Imagine being tired all the time with burning pain, muscle spasms and tender “trigger” points. Add to that sensitivity to pain, heat, cold, bright lights, plus bowel/bladder problems, headaches, sleeplessness, and/or anxiety. These are the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but believed to involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors with half the risk attributed to each. The condition runs in families and many genes are believed to be involved. Because the condition cause is not known, the name Fibromyalgia simply means: fibro- New Latin meaning “fibrous tissues”, myo- Greek, “muscle” and algos (algia) Greek – “pain”; thus the term literally means muscle and connective tissue pain.[i]
It is estimated that 5 million Americans suffer from fibromyalgia.[ii] The chronic, deep aches can have an enormous impact on physical and emotional health. Unfortunately, treatments are few and far between and those that exist often come with the potential for unpleasant side effects, such as anti-inflammatory drugs, painkillers, antidepressants and prescriptions.
Physical therapy, counseling and support groups have poor records in helping sufferers. However, chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, relaxation techniques, meditation and nutritional therapy have more encouraging results.[iii],[iv]
Natural healing can be a blessing for fibromyalgia sufferers. Gentle, effective complementary therapies can improve quality of life and rejuvenate a body wracked by chronic pain.
The Chiropractic Approach:
Spinal trauma has long been associated with fibromyalgia. In one study a neck injury increased the occurrence fibromyalgia by ten times! That is one reason why fibromyalgia sufferers report good results with chiropractic.[v] For example, in one study all 23 fibromyalgia sufferers (ages 11-76) showed 92-100% improvement and maintained their improvements after one year follow-up with chiropractic care.[vi] In another study of 15 women, 60% reported at least a 50% reduction in their pain, less fatigue and improved sleep quality with chiropractic.
Natural Complementary Therapies:
Massage is often one of the most effective methods of reducing fibromyalgia symptoms. It eases stiffness, improves range of motion, reduces pain and helps with stress management. A technique called myofascial release is especially suited to soothing fibromyalgia pain. Fascia is a thin connective tissue that covers and runs throughout muscle. Fibromyalgia patients commonly suffer from tightening of the fascia that contributes to pain and muscle fatigue. Myofascial release is a gentle technique that relaxes the fascia and reduces associated pain.
Research has found that many fibromyalgia sufferers have low vitamin D and magnesium levels. These deficiencies may not play a direct role in the disorder, but can aggravate fibromyalgia symptoms like fatigue, difficulty sleeping and muscle weakness. They can also contribute to anxiety and depression. Simple blood tests can be done to determine if your body is deficient. Talk to your chiropractor about a possible supplement regimen.
Trouble sleeping can not only contribute to fatigue but also worsen muscle aches and depression. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that tells the body it is time for sleep. Artificial light, from light bulbs to the glow of computer screens, can interfere with the body’s ability to produce melatonin and interfere with restful sleep. Avoiding bright lights and computer screens starting an hour before bedtime and taking a melatonin supplement might help.
Some people find drinking green tea or taking green tea extract may be of benefit. Green tea contains a substance called l-tyrosine, an amino acid that helps the body create proteins. Studies are finding l-tyrosine has a positive effect on the mind. Green tea combines a mild dose of caffeine and l-tyrosine into a perfect cocktail to achieve a relaxed but attentive mental state.
Learning to understand what contributes to their symptoms is a crucial factor for anyone suffering from a chronic pain condition. A mind/body relaxation technique called biofeedback is designed to do just that. Learning about how one’s body works and how to control these factors, biofeedback helps individuals reduce stress. In a biofeedback session, adhesive electrodes monitor changes in the body while the patient is led through simple mental exercises. Patients learn how certain exercises change their body and how they can use these changes to their advantage.
Anyone suffering from fibromyalgia should see a chiropractor for a spinal checkup before trying any other therapies. It may make the difference between recovery and continued illness, between a life of pain and a life of ease.
[i] Wikipedia – August 2016
[ii] Li, Serena – ABC Article directory – Fibromyalgia
[iii] Guler M, Kirnap M, Bekaroglu M et al. Clinical characteristics of patients with fibromyalgia. Isr J Med Sci. 1992;28(1):20-23.
[iv] Kaplan KH, Goldenberg DL and Galvin-Nadeau M. The impact of a meditation-based stress reduction program on fibromyalgia. Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 1993; 15 (5):284-289.
[v] Buskila D, Neumannn L, Vaisberg G, et al. Increased rates of fibromyalgia following cervical spine injury: a controlled study of 161 cases of traumatic injury. Arthritis Rheum. 1997; 40: 446-452.
[vi] Amalu WC. Upper cervical management of primary fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome cases. Today’s Chiropractic. May/June 2000;76-86.