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The following article was in the Billlings Gazette on September 22, 2004.  The article was available for many months at the following link, but the Gazette has terminated that link.  The article is now posted below with full credit to the Billings Gazette and the author of the article.  http://www.billingsgazette.com/index.php?display=rednews/2004/09/22/build/health/30-last-resort.inc
Last resort: Billings physical therapist to share his theory behind fibromyalgia

By SUZANNE KYDLAND ADY
Of The Gazette Staff

By most doctors' accounts, Lance Hendricks should be dead. Diagnosed in 1991 with a fatal liver disease that had already destroyed his gallbladder and bile ducts, Hendricks was told he would need a liver transplant.

His gallbladder was removed, but Hendricks spent several months with pain throughout his abdomen and lower back.

Hendricks, who started his own physical therapy office in Billings in 1990, spent the next few months trying to resolve the pain with medicine, diet and exercise. It was only after a fellow physical therapist worked on his stomach area to ease his back pain that Hendricks had an epiphany.

"I didn't yet have the concept of the interconnectedness of the body," he said. Hendricks had a new insight into how he should treat chronic neck, back and abdominal pain.

"I became much more holistic-oriented," he added. "Instead of dying, I learned how to live."

After three years of firsthand experience with what Hendricks calls "healing exercise, restful sleep, mental healing, supportive relationships, healthful diet and stress management," he no longer has liver problems. He also came to realize the healthy principles he had been studying could apply to several medical conditions, including fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is a relatively common condition said to affect up to 2 percent of the United States population. A form of chronic pain syndrome, fibromyalgia is mostly associated with fatigue and widespread musculoskeletal pain.

According to information from the Arthritis Foundation, the pain of this condition has been described in many ways, including burning, gnawing, aching, stiffness or soreness. It can vary due to time of day, physical activity level, sleep patterns or stress.

One problem with fibromyalgia is that it's tough to diagnose. There is no blood test or X-ray, so doctors must rely on patient history and physical examination.

"This is nothing you can see with your eyes," Hendricks said. "But there are physical things you can feel. This is a real thing, not something in someone's head."

Having worked with many fibromyalgia patients in the past, Hendricks has noticed an extreme tightness throughout the entire muscle structure and a bumpy, "tapioca-like" feeling beneath the skin.

Fibromyalgia has been downplayed in the past because it typically accompanies other conditions such as depression, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue and migraine headaches.

"It's much more recognized now, and there are some great doctors who know about it," Hendricks said. "But there are still people who have a hard time finding someone who will see them."

The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but some studies suggest those suffering from it have abnormal chemical levels in their blood. Another theory says the central nervous system in fibromyalgia patients is unable to inhibit pain.

Hendricks has some thoughts of his own.

"Fibromyalgia starts out with some kind of pain - physical trauma from a car accident or emotional pain from child abuse," he explained. "The emotional pain, or emotional tightness turns to physical tightness in the body. If it's a physical injury that the body can't heal, it begins to tighten around that pain."

In his upcoming book, which Hendricks plans to self-publish within the next few months, he explained that the tightening is the body's way of protecting itself from the unresolved pain.

"In a similar way, an oyster puts protective layers around an irritating grain of sand that has gotten into its shell. However, the oyster produces a pearl with its protective layering," he wrote. "Your body produces 'body armor' with its protective layering process. Body armor may be in the form of physical tension or it may actually produce restrictive tightness in the muscle tissues and fascia."

Fascia is the fibrous tissue network between the skin and the body's underlying structure of muscle and bone.

"If you peel the skin off an uncooked chicken leg, you can see fascia as a white, fibrous material," Hendricks explained. "You can also see this as 'gristle' on steak."

Getting rid of the tightness in the body's fascia is a factor in helping patients with fibromyalgia, Hendricks said.

"As physical therapists, we have to get the body to clear out metabolic waste," he explained. "The problem with fibromyalgia is the body doesn't process it - it becomes like a swamp."

Hendricks' own experience, combined with that of his patients, prompted him to create a video to assist those with fibromyalgia.

Four years ago, he began to put together a brochure intended for the video.

"It just kept growing and growing," Hendricks said. "With fibromyalgia, there are so many things you have to cure: neck pain, back pain, irritable bowel syndrome. You also have to deal with relationships, because chronic pain is hugely destructive. And of course there's a chapter on sleep."

Hendricks said his book, which he plans to complete at the end of the month, isn't a research book and it doesn't go into a lot of theories.

"It just tells you how to help yourself," he said. "Everyone has an energy bank ... if we spend too much, we crash and get sick.

"People with fibromyalgia are in energy debt and payback is tough. They need to get to a point where they're gaining more energy than they're spending."

Details
Billings physical therapist Lance Hendricks, of Montana Physical Therapy, will present a talk on fibromyalgia on Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. at the American Lutheran Church on the corner of 1st Street West and Lewis Avenue. For more information, call the Billings branch of the Arthritis Foundation at 248-8804.