Figuring Out Fibromyaliga – Ginevra Liptan

Book Report

Figuring Out Fibromyalgia:
Current Science and the most effective treatments

Ginevra Liptan, M.D.
Visceral Press,  2011

One of the most current medical books on fibromyalgia – Dr. Ginevra Liptan writes from her perspectives as someone with has fibromyalgia, and someone who is a licensed medical doctor.  In fact Dr. Liptan is the medical director of the Frida Center for Fibromyalgia and associate professor at Oregon Health and Science University.  As she notes, once you read this book you’ll know more about fibromyalgia than many doctors.

Do I recommend this book?  For certain sure – its packed with experience, information, and the latest research.

Number One value for me in Figuring Out Fibromyalgia: A clear and simple acknowledgment that the root of fibromyalgia symptoms is the overactivation of the fight or flight system in the brain, the stress response.

“Ultimately, all the symptoms of fibromyalgia stem from abnormal activation of the fight-or-flight nervous system.”(p.28) 

“The muscles and fascia of the body are clenched in fibromyalgia in constant preparation for fight or flight… Medical science has not yet figured out how to turn off the switch of the stress response that gets stuck in the “on” position in fibromyalgia. When we do that we will have found a cure.” (Pg. 56)

Liptan states this central observation and its resulting implications over and over again in her book, “Chronic overactivation of the stress respone in the brain starts a chain reaction leading to poor deep sleep, muscle pain, and fatigue. (28)  Everything about fibromyalgia cascades from this starting point – our fight-flight response being stuck in the on position.

“Medical Science has not yet figured out how to turn off the stuck stress response “– but EFT (the Emotinal Freedom Technique), for many, many people, has helped people to shut off their fight-flight response.  I personally have experience with tapping with three people who are now free of fibromyalgia pain and have been so for more than two months.  In each of these three people, there were identifiable stressors that had put their system into long-term hypervigilant mode, dating back to childhood.

Scientifically, how could this be – how could people become free of their fibromyalgia pain?

From neuro-scientist Joseph LeDoux, (The Synaptic Self, Penguin 2002)  one learns about the phenomenon of reconsolidation, a necessary action if a memory is to be maintained.(Pg 159)

“The recent discovery, made by Karim Nader and Glenn Schafe in my lab, is that protein synthesis in the amygdala seems necessary for a recently activated memory to be kept as a memory.  That is, if you take a memory out of storage you have to make new proteins (you have to restore, or reconsolidate it) in order for the memory to remain a memory.  In order for the old memory to make sense in the current brain, the memory has to be updated.”

Possibility If you can impact the reconsolidation process, you can impact traumatic memories that have the figh-flight response in stuck mode.

From Candace Pert (Molecules of  Emotion, Scribner, 1997)who discovered the opiate receptor in 1972 and has done extensive research on peptide ligands and cell receptors.   Here’s a quote indicating how conscious thoughts can create body chemistry – a mechanism for turning off the stress response.

“It is becoming increasingly apparent that the role of peptides is not limited to eliciting simple, and singular responses from individual cell and organ systems.  Rather, peptides serve to weave the body’s organs and systems into a single web that reacts to both internal and external environmental changes with comples, subtly orchestrated responses.”

Possibility If our thoughts create peptides and our peptides are the instructions for the function of our body, then our thoughts can perhaps reduce our experience of fibromyalgia symptoms. But see the next possibility for the caveat.

From chiropractor and brain researcher, Joe Dispenza,  (Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, Hay House, 2012) there’s a lucid explanation of how even quantum theory supports the possibility of unsticking our stress response.

“At the subatomic level energy response to your mindful attention and becomes matter.  How would your life change if you learned to direct the observer effect and to collapse infinite waves of probability into the reality you choose?  Could you get better at observing the life you want?” (Pg. 14)

Possibility – if we can change our observation of fibromyalgia, we can change our experience of fibromyalgia.  Without a quantum view, we are always acting or reacting to our fibromyalgia.  With a quantum view we can back into the observer mode,  back away from either action or reaction, and at that point, new possibilities arise – yes,  this is different from our normal mechanical understanding.

So, I read Figuring Out Fibromyalgia from the perspective of having used EFT (the Emotional Freedom Technique) with people who are now free of fibromyalgia symptoms.  From that perspective,  Figuring Out Fibromyalgia provides a great description of

  1. the biology of fibromyalgia – including Central Sensitization, symptoms, and most importantly for Dr. Liptan, the role of fascia in fibromyalgia pain.
  2. The experience of fibromyalgia –  Dr. Liptan developed fibromyalgia severe symptoms during medical school and provides a moving account of her journey with this disease.
  3. The attitude of the medical community –fibromyalgia is related as the least prestigious illness to treat as a doctor. Some doctor’s still don’t acknowledge fibromyalgia as a disease.
  4. How best to care for yourself if you have fibromyalgia – review of medications, relating to your doctor, evaluating alternative therapies.

Number one brain tease for me in Figuring Out Fibromyalgia –  Dr. Liptan identifies fascia as her leading contender for how fibromyalgia pain is generated.

“Chronic activation of the fight-or-flight response may promote tension in the fascia of the muscles and lead to tissue damage.  The fight-or-flight nervous system seems to stimulate the fascia to contract, which may be beneficial in emergencies, but harmful when it is engaged chronically.(40)

Here’s the brain tease.  Dawson Church,  in The Genie in Your Genes (Energy Psychology Press, 2008) also writes about fascia.  And he describes it as a semiconductor, because any organized structure of atoms is a crystal. 

“The simplicity and ubiquity of the connective tissue system masks an important characteristic.  Connective tissue fibers are arranged in highly-regular arrays.  There is a name for a highly regular array of molecules whether its in liquid or solid form. It’s called a crystal.  The collagen molecules in which all your organs are encased  function as a system of liquid crystals. (pg. 146)

This crystalline structure of the collage molecules that make up your connective tissue has a remarkable property.  It is a semiconductor. (Pg. 147)

Semiconductors are able to store energy, amplify signals, filter information and move information in one direction but not the other  In other words, the connective tissue system can also process information…Your connective tissue system is well-suited for the task of conveying both energy and information, because it connects every part of your body to every other part of your body.

Another property of connective tissue is that it is a piezoelectric substance, which when compressed generates electricity. 

Soooo…..if fascia is damaged in fibromyalgia, how does that affect the semiconductive properties of our connective tissue. Liptan noted that when fascia is damaged, as it starts to regenerate, the cells are disordered and random, rather than structured like normal connective tissue.  If the cells are disordered, then they can’t function as a semiconductor, they can’t transmit information like they’re supposed to.  If this is the case, no wonder that the symptoms of fibromyalgia can be so extensive and so multifaceted.

Thank you to Dr. Liptan for her life experience and her life work that come together in Figuring Out Fibromyalgia.  This book provides me a framework for employing all the recent brain book reading I have been doing these past few months.  Figuring Out Fibromyalgia has increased my understanding of the biology of fibromyalgia and given me a stronger framework for my work of relieving fibromyalgia symptoms.