What Is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder characterized by widespread pain and hypersensitivity throughout the entire musculoskeletal system. The term comes from the greek words “fibro” (fibers), “myo” (muscle) and “algia” (pain); literally, “pain in the muscle fibers”.
To be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, one must typically experience pain or tenderness at 11 of 18 distinct points on the body and have pain in all four quadrants of the body for a minimum of three months. In addition to pain, those with fibromyalgia commonly suffer from depression, fatigue, and sleep disturbances, as well as joint stiffness, cognitive impairment, dizziness, irritable bowel syndrome, TMJ dysfunction and certain autoimmune disorders.
Reports estimate that as much as 2% of the US population suffers from fibromyalgia, with the disorder affecting women ten times more often than men. Because of it’s prevalence and debilitating symptoms, finding a solution to the disorder is increasingly becoming a priority for health care professionals.
What Causes Fibromyalgia?
Finding a cure for fibromyalgia, however, is complicated by the fact that medical science has yet to identify a concrete cause for the disorder. Because there are so many symptoms associated with fibromyalgia, opinions on what cause them tend to vary widely. Leading theories suggest that the disorder has to do with dysfunction in the central nervous system causing nociceptor (pain-carrying) nerve fibers to overreact to even the slightest stimuli. This in turn causes a person with fibromyalgia to interpret pain in the muscles in response to normally non-painful pressure or movement.
Can Chiropractic Help?
While studies have demonstrated varying degrees of success with medical treatment for fibromyalgia (such as exercise, massage therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy), chiropractic in particular has seen a significant increase in popularity among the millions affected by the disorder. In fact, according to a survey of 300 fibromyalgia patients by the Mayo Clinic, 37% visited a chiropractor regularly.
Doctors of Chiropractic are specialists in treating the neuromusculoskeletal system, and one of the primary benefits of chiropractic care is it’s positive effect on nervous system function. Because all information is transmitted and processed by the nervous system, it’s logical to assume that if a person with fibromyalgia is experiencing pain in response to stimuli that should not be causing pain, there may be something wrong with this system.
Chiropractors focus on correcting misalignments (subluxations) between vertebra in the spine that cause inflammation and compression on the nerves exiting the spinal cord. This irritation of the nervous system will alter not only the information being sent from the central nervous to the rest of the body but also the information being sent from the body back to the brain. By correcting these misalignments in the spine, chiropractic care can improve nervous system dysfunction which will eventually lead to improved overall health and wellness for fibromyalgia patients.
The Evidence For Chiropractic Treatment
So does the evidence support the use of chiropractic care? Early research on treatment for the condition shows it can indeed improve fibromyalgia patients’ quality of life. In a 2000 study from the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, fibromyalgia patients were surveyed before, during and after a course of chiropractic treatment to see if their symptoms improved with a protocol of low-force chiropractic adjustments and soft tissue therapy. 60% of the participants in the study reported reduced pain and fatigue and improved sleep. In a separate study also published in JMPT, researchers reported that chiropractic management decreased fibromyalgia patients’ pain levels and improved cervical and lumbar range of motion.
At Ascent Chiropractic in Brookfield, we aim to decrease irritation of the central nervous system by correcting misalignments of the spine and pelvis through gentle, low-force adjustments. As nervous system function improves, fibromyalgia patients often discover that the widespread pain, fatigue, loss of sleep, depression and other musculoskeletal complaints can be reduced or, in many cases, eliminated.
If you, a friend or family member in the Brookfield, Wauwatosa or New Berlin area is suffering from the pain and disability of fibromyalgia, we sincerely appreciate the trust and confidence shown by choosing us as your healthcare provider and look forward to serving you and your family. To make an appointment at Ascent Chiropractic, call 262-345-4166 or schedule an appointment with our online scheduling app.
Wolfe F, Ross K, Anderson J, Russell IJ, Hebert L: The prevalence and characteristics of fibromyalgia in the general population. Arthritis Rheum 1995, 38: 19-28.
Wahner-Roedler DL, et al. Use of complementary and alternative medical therapies by patients referred to a fibromyalgia treatment program at a tertiary care center. Mayo Clinic Proc 2005, 80: 55-60.
Hains G, Hains F. A combined ischemic compression and spinal manipulation in the treatment of fibromyalgia: a preliminary estimate of dose and efficacy. J Manipulative Physiol Therapy 2000, 23(4): 225-230.
Blunt KL, Rajwani MH, Guerriero RC. The effectiveness of chiropractic management of fibromyalgia patients: a pilot study. J Manipulative Physiol Therapy 1997, 20(6): 389-399.