Fibromyalgia is a painful and little understood condition that scientists believe to affect as many as 5 million Americans. For reasons unknown, women are the primary sufferers, making up an estimated 80-90% of the patient population.
Those who experience fibromyalgia are afflicted with widespread muscle pain, fatigue, and tender points throughout the body. For a diagnosis, a couple of factors must be present:
• Four Quadrants – This means that pain must be present in all four quadrants of the body: right and left side, as well as both above and below the waist. • Tender Points – The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) identifies 18 tender points that may be associated with fibromyalgia. Eleven or more must be present for diagnosis. • Slow-Onset – Fibromyalgia is sometimes confused with a condition called myofascitis. While both are associated with pain in all four quadrants and similar tender points, myofascitis typically occurs rather suddenly following a particular injury or activity. Fibromyalgia, however, tends to progress slowly and often shows its first signs during early adulthood.
The Medical Approach to combating Fibromyalgia is through medication, which of course does not address the underlying cause. Tricyclic antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), selective serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SSNRIs), and anticonvulsants. None of these will provide a healthy option and should be providing temporary relief. Pain relievers, whether over the counter or prescription, are generally not sufficient by themselves. Unfortunately, many pain medications are addictive and should only be used with caution. Opioid (narcotic) pain relievers, corticosteroids, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) are not recommended.
How Chiropractic Can Help
As chiropractors, we cannot claim to ‘cure’ fibromyalgia. However, we certainly can help the pain through the management of the spine and surrounding soft tissue. Much of the discomfort associated with fibromyalgia comes from tightening of muscles and reduced mobility.
When loss of movement occurs in the spine, a neurological reflex will cause muscles to constrict even further. Maintaining comfortable range of motion in the spinal area is one of the most critical factors for all fibromyalgia patients, and some may require adjustments as frequently as 3 or 4 times each month to preserve their mobility.
One thing we see with fibromyalgia is a diminished ability of the muscles to heal themselves. For this reason, it is crucial to seek care from a physician who is skilled in matters of the spine and surrounding tissue. A chiropractor’s unique understanding of this region allows them to offer gentle manipulation that can restore blood flow and range of motion without causing additional pain or damage to the tissue. With the correct exercises, we can gradually establish a more balanced spine which will assist in providing lasting relief.
What else can you do?
Along with chiropractic care, some changes in lifestyle can also make a big difference like:
Getting good sleep.
Eating a healthy and balanced diet.
Taking time to relax – indulge in hobbies like reading, music, dance and other art forms.
Spending time with friends or family which can reduce stress considerably.
Staying away from problem areas which cause tension.
A positive attitude towards life can make a big difference to everyone’s living conditions.