It can be difficult to determine how to best treat a condition that has no visible signs, or has symptoms that are similar to other illnesses. Both chronic pain and chronic fatigue were thought to be fictional conditions for many years. Some chronic pain patients have been written off as 'pill seekers', and some patients suffering from chronic fatigue have been labeled as lazy.
What makes it more of a challenge is that these conditions often so closely match other conditions, that the patients are commonly misdiagnosed and put onto treatment protocols that aggravate the underlying condition, create new symptoms, and result in a marked decline in the health of the patient.
That is where traditional medical methods have failed these patients. By focusing on just the symptoms that are presented, and not searching for the actual causes and finding ways to treat and heal that, traditional medicine chooses to create patients that will last a lifetime. With both of these conditions, there is no single test to determine if someone has it, which has created an environment of doubt about the legitimacy of these disorders for decades.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a disorder where the individual is tired or fatigued all the time - no matter how much sleep they are getting per day. It is more present in women than men, and can be a temporary condition that last for years, or it can be a lifetime condition. People who have chronic fatigue have unexplained muscle or joint pain, inadequate sleep, extreme exhaustion that is worsened by activity, loss of memory and the ability to concentrate. Patients with chronic fatigue are sometimes misdiagnosed with sleep disorders, cardiovascular or pneumatic issues, or mental health disorders.
CFS is classified as idiopathic condition - which essentially means there is no known reason on how it started. However, potential causes include hormonal imbalances, immune deficiency, viruses like mononucleosis, or even stress. Patients who suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are often socially isolated, depressed, and can have many days where they can't get out of bed.
Traditional medicine approaches CFS by treating one of the symptoms, which is depression. However, those medications often come with the potential of adverse side-effects which can make the condition worse. Additionally, by treating just the symptoms, there is no possibility of eliminating the cause and ultimately healing the patient.
Chronic Pain Syndrome tends to be just as difficult to diagnose and to pinpoint potential causes. It is thought that chronic pain is the result of an injury or illness that then leads to a vicious circle of pain compounding on top of pain. Because people with chronic pain often have trouble sleeping because of the pain, they are often exhausted and feel they can't go on. Patients will often experience continuous pain or the feeling of 'pins and needles' in the extremities, joint stiffness, constant headaches, and skin issues.
Many will quit their jobs because they can't deal with the pain and the lack of sleep. This causes additional stress in the mind and body, which in turn causes more inflammation in the body, leading to more pain.
It's easy to see how this repeating pattern can exponentially increase the pain that is present in the body. Typically patients are prescribed a pain management protocol with analgesics or narcotics - which will mask the pain, allowing a small step back to normalcy. Some patients are offered nerve block procedures which is essentially injecting a local anesthetic into the nerve around the affected area.
Functional Medicine Has a Different Path for Treating Chronic Conditions
While the traditionally accepted way of treating both chronic pain and chronic fatigue is to alleviate the symptoms, it does nothing to eliminate the epicenter of these debilitating conditions. Through proper diagnosis, testing and and effective treatment of balancing hormone levels, reducing environmental and internal stressors, we can get to the cause of the conditions, relieve the body of the inflammation causing the pain, and give you your life back.