If you had to pick the one symptom that fibromyalgia is notorious for, it’s undoubtedly the widespread pain that people experience. Fibromyalgia pain tends to come and go. A string of good days may be followed by symptomatic flares that increase pain and other symptoms. On those bad days, it is easy to become discouraged, helpless, and depressed when you aren’t able to go about your life as you wish.
There is a lot of misinformation floating around about fibromyalgia. Despite how many people are affected, there is still some mystery about it. The unfortunate truth is that many people living with fibromyalgia go undiagnosed, and many people receive an inappropriate fibromyalgia diagnosis because nothing else fits the bill.
Understanding Fibromyalgia’s Major Symptom
People living with fibromyalgia cope with a host of daily symptoms, including fatigue, stiffness, depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, headaches, difficulties with memory and concentration, and more. But, the one symptom that is often reported to have the most significant impact on quality of life is widespread pain. The pain of fibromyalgia is different than the pain you may experience from an injury, for example. Here are three things that make it distinct:
1. There are good pain days and bad pain days
Everyone with fibromyalgia experiences it differently. One day, it’s easy enough to wake up, get out of bed, and function at close to 100% throughout the day. On other days, the simple act of sitting up to get out of bed can drain every last bit of energy. While there may be indications that a flare-up in pain is developing, sometimes a bad day can happen seemingly out of the blue. To someone unfamiliar with the nature of fibromyalgia pain, it can appear confusing that one day we may be able to go to work, pick up the kids from school, or go grocery shopping, and the next day we’re barely able to get out of bed.
2. Just because it doesn’t look like I’m in pain doesn’t mean I’m not
People who live with chronic pain get awfully good at hiding it. The reality is that things still need to get done and if at all possible, many fibromyalgia sufferers will grit their teeth to get through it without complaint. When pain is at its worst, it can take a lot of effort to accomplish things considered simple everyday tasks like showering or getting dressed. If you have a loved one living with fibromyalgia, always try to remember that just because they seem to be pain-free doesn’t mean they are.
3. Pain isn’t my only symptom
Even on days when fibromyalgia pain isn’t as high, there are other symptoms that lie underneath the surface. Days when pain levels are lower are wonderful but are sometimes plagued with fatigue, numbness and tingling, brain fog (usually referred to as “fibro fog”), depression, anxiety, and digestive issues. On their own, these other fibromyalgia symptoms can be tough to handle, but when you throw pain into the mix, the combination can become debilitating.
Fibromyalgia Pain Feels Different Because it is Different
Chronic pain and acute pain (short-term pain explained by a specific circumstance) are different. For example, when you have an injury such as a cut or a sprained ankle, pain is a healthy and expected part of the healing process. Pain alerts us that there is a problem and serves as a warning not to push it too far. As part of the natural progression of healing, once the tissues are repaired, pain lessens and eventually disappears entirely. However, when pain settles in and fails to go away as expected, it involves complex processes that happen within the brain and body. It is no longer about damaged tissue sending pain signals and more about a neurological “pattern” that creates the persistence and magnification of pain.
Turning Down the Pain “Volume Knob” with Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care
Your central nervous system is responsible for relaying information between the brain and body about pain. For example, if you accidentally touch a hot stove, that pain rapidly travels over the nerves to the brain where it is interpreted as painful, and the immediate response Is to jerk your hand away. Fibromyalgia sufferers experience changes in the way pain is perceived. It’s as if the pain volume knob is turned all the way up, and pain signals are amplified.
A possible explanation for this is a misalignment of the uppermost vertebra in the neck. The atlas (C1) vertebra is positioned at the junction of the head and neck. A misalignment here often occurs following an injury such as a car accident, sports injury, or a simple slip and fall. Interestingly, some of these same traumas are the precipitating factor for the development of fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions. An atlas misalignment can create a choke point and cause interference in normal brain-body communication over the nerves, leading to a misinterpretation of pain signals.
Upper cervical chiropractic care takes a detailed look at this critical area of the spine and central nervous system. If a misalignment is detected, then a gentle adjustment specific to that person is given to begin to restore normal alignment. As the body starts to function more optimally, many fibromyalgia sufferers experience a reduction or even remission of pain and other symptoms. If you are living on the rollercoaster of fibromyalgia, having a few good days scattered in between days where pain levels are high, then take a moment to locate an upper cervical chiropractor in your area and schedule an initial consultation. The relief you’ve been searching for may be just a few gentle adjustments away.