What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition where feeling pain and stiffness is common throughout the body including the muscles, joints, and bones. People with fibromyalgia often say that they ‘hurt all over’. Symptoms of fibromyalgia include widespread pain, stiffness, tender points throughout the body, sleep disturbances, fatigue, and problems with thinking. It is common for people with fibromyalgia to also experience depression and/or anxiety. Fibromyalgia can affect anyone but is most common in women between the ages of 25 and 55. Fibromyalgia is a reasonably common condition with 1 in 50 people developing it within their lifetime. There is quite often overlap with other conditions and/or inflammatory diseases such as migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, ankylosing spondylitis, rheumatoid arthritis, or systemic lupus erythematosus.
Fibromyalgia is currently understood to be a dysfunction in the way that the central nervous system is processing pain signals. Because of this, sensations that normally feel like discomfort, are now processed as painful. It is unknown exactly what causes fibromyalgia but it may be caused by emotional trauma, an infection, or by physical injury. There are also indications that there is a genetic factor, as it can be common for fibromyalgia to affect several members in a family.
Fibromyalgia diagnosis and treatment
Fibromyalgia can be hard to diagnose as there is a lot of overlap with other conditions. A lot of the diagnosis process is ruling out other possible causes for the pain. The main diagnostic criteria is widespread pain for longer than three months. Other diagnostic criteria include specific tender points throughout the body, chronic fatigue and sleep disturbances, and normal blood tests.
There is currently no known cure for fibromyalgia. Treatment is usually focused on management of the symptoms. Standard treatment and recommendations for fibromyalgia are regular exercise, regular rest throughout the day, focusing on improving sleep quality through lifestyle changes, stress reduction (either through relaxation methods such as reading or meditation, or through talking with a psychologist or counsellor), and medication. Usually tailored specifically to each person medication sometimes including pain killers, antidepressants, and medication to aid sleep.
How can chiropractic help?
Chiropractors find misalignments throughout the spine. These misalignments can cause interference to the nervous system. The interference will then cause problems with how the brain and body are communicating. Currently understood, as mentioned above, fibromyalgia is a dysfunction in the way the central nervous system, and therefore the brain, processes pain, causing it to increase and widespread throughout the body.
When the nervous system is free from interference it allows the brain to receive input from the body. The communication becomes more clear and to more accurate to interpret and process the information it is receiving. It can therefore send more accurate information back out to the body. As the brain starts to process everything more accurately, this can help to reduce pain felt throughout the body. Chiropractic adjustments also help to reduce inflammation within the joints and reduce muscle tension, which may also be contributing to the pain felt throughout the body. Chiropractic is a great option for those suffering with fibromyalgia as it is safe, effective, and doesn’t rely on medication to provide relief.