Fibromyalgia Sufferers:
Can A Chiropractor Help Your Pain?

Do you feel like every drop of your energy has been drained? Do you feel like some days your body aches all over? Are there times when friends and family just don’t understand what you’re going through? You may be experiencing symptoms that are associated with Fibromyalgia like headaches, migraines, severe joint stiffness and muscle tender points. I can assure you that you’re not alone and that our practice has seen many people like you. Fibromyalgia is quite a commonly diagnosed condition in Australia. As medical research has begun to understand Fibromyalgia, we now know that the condition can be fluctuating and varying in severity. Fibromyalgia usually presents as chronic widespread musculoskeletal pain, tenderness and fatigue that affects females more then males.

Symptoms Associated With Fibromyalgia

People who experience the condition may also experience a range of associated symptoms which include:

  • Poor posture
  • Previous trauma or injury
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Joint stiffness and pain
  • Loss of strength and mobility
  • Lack of concentration
  • Headaches and Migraines
  • Poor memory
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Brain Fogginess
  • Stress, Depression and Anxiety
  • Unexplained weight loss / gain
  • Delayed reaction to physical exertion
  • Menstrual problems
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Poor balance and coordination
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Depression and anxiety

What Causes Fibromyalgia?

We currently do not understand what causes Fibromyalgia. Research has demonstrated some possibilities that require further investigation. The most highly regarded explanation for the development of the condition is dysfunction of the central nervous system. The central nervous system is responsible for every process in the human body and consists of the brain, brainstem, cerebellum and spinal cord. Dysfunction at any one of these four locations may contribute to an imbalance of the musculoskeletal system. Research into Fibromyalgia pain relief is still in its early years. Majority of research pin points the brainstem as being the primary reason for these changes.

“A growing amount of research related to neurobiology of the condition supports the notion that the pain of Fibromyalgia is real. In people without pain, these structures encode pain sensations normally. In people with Fibromyalgia, the neural activity is increased. These studies indicate Fibromyalgia patients have abnormalities within the central brain structures”

Essentially this research demonstrates that patients nervous systems are too active. When this happens there’s a cascade of events which occur including the adrenal glands releasing catecholamines (adrenaline, noradrenaline) into the bloodstream to stimulate Type C pain fibres. This process creates pain.

How Is Fibromyalgia Pain Syndrome Diagnosed?

Diagnosis is extremely difficult. Until recently classification of Fibromyalgia pain syndrome was largely based on the presence of long standing chronic pain, presence of specific body tender points and associated problems like irritable bowel syndrome and fatigue. Given the fluctuating nature of Fibromyalgia this criteria made it difficult to definitively diagnose a person with the conditions. A person should be considered as suffering Fibromyalgia when chronic musculoskeletal pain, poor sleep and fatigue are present.

Common Fibromyalgia Treatment Strategies

Fibromyalgia has historically been managed very poorly. Sufferers are commonly prescribed endless quantities of drugs, pain medications, supplements, herbs & vitamins. When those drugs, pain medications, supplements, herb and vitamins don’t work they’re recommended more potent pain killers, sleeping pills, anti-depressants and anti-inflammatory drugs.

Chiropractic

Specific upper cervical Atlas Chiropractic technique is quite a unique therapy in Australia. After seeing many Fibromyalgia sufferers I realized most of these people had problems with their upper neck. After years of research I came across a technique called Atlas Orthogonal Chiropractic.

Other techniques that Chiropractors may use include:

  • Spinal adjusting involves realigning segments that are identified as causing interference to the nervous system
  • Extremity joint mobilisation is very common as a hallmark characteristic of Fibromyalgia is its nature to affect peripheral joints (hips, knee, ankles, shoulders, elbow, wrist), causing stiffness, pain and possibly weakness. Extremity joint mobilisation is a unique technique which is gentle and improves mobility by stretching and relieving pressure within the particular joint
  • Gentle Activator methods is a hand-held instrument used by Chiropractors to facilitate gentle spine and extremity adjusting. This tool is particularly favoured in patients with low pain thresholds

Chiropractor Fibromyalgia Research

  • Short term Chiropractic management was an effective Fibromyalgia treatment strategy as it was showed to improve neck and lower back flexibility, lower extremity mobility and pain levels. Blunt, K.L et al (1997). The effectiveness of Chiropractic management of Fibromyalgia patients: A pilot study. Journal of Manipulative Physiological Therapeutics, 20(6); 389 – 399
  • Clinical significant improvements were noted in overall pain intensity, quality of sleep and fatigue levels following a specific schedule of Chiropractic for Fibromyalgia treatment. Hains, G. et al (2000). A combined ischemic compression and spinal manipulation in the treatment of Fibromyalgia: A preliminary estimate of dose and efficacy. Journal of Manipulative Physiological Therapeutics, 23(4); 225 – 230
  • Functional improvements in strength, flexibility, balance, coordination and endurance were demonstrated following a combination of resistance training and Chiropractic treatment. Panton, L.B et al (2009). Effects of resistance training and Chiropractic treatment in women with Fibromyalgia. Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine, 15(3); 321 – 328
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