Hello, everyone! This is Dr. Bob Salamon with Lowcountry Chiropractic. As always, I hope you’re doing well and staying healthy! On my last blog, we discussed peripheral neuropathy and how chiropractic care can help combat it. Today, we’ll be talking about fibromyalgia, what it is, and how chiropractic care can serve as treatment. If you are interested in learning about fibromyalgia and its symptoms, you’ve come to the right place! Let’s get started.
Fibromyalgia is defined as a condition that causes pain all over the body, also known as widespread pain. The pain can be felt in muscles and other soft tissues. This condition can also cause sleep issues, fatigue, and emotional and mental distress. According to the CDC, fibromyalgia affects about 4 million U.S. adults, which is about 2% of the adult population. It tends to affect women more than men. This is a long-term, chronic condition. Children can also be diagnosed with fibromyalgia. In these cases, it is sometimes called juvenile primary fibromyalgia syndrome. Unfortunately, there is no known cause of fibromyalgia. In fact, it is a condition that has baffled doctors, and research is still being conducted. Sometimes, people are mistakenly diagnosed with other conditions. Sometimes, people must see several doctors before being diagnosed with fibromyalgia. However, there are treatment options available and ways to manage your symptoms.
The pain from fibromyalgia can be felt in both the muscles and bones, as well as areas of tenderness. These areas are known as “trigger points” or “tender points”. This can feel like a constant, dull ache. Some people describe it as burning or throbbing. While pain is the most well-known and common symptom, it is not the only one. Besides pain, symptoms of fibromyalgia include headaches, depression, anxiety, dry eyes, digestive problems, and bladder problems. Other symptoms may include muscle and joint stiffness, numbness or tingling in the arms or legs, and heightened sensitivity to light, noise, odors, or temperature. Trouble thinking clearly is also a common symptom, and is known as “fibro fog”. This can include forgetfulness or trouble focusing. Extreme tiredness, or fatigue, is often reported. In women, painful menstrual periods may also be a symptom. As you can probably see, fibromyalgia is more than just pain. It can have a negative impact on a person’s entire life.
Research has suggested that fibromyalgia may involve the nervous system, particularly the brain and spinal cord, known as the central nervous system. However, it is not from an autoimmune, inflammation, joint, or muscle disorder, as far as scientists and researchers can tell. There has been evidence of altered signaling in neural pathways that transmit and receive pain in people with fibromyalgia. This means that people with fibromyalgia feel pain differently, and more intensely, than people without the condition. It has also been discovered that fibromyalgia can run in families, which means genetic factors may contribute to this disorder. Oftentimes, something will trigger fibromyalgia, such as arthritis, injury, or some other type of physical stress. This can include repeated injuries, illness, or accidents. Trauma to the brain or spinal cord can play a role in the development of fibromyalgia. Emotional stress can also trigger this condition. If you have other diseases or conditions that cause pain, you may be more likely to have fibromyalgia. Some examples of these diseases include lupus and irritable bowel syndrome.
There is no test to determine if someone has fibromyalgia. Doctors typically examine a patient’s medical history, perform a physical examination, and may request x-rays or bloodwork. Bloodwork can rule out other conditions such as HIV, AIDS, hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, or Lyme Disease. The American College of Rheumatology created a set of criteria for diagnosing fibromyalgia. This criterion includes meeting three conditions: Having a widespread pain index (WPI) score of seven or higher and a symptom severity (SS) score of five or higher, experiencing symptoms at a similar level for at least three months, and ruling out any other disorders that could be the cause of your symptoms. Some doctors may use these criteria, while others may simply look at medical history. It may be helpful to keep a journal or diary of your symptoms. Keep track of where you are experiencing pain, the time and date, as well as rating the pain on a scale of one to ten, with ten being unbearable. Looking back at these records and sharing them with your doctor can help with diagnosis, especially if it can be determined exactly how often you are experiencing symptoms. Doctors may also look at the 18 “tender points” associated with fibromyalgia. These points include between the shoulder blades, the tops of the shoulders, the back of the head, the front of the neck, the upper chest, outer elbows, upper hips, inner knees, and the sides of the hips. A doctor will apply a small amount of pressure to these “tender points” and evaluate the amount of pain the patient feels.
Once fibromyalgia has been diagnosed, you may be wondering what options are available. Unfortunately, there is no cure, but symptoms can be managed. The good news is that fibromyalgia does not cause damage to joints, muscles, or organs. Although it is a chronic and often lifelong condition, it is not progressive, meaning that it will not get worse over time. Research suggests that the most effective treatment for fibromyalgia is exercise. There are a variety of stretches and other simple exercises like yoga that can help. Strength training can help relieve pain and fatigue in some people. Some medications have been approved for the treatment of this condition, such as Cymbalta and other antidepressant drugs. Anti-inflammatory medicines may also be prescribed. Heat and cold treatments may be suggested. Acupuncture has also proven to be a moderately effective treatment. It works by reducing inflammation, releasing endorphins, and overall calming the brain.
Chiropractic care is one of the most used treatments to manage fibromyalgia symptoms. Since this form of care does not require medication, it is one of the best and most convenient treatments for this type of condition. In fact, those suffering from fibromyalgia have found chiropractic care to be so beneficial that more and more patients turn to this treatment every year. A few adjustments to the neck and spine can work wonders for chronic pain. Chiropractic care for fibromyalgia can improve range of motion and flexibility. One study observed that fibromyalgia patients who routinely saw a chiropractor for 4 weeks of spinal manipulation, soft tissue therapy, and passive stretching reported improved symptoms and pain levels.
Chiropractors are also trained to prescribe spinal exercises and discuss healthy lifestyle practices. Together with the patient, chiropractors can observe lifestyle patterns and suggest changes. This could include changes in sleeping habits. For example, setting a regular bedtime routine. Experts suggest going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, even on weekends. During the day, you may want to limit the amount of caffeine you consume. You should also quit smoking if you are a smoker, and adopt healthy nutritional habits.These are all healthy lifestyle changes that chiropractors can help with.
Another form of treatment can be massage techniques, which are also beneficial for some people who suffer from fibromyalgia. Not only is a massage relaxing, but it can also loosen up muscles and eliminate pain. Research suggests that massages for fibromyalgia pain are more beneficial when continued for long periods. Chiropractic care and massage care work well together, but you can receive chiropractic care without a massage and vice versa. It all depends on what treatment you feel works best for you and gives you the most relief.
As you can see, fibromyalgia is a chronic disease that can cause pain and suffering that may feel endless. It is unclear exactly what causes this condition, but it is very clear that it interferes with many peoples’ lives and daily activities. If you are one of these people, you are not alone, and there are treatments available. You do not have to suffer or succumb to fibromyalgia pain. Of course, chiropractic care is not the cure-all for this condition. You may find that a combination of treatments gives you relief. If you are looking for a non-invasive way to treat fibromyalgia, consider reaching out to Lowcountry Chiropractic. Send us an email or give us a call and we’ll assess the situation and develop a long-term treatment plan to address your fibromyalgia. We want to help you live a pain-free life– It’s what you deserve. As always, this is Dr. Bob and I have your back covered!
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