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A Toxic Cure for Fibromyalgia

by Dr Angela Jones(more info)

listed in fibromyalgia, originally published in issue 60 - January 2001

This is the story of how an infinitesimal dose of a well-known poison helped a case of fibromyalgia. Maria is a retired nurse. She suffered that terrible occupational hazard to nurses, a back injury, while lifting, which left her with a degenerative arthritis of the spine.

Approaching this setback in a sensible and pragmatic way, she attended a well-respected pain clinic where she was taught how to manage the pain. All in all, she was coping well and was reasonably happy with the situation.

Then, one spring, she developed a chest infection with a cough that just would not clear, despite numerous courses of antibiotics.

Things clearly were not quite right. One morning, she woke with a severe bout of cramp in both calves, which had her hopping around the bedroom in agony. Later that night she was woken again, this time by tremendous diarrhoea which went on for several hours.

There was no accompanying vomiting and she could not remember eating anything at all suspicious, and yet she was suffering from what seemed like food poisoning.

The strange thing was that, after that attack, Maria's bowels never really seemed to recover. She continued to have bouts of diarrhoea and urgency, always in the night, and felt generally unwell. Her GP was concerned and sent her for tests to rule out a major bowel problem. These proved negative and she was diagnosed as having developed irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The burning indigestion that she had had for years also flared up and the only ease she could get was by applying a hot water bottle.

However, the bowels were not the only thing that was going wrong. Her back pain was deteriorating again and she had developed a new symptom – a burning and tingling discomfort in all the muscles of her body – 'from head to toe'. She would wake frequently at night with this horrible sensation, tossing and turning in an effort to get comfortable, often having to get up and pace around in order to ease the pain. She could not sit still for any length of time, continuously fidgeting, driven to keep on the move. Every muscle seemed to have tender points within it, from which the burning pains were emanating.

As you can imagine, life was pretty intolerable for Maria between the muscle symptoms and the IBS. Her GP diagnosed fibromyalgia and suggested amitriptiline, an antidepressant that also has very useful pain-relieving properties in certain situations. This helped slightly but Maria was far from well – she felt generally awful, had terrible sweats and just longed to return to the situation before that fateful night with the cramp and the food poisoning, when all she had had to contend with was a bad back.

On further questioning, it transpired that Maria had a tendency to burning symptoms. She had intermittent bouts of cystitis with burning on passing urine, frequency and sometimes bleeding. We have already discussed the burning indigestion and there was also a tendency to rhinitis with copious sneezing and watery discharge. Finally, she would occasionally get a burning rash on the left side of her neck, which she had put down to an allergic reaction.

In her general functioning, Maria disliked very cold or very hot weather. Her symptoms improved greatly for radiant or applied heat. She was a longstanding vegetarian, but enjoyed eating the fat on meat. She liked her olive oil and butter and had a taste for salt. Her most prominent feature was her fastidious and tidy nature. She was driven to complete a job once started and got quite irritable if things were not done. Her appearance was neat, with a glint in her eye that spoke of a certain sharpness of character.

So, what were we dealing with here? Maria was living in balance with her arthritic back complaint until a mysterious bout of illness, characterized by cramp and then diarrhoea, triggered an illness that was threatening to cause persistent ill health and disability. Her own system was unable to overcome this setback, and the symptoms were being expressed in her general malaise, bouts of sweating, burning pain all over and terrible restlessness as well as continuing bouts of diarrhoea. The longstanding tendency to burning complaints, as well as the character of the initial insult, made me think about Arsenicum album as a remedy.

Arsenicum album, or white arsenic, is a remedy that is well known for its action in severe food poisoning. Typically, there is simultaneous catastrophic diarrhoea and vomiting, but diarrhoea alone can be helped. Arsenic salts, particularly of copper (Cuprum arsenicum), are very helpful in severe night cramps, especially if accompanied by panic. Arsenicum album also has an action in burning indigestion or cystitis or rhinitis. Alleviation by heat is typical, as is a desire for fat and salt.

People who respond to Arsenicum album are usually very fastidious in nature, often to extremes. They have an irritability when things are not exactly as they ought to be, but are also terrible worriers. It is thought that the desire to have everything 'just so' arises from the overwhelming worry of the Arsenicum personality; they only feel safe and in control when everything is tidy and in its place.

I am not sure if Maria was a true Arsenicum in her underlying nature, but she had certainly developed an Arsenicum state since the bout of diarrhoea and cramp. So, I prescribed a single dose of Arsenicum album 30c and awaited events.

According to Maria, taking the Arsenicum was a bit like 'lighting the blue touch paper' – she had a horrible reaction to the medication. She had a severe bout of diarrhoea at an unusual time of day, her general malaise was worse and her pain kept her awake for ten days…and then, everything started to get better. Her IBS and indigestion disappeared completely, her sweats reduced dramatically and the burning fibromyalgia pain improved by at least 50%, all within the first month. When I suggested that a further dose might eventually be necessary, Maria blanched visibly and said that she would rather put it off as long as possible. This was indeed the right thing to do, as, in these cases, a single dose will often be enough to get the system into a mode whereby it can right itself, given time.

Of course, not all fibromyalgia cases will respond to Arsenicum album. The clue here was how the illness had started – a useful concept in homeopathy known as "never well since…". As doctors, our patients often tell us that they have been never well since a certain event and we are usually unable, with conventional treatment, to make use of this information. In homeopathy, I have seen many doctors find, with great relief and joy, a therapeutic tool that at last enables them to cure their patients from the symptoms that trouble them.


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About Dr Angela Jones

Dr Angela Jones works in NHS general practice and also privately, using homeopathy alongside conventional medicine. Dr Jones can be contacted via the Faculty of Homeopathy on Tel: 020-7566 7800.

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