Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes long-term pain throughout the body, extreme fatigue, headaches, difficulty sleeping, mood disorders, irritable bowel syndrome and more. Fibromyalgia symptoms can come on without warning, or they can be precipitated by certain events such as stress, hormone changes, and even changes in the weather.
Fibromyalgia can take a huge toll on a person over time, both physically and emotionally. The road to diagnosis can be difficult, and then you may be faced with a host of confusing treatment options that sometimes merely cover up symptoms. Gaining a better understanding of the condition can not only help those suffering get the care they need, it can help friends and family members of fibromyalgia sufferers to better support the people they care for.
What Causes Fibromyalgia?
- Physical trauma – events such as a car accident or a sports injury can sometimes trigger fibromyalgia.
- Illness or infection – a prolonged illness or hospital stay may be linked to the later development of fibromyalgia.
- Emotional stress – going through a particularly stressful time like the death of a loved one or a divorce can either trigger or aggravate fibromyalgia symptoms.
- PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder can arise in people who have experienced any type of traumatic event. We often associate PTSD with soldiers returning from war, but PTSD can also happen after a bad car accident or sexual abuse. These events can be linked to fibromyalgia in some people.
- Genes – fibromyalgia tends to run in families, revealing the possibility of a genetic component that may make family members more susceptible to developing it.
- Other diseases or health conditions – if you have lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or osteoarthritis, you might be more likely to develop fibromyalgia.
- Anxiety and depression – while mood disorders may not be the cause of fibromyalgia, they are often linked to the condition.
- Lack of physical activity – fibromyalgia seems to be more common in people who are not very physically active. If you have already been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, consistent and gentle exercise is one of the best ways to reduce pain levels.
- Changes to pain processing in the brain – this significant change can be what causes people with fibromyalgia to develop an increased sensitivity to pain, which we will delve into more below.
Pain Perception in Fibromyalgia
When you’re in pain, your brain is the first to know about it. A signal travels over nerves from the painful area through your spinal cord to your brain where it is interpreted as a painful sensation. Pain is a natural response and serves as a warning that something is wrong. Over time, as your body heals, pain reduces and eventually disappears.
Fibromyalgia sufferers, however, experience widespread pain even when they are not injured or ill. Rather than the pain subsiding over time, it just lingers. As more fibromyalgia research emerges, a leading explanation for this is that there is a glitch in the way the brain and spinal cord process pain signals. Instead of an appropriate pain response, the pain becomes magnified and does not go away as it should. This can be likened to a game of telephone where what the message received by the last person in the line has become distorted from the original message. The pain receptors that live in the brain in those with fibromyalgia seem to develop a heightened sensitivity to pain. This can cause an overreaction to pain signals, which can help to explain why the pain persists for long periods of time during a fibromyalgia flare.
A Natural Approach to Fibromyalgia Care Brings Hope
One of the most frustrating parts of fibromyalgia is that it can present so differently from person to person. This makes treatment options a challenge. Regardless of whether you suffer from brain-fog, aches and pains, sleep troubles, or all of the above, there is one approach that has helped many fibromyalgia sufferers to find lasting relief without the roller-coaster of chasing symptoms around. Upper cervical chiropractic care can help fibromyalgia sufferers identify and work to correct the underlying cause of their condition.
The connection lies in your body’s nervous system and how it handles pain. There are two vertebrae at the very top of your neck – the atlas (C1) and axis (C2) – that provide protection for your brainstem. An accident, injury, or wear and tear can cause a misalignment of these vertebrae which can irritate the nerves in this area. The brainstem plays a large role in the processing of pain signals, so irritation here can lead to the misinterpretation of pain. An upper cervical misalignment can also have a negative influence on blood flow and cerebrospinal fluid flow which may contribute not only fibromyalgia but to other related health conditions as well.
Upper cervical chiropractic care is unique in that it is customized for each individual. The benefit of this is that once a gentle adjustment is made to restore normal alignment, the goal is to maintain that normal alignment for as long as possible. This makes repeated adjustments week after week unnecessary, which gives your body the opportunity to heal as efficiently as possible. Once the brain and body are allowed to communicate properly, fibromyalgia symptoms may reduce or disappear altogether.