Patients with fibromyalgia have to cope with daily, chronic pain. While are there many medications on the market, there are alternative, non-medical interventions. Chiropractors can help patients manage their discomfort in a natural way.
What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a disorder where a patient suffers from “long-term, body-wide pain and tenderness in the joints, muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues”. The causes are not agreed upon, but some theories are that fibromyalgia is a result of certain triggers such as: sleep disturbances, infection, abnormal bodily pain response, or physical/emotional trauma. Women suffer from this more than men, and the disorder may be diagnosed most often between the ages of 20-50.1 Symptoms can include chronic pain and spasms in the muscles, severe fatigue, insomnia, memory and concentration issues, digestive and bladder problems, sensory issues and sensitivity, anxiety, and depression. The intensity of the symptoms can vary throughout the day and with weather, exertion, hormones, or emotional factors.2
Fibromyalgia is diagnosed after three months of pain, with the pain spread throughout the body, after doctors have run tests to rule out other problems. Traditional medical treatments may include exercise programs, stress relief, relaxation and massage, and physical therapy. There are also cognitive-behavioral therapies (CBT) as well as medications that doctors may prescribe, including antidepressants and muscle relaxers, and a few new fibromyalgia-specific drugs: Cymbalta, Lyrica, and Savella. Doctors may also recommend pain relievers, sleep aids, and anti-seizure drugs to go along with the CBT. Of course, improving mood, keeping a pain diary, eating a healthy diet, and avoiding caffeine are also recommended.3
Even with all of the traditional interventions, and running the risk of medication side-effects, fibromyalgia can still be a chronic disorder that can last for years. Chiropractors may also recommend dietary changes and exercises to their patients. The medical causes of fibromyalgia are not agreed upon, and while there are psychological factors, it appears that the “pain in fibromyalgia reflects abnormal pain processing in the central nervous system”. Tender points of the body include the front and back of the neck, the second rib, the elbow and knee areas, the shoulders, and the gluteal and hip areas.4 A 2006 study showed that “connective tissue manipulation and combined ultrasound (US) therapy (US and high-voltage pulsed galvanic stimulation)” helped fibromyalgia patients in their complaints about pain and sleep. These therapies seemed helpful in restoring “functional activities” in these patients. Another study, in 2007, examined the effectiveness of chiropractic with fibromyalgia and concluded that there was improvement in the “patients’ cervical and lumbar ranges of motion, straight leg raise and reported pain levels”.6 Chiropractic management can be explored as a natural alternative, or complementary, treatment for this long-term disorder.