    1. Christiane
      1 week ago

      I don’t see patients at this time. So sorry.

  4. Eileen
    3 weeks ago

    THankyou Christiane
    I love hearing your talks & wisdom that comes out which is always healing.. the point you made about bonding over illness was perfect ..as a child I saw this happen many times with my mother & her sisters they would sit around the kitchen table discussing all their ailments & that was often their line of communication. Not much laughter or fun Today that is a good ahah moment I want often to go & spend happy times with family & friends & enjoy life not think of the aches & pains .. my mother was never a happy woman & I Wished often as a child for happiness in our home. Thankyou again it was a perfect point you made. Eileen

    1. Christiane
      1 week ago

      I am so glad this resonated for you. Thank you for posting.

  5. Diana G Atenco
    3 weeks ago

    YES ….WOW I made such a huge connection with my pain related issues I am excited to try out my NEW THOUGHTS thank you so much I have a very excited feeling my pain is a thing of the past ….who needs it 🙂 Onward!

    1. Christiane
      1 week ago

      This is very exciting to read. Bless you!

  6. Monica Hägg
    3 weeks ago

    I just have to leave some comments after reading your blog. I have a chronic lymphatic edema in my left leg since 20 years back. This happened after an operation of cervix cancer.
    The Cancer never returned, but I got the edema as a life long friend. It has been a long journey. I was a profesional dancer for 25 years and very proud of my dancer body, until I saw it deformed by one leg twice as big as the other leg. Yes, I have been in all kind of and get regular lymph drenage, it will never be cured but better. I am now an old women, after my dancing carrier I became an astrologer, continued with training of deeper levels of consciousness. I was trained by a Mdp. and have been teaching in more than 20 years. I have continued studies with energy medicine with the q’eros indians from Peru, doing Sheng zhen gong, “the qigong of unconditional love” by Master Li jungfeng since 15 years back. I work as a meditation teacher and shamanic energy healer. The lymphatic edema? It is still there. This retrograde year I also broke the foot with the leg of my edema, with a cast for 6 weeks. I can see beyond, but don’t understand how and why this happened, no matter how much I know, practise and understand. I live in Sweden and I am an old women now. Tired of all treatments, good advices, training physically, emotionally and phycologhly. Good vitamins and minerals regularly, my mental state is good and positive. I miss the communication I can see in USA or in other countries. Life is a wonderful state, one just have to live it, no matter what! And-never give up!
    Monica

    1. sarah
      2 weeks ago

      monica, I am very touched by the trauma and courage and accepatnce of life. blessing for continued states of meditation and peace that keep your state so positive. namaste, sarah

    2. Christiane
      1 week ago

      Thank you so much for posting this and your story. Having done cancer operations for cervical cancer, I can attest to the fact that lymph node resection is often a part of the surgery. And that we doctors are very focused on the surgery or drugs that “cure” the original problem. Unfortunately, we don’t often think through or share with our patients the long term consequences of treatments. I am so sorry this happened to you. truly.

  7. Connie Reichert
    3 weeks ago

    Love you Dr.Northrup, saw you speak in San Diego in 2016. I had Fibromyalgia and CFs and was bedridden for about 8 years. One day I got on my knees and prayed for my life back. I went on a plant based diet. I do yoga. My pain is almost non existent now! There IS HOPE!

    1. Christiane
      1 week ago

      This is SO good to hear. Thank you for sharing

  8. Bre
    3 years ago

    Thank you for this article. I have had chronic pain for 20 years as a result of osteoarthritis, degenerative spine, spinal stenosis, osteophytes, ankylosing spondylosis, failed lumbar and cervical laminectomies at C4-5, L 4-5, herniated disc at S-1. I’ve been so depressed and in pain, lately, I considered end of life methods.

    I’ve always been a fitness fanatic, except, the last 6 months I’ve lost interest and my well-toned physique.

    I’m going to try and motivate myself to try this. Pray that it works.

    Thank you for sharing your incredible work and insight.

  9. Jean S.
    3 years ago

    WOW!!! This is the best information I have ever read on pain. And it all makes perfect sense!!! No one that I know sitting home on disability ever gets better….they have all gotten much, much worse. I read an article you wrote years ago about a doctor who had bad back pain. He finally wound up sitting home too. It was strongly recommended to him to get moving. Through his dedication and physical therapy he did get back to work. The worst thing for his back was to quit using it. Thank you Dr. Northrup for sharing all your knowledge with us. It is priceless!!!!

    1. Christiane
      1 week ago

      Thank you so much for this recollection!

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