Fibromyalgia is a health condition that causes pain all over the body. In addition, it results in fatigue, difficulties with sleep, and cognitive issues. Across the United States, an estimated 4 million people have fibromyalgia. This affects their ability to wake up feeling refreshed, work at their job, or care for their family. Certainly, it has an impact on the full quality of life of a patient. The exact cause of fibromyalgia is not clear. However, people with the condition have abnormal pain processing.
What Are the Common Signs and Symptoms of Fibromyalgia?
Chronic pain is, by far, the most common and well-known symptom of fibromyalgia. The pain often affects the whole body and more intense in the muscles used most frequently, such as the legs or back. Pain takes on a different quality for different people – some may feel stiff and sore while others might experience throbbing, burning, or aching pain.
Other symptoms of fibromyalgia include:
- Widespread pain and stiffness
- Sleep difficulties
- Fatigue unrelieved by rest
- Anxiety and/or depression
- Cognitive impairment – problems with memory, thinking, and concentration often referred to as “fibro fog”
- Headaches and migraines
- TMJ disorder – pain in the jaw and face
- Digestive issues
- Numbness and tingling in the extremities
- Temperature sensitivity
- Painful menstrual periods
- Restless legs syndrome
Fibromyalgia and Gut Bacteria – What’s the Link?
Recent studies have begun to show evidence of there being a connection with specific changes in the gut microbiome (the bacteria and other microorganisms that live in the digestive system) and the development of fibromyalgia. Here are the facts:
- The microbiome composition of 77 women with fibromyalgia and 79 control participants without fibromyalgia were compared.
- All participants underwent interviews and gave samples of saliva, urine, and stool.
- Variables that might influence the link between fibromyalgia and gut bacteria, including age, diet, exercise habits, medication use, and other factors, were ruled out.
- Fibromyalgia, with its associated symptoms, contributed more than any other factors to variations in the microbiomes of those with the disease.
- Researchers identified changes in the presence of 19 species of gut bacteria that existed in higher or lower than normal quantities in people with fibromyalgia.
- The severity of a fibromyalgia sufferer’s symptoms was directly correlated with a more pronounced presence or absence of certain bacteria.
- Analysis of the microbiomes in the stool samples was able to identify the participants with fibromyalgia with almost 88% accuracy.
Though the research findings are in their early stages, this is promising for people living with fibromyalgia because it may help improve the accuracy and speed of diagnosis, something that remains a big challenge. In addition to the standard treatment options, gut health may become an essential part of the puzzle. The researchers are planning to repeat this study with a larger and more diverse cohort of people.
Coping with Fibromyalgia Flare-ups
Fibromyalgia sufferers can sometimes find themselves in cycles of times of reduced presence of symptoms and times of symptomatic flares. Seems like, there can be many factors that may contribute to a fibromyalgia flare-up:
Firstly, one of the most significant factors that can cause an increase in pain and fatigue is elevated stress levels. Stressful events such as moving or the death of a loved one can trigger a period of magnified symptoms.
Secondly, fluctuations in hormone levels that occur in women can cause fibromyalgia symptoms to worsen. This happens during the menstrual cycle or pregnancy.
Lastly, changes in the weather, including heat, humidity, and barometric pressure, can cause a person to experience an increase in symptoms.
In light of the recent research we just highlighted, it might be appropriate to add dietary changes to this list. To cope with flares in symptoms, try to manage stress with healthy coping mechanisms such as meditation and gentle exercise. Taking steps to replenish healthy gut bacteria may also prove to be helpful. Try adding in fermented foods (unsweetened yogurt, sauerkraut, raw milk cheeses, kimchi, tempeh), eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables that are in season, and avoiding processed and artificial foods. These tips can help to boost a healthy microbiome.
Natural Fibromyalgia Care Focuses on Lasting Results
Since fibromyalgia is considered a lifelong condition, many people living with it understandably have concerns about the unwanted effects of long-term medication use to treat symptoms. Lifestyle changes such as a gentle exercise routine, dietary changes, and stress-management techniques can do a lot to support those with fibromyalgia in their quest towards a better quality of life.
At the heart of fibromyalgia is an issue with the normal processing of pain signals within the central nervous system. Upper cervical chiropractors are uniquely positioned to help address this problem and help people with fibromyalgia recover this missing piece on the path to recovery. A misalignment in the upper neck where it meets the base of the skull can wreak havoc on your body’s ability to process pain signals accurately. The vertebrae in the upper neck, the atlas (C1) and axis (C2), protect the brainstem, which acts as the hub for signals traveling from peripheral nerves to the brain. The brainstem receives messages, including those with information about pain, and sorts them accordingly. If there is irritation or compression on this area due to a misalignment of the vertebrae that protect it, pain signals can become distorted and perceived as being more painful than they actually are.
Upper cervical chiropractic care gently and precisely corrects these harmful misalignments to restore healthy communication over the nervous system. For fibromyalgia sufferers, this can mean a decrease in pain levels, better regulation of the sleep-wake cycle, and clearer cognitive function. Therefore, finding a practitioner in your area and scheduling an initial consultation is the first step in learning more about how upper cervical care can help address a vital part of the root cause of fibromyalgia.