In the allopathic world, certain health issues still mystify healthcare professionals. One such condition is fibromyalgia, a disease characterized by idiopathic nerve pain and tenderness all over the body with no known cause. Because mainstream treatment options are broad—medications, include pain relievers, or self-care remedies, such as physical therapy—and, unfortunately, often ineffective, fibromyalgia proves to be debilitating for the 10 million Americans who suffer from it.
Sonima’s pain and healing advisor, Pete Egoscue, however, has an alternate view to the condition: “What if the body were working perfectly? What if it isn’t nerves gone insane?” he asks, adding that in his line of work, he has seen people overcome fibromyalgia.
A Different Approach to Fibromyalgia
“I think fibromyalgia is the body trying to stimulate muscles that are being pressed into action, but are stuck, so the body keeps saying, ‘Well, these muscles are under tension. We need to stimulate them because they are working, but they short-circuit,” says Egoscue, creator of the Egoscue Method.
The body parts usually affected by fibromyalgia are the shoulders, upper back, and arms, says Egoscue. In his experience, people diagnosed with the condition tend to have the same posture: head slightly forward and shoulders rounded with muscular stress in the upper back. The ability to be balanced in a good posture allows for optimal metabolic rate and contributes to how fast cells exchange. Returning the body to a proper posture can help symptoms disappear, he says.
But alignment isn’t the only solution.
“We are all attached to a mind-body spirit,” says Joanne Travis, a 72-year-old who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in her 40s and has since seen relief through her work with the Egoscue Method in her hometown of Phoenix, AZ. “Most people don’t understand that they’re not separate entities.”
It’s something worth understanding, notes Brian Bradley, vice president of therapy protocol for the Egoscue Method. That’s because, many times, fibromyalgia patients get dragged down by beliefs: It’s all too easy to see a diagnosis and think you’re doomed, he explains.
Transitioning people from a mindset of ‘hope’ to ‘belief’—understanding that a diagnosis is not a life sentence—is half the battle, says Bradley. And while a change in mindset and better alignment may not work for everyone, Travis’ story is a compelling case for giving a new approach to an all-too-often confusing condition a shot.
At 46, suffering from exhaustion, all-over pain, and flu-like aches, Travis was told by doctors that she could have fibromyalgia. She was also told she had facet syndrome, a term to describe pain stemming from the facet joints of the back. She was instructed to stop running—an activity she had enjoyed her whole life.
A high school teacher and volleyball coach, Travis was put on drugs and given hydrocortisone shots to mitigate the pain. She remembers: “After three or four weeks, I could care less if I took attendance or if we won or lost. It was that kind of an attitude, and I finally said, ‘I can’t be on these drugs.’”
Travis, who grew up pre-Title Nine and was not allowed to play on the golf team because of her gender, always had a penchant for health and fitness. She went on to play golf as an adult. “I became a teacher of physical education because I thought, ‘This is not going to happen to the next generation.’” She started researching the world of natural treatments, eating right, and scheduling in regular massages. But her body was still troubling her.
Fast forward a few years, she had moved from Illinois to Arizona, where she was introduced to a nearby Egoscue Method clinic through someone she played golf with. Her pain had grown so much that she was struggling to still play the game.
Working to Re-Align the Body
At the Egoscue clinic, Travis learned how the human body lines up across eight load-bearing joints: the shoulders, the hips, the knees and the ankles. She was also given “e-cises”—movements intended to release muscles and re-align the body. When these eight joints are in alignment, both vertically and horizontally, the body is symmetrical and functions as it was designed to. Her work with Egoscue, Travis says, helped strengthen her joints so that the nerves were not being pressed on.
In addition to her physical strategy, she had a mental one, too: She continued to direct her attention toward her body rather than the fibromyalgia diagnosis, which, she says, she never fully accepted.
“Once you’re married to a diagnosis, you focus on it. I never focus on the negative. I focus on positive,” she says. The first six months were not easy, she remembers, but by the seventh, she was playing golf again.
The major strides she has made toward pain-free living with Egoscue’s help have allowed her avoid serious procedures, too, including a knee replacement, rotator cuff tear surgeries, and even neck surgery. “Egoscue looks for the causes while everybody else asks, ‘What are your symptoms?’” she adds.
Of course, no plan is without its setbacks. “Every once in a while, when a cold front comes in, it seems to trigger flu-like feelings that used to last for days, weeks, or months,” says Travis. But now? “I’ll go lie down and it’s over,” she says. “Can you imagine living with that for two or three months and now, overnight, it’s gone? That’s what happens from working with your body to make it feel better.”
Try These E-cises At Home
If you’re suffering from fibromyalgia, exercises, such as standing knee pillow squeezes, static extensions, and standing elbow curls—all demonstrated in the video below—might help ease some of the pain. The Egoscue Method does not work for everyone, but it couldn’t hurt to try these movements and see how you feel. Be sure to listen to your body. It will often tell you what you need.