Despite how common fibromyalgia is, it is still often misunderstood and misdiagnosed. In the United States alone, an estimated 5 million people live with the effects of this chronic pain condition. A fibromyalgia diagnosis often takes time. There is no definitive test for it – no bloodwork, imaging study, or another laboratory test can give a certain diagnosis. This, combined with the fact that the symptoms of fibromyalgia have a lot of overlap with other diseases, can make for a difficult road to getting a diagnosis and seeking out the appropriate routes of care.
The symptoms of fibromyalgia can include:
- Widespread pain and/or tender points in the soft tissues of the body – muscles, tendons, and ligaments
- Joint pain
- Insomnia and other sleep disturbances – fibromyalgia sufferers experience non-restorative sleep and other things that might keep them from getting a restful night of sleep such as restless leg syndrome.
- Severe fatigue – similar to those living with chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia sufferers may not feel rested or refreshed after getting an ample amount of sleep.
- Cognitive changes that are often referred to as “fibro fog” – these may include trouble concentrating and memory issues.
- Feeling anxious, worried, or depressed
What Causes Fibromyalgia?
Part of what makes fibromyalgia a difficult condition to diagnose and manage is that it manifests differently depending on the individual. There are many reasons why the body’s pain signaling system can go haywire and there may be a combination of factors that influence the development of fibromyalgia. Some things that have been tied to fibromyalgia and may increase your odds of developing it include:
- Being female – the majority of fibromyalgia sufferers (approximately 80%) are women.
- The presence of other diseases – there is an increased chance of getting fibromyalgia if you have other diagnosed conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
- Genetics – it seems that fibromyalgia may have a familial disposition. Genes that make you more susceptible to developing a chronic pain disorder might be passed down from parents to their children.
- History of abuse or PTSD – people who have endured traumatic events including physical abuse, emotional abuse, terrible events (I.e. war, rape, car accident, etc.) may have increased odds of later developing fibromyalgia.
- Anxiety or depression – these as well as other mood disorders seem to have a link to fibromyalgia, though they may not be the reason it happens.
- Sedentary lifestyle – fibromyalgia seems to be more common in people who have low or no level of physical activity. Movement is not only beneficial to the soft tissues that are the source of pain in fibromyalgia, but it also releases endorphins, your body’s natural way of mitigating pain.
Understanding Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Disorders
When you’re in pain, your brain is the first to know it. Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is amiss. Nerve signals will travel from the painful area of your body through the spinal cord to your brainstem, which is responsible for interpreting this signal, gauging the severity of the pain, and sending back the appropriate response. For example, if the pain is due to you having your hand too close to the iron, nerves in the hand would send signals to the brain and the brain would read this as painful and cause you to jerk your hand away from the iron.
With fibromyalgia, the pain can be present all over the body with no overt source of illness or injury and doesn’t go away predictably either. The more that is understood about fibromyalgia, the more it seems that this pain signaling process does not work properly. Essentially, the “volume knob” for pain processing is turned up, which causes a person with fibromyalgia to experience heightened levels of pain. Compared to a person without the condition, fibromyalgia sufferers may experience pain from things that would not ordinarily hurt at all as well as perceiving more severe pain from things that would typically only hurt a little. This phenomenon is referred to as central sensitization, and it may be the key to getting to the bottom of the intense response to pain seen in those living with fibromyalgia.
Discovering Fibromyalgia’s Central Nervous System Roots
The central nervous system (CNS) is responsible for coordinating the actions and functions of your entire body. Made up of your brain, brainstem, and spinal cord, the central nervous system is so integral to your body that it is completely protected by bone – your brain by the skull, brainstem by the two uppermost vertebrae in the neck, and the spinal cord by the remaining vertebrae below. If normal CNS function is prevented because of spinal misalignment, specifically at the level of the brainstem, it can eventually lead to the type of abnormal pain processing seen with fibromyalgia. This is an important link for fibromyalgia sufferers to understand since many cases can be traced back to an illness, trauma, or injury that may have caused the initial misalignment.
Upper cervical chiropractors are being sought out by fibromyalgia sufferers to address this very specific component of their condition. A misalignment of the vertebrae that are positioned at the junction between the head and neck, the atlas (C1) and axis (C2) can have a major impact on your brainstem’s ability to properly receive and process pain signals. It can also influence normal blood flow and cerebrospinal fluid flow, both important factors in tissue healing and maintenance.
If you’re living with the impact of fibromyalgia symptoms on your daily life, ensuring normal central nervous system function is a big piece of the puzzle when it comes to experiencing relief. Upper cervical chiropractic care fills this niche naturally by using precise, gentle corrections to restore normal function. This gives your body the best opportunity possible to heal and experience improvement. To learn more about this unique approach to true healthcare, use our website to locate a doctor in your area and schedule a consultation.
Fibromyalgia, Fatigue, Chronic Fatigue, Always Tired, Tired, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, CFS, Fibromyalgia Relief, Chronic Fatigue Relief
Latest posts by Dr. Dietzen (see all)
- Feeling Trapped by Fibromyalgia Pain and Finding Natural Relief - May 5, 2019
- Correcting Misinformation About Meniere’s Disease - March 3, 2019
- Important Coping Mechanisms for Chronic Migraine Sufferers - January 13, 2019