Fibromyalgia is a common chronic pain condition, with some estimates being as high as 1 in 50 people being affected. Fibromyalgia can cause significant disability and reduce quality of life dramatically. Because of the nature of fibromyalgia, it is difficult to diagnose and difficult to treat. Most people prefer to not be reliant on pain medication, and chiropractic care is a treatment option that can help patients to manage their fibromyalgia symptoms by promoting their body's ability to heal itself.
What is fibromyalgia?
The exact cause of fibromyalgia is still unknown, but it seems to result from a problem with how the brain and nervous system processes pain. The pain isn't isolated to one area of the body but is spread throughout. There is also some evidence that lower levels of hormones such as serotonin and dopamine can interfere with brain signals and trigger fibromyalgia. For some people, fibromyalgia is triggered by a life event such as an accident, a bereavement, or an acute illness. For other people, there doesn't seem to be a single cause, and fibromyalgia gradually gets worse over time.
Symptoms of fibromyalgia
• extreme tiredness/fatigue
• increased pain sensitivity
• stiffness in the muscles
• sleep problems
• cognitive difficulties - known as "fibro fog"
• digestive problems, such as IBS
• jaw pain/clicking
• numbness/tingling in the hands and feet
• depression and anxiety
• sensitivity to temperature, noise, and lights
How can chiropractic care help with fibromyalgia?
Chiropractic care is most well-known for spinal adjustments. This is when a chiropractic care practitioner will make precise sudden thrusts on the joints of the spine to help it improve its alignment. Because the spine is such an important part of the nervous system, a misalignment of the spine can cause problems in all other areas of the body.
Evidence has shown that chiropractic care can improve the cervical and lumbar ranges of motion in patients with fibromyalgia, as well as their ability to raise their legs. It can also reduce reported pain levels (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9272472/).
Chiropractic care practitioners don't just offer spinal manipulations to help patients with fibromyalgia. A chiropractic care treatment plan can include a wide variety of treatments catered to improving the patient's quality of life and wellbeing.
Exercise is an important part of a treatment plan for fibromyalgia and is often included in the chiropractic care treatment plan. Chronic pain can easily lead to a sedentary lifestyle, but regular exercise can reduce the pain associated with fibromyalgia and can reduce disability (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fibromyalgia/in-depth/fibromyalgia-and-exercise/art-20093376).
A chiropractic care treatment plan for fibromyalgia can include nutrition advice. Being overweight or obese is common in patients with fibromyalgia, and it can make symptoms much worse. Good nutrition can help to reduce weight and can also improve overall wellbeing.
Soft tissue massage
Massage therapy is an important part of chiropractic care. Rather than manipulating the joints, it focuses on directly relieving muscle tension and improving muscle function. For patients with fibromyalgia, it can be an effective treatment that can reduce pain levels and depression symptoms.
Depending on the patient's needs and symptoms, other treatment options could also be offered to help manage fibromyalgia symptoms. This can include the use of electronic modalities such as TENS machines and cold laser therapy, help with posture, relaxation techniques, among others.
Fibromyalgia is a pain disorder that can lead to significant disability and a reduced quality of life. Chiropractic care is a treatment option that is drug-free and can help to manage the symptoms of fibromyalgia. The treatment plan can include spinal manipulation, soft tissue massage, and advice about exercise and nutrition.