Fibromyalgia is known for causing widespread muscle pain and exhaustion. If you are suffering from this condition, you may have pain and tenderness throughout your body. Other symptoms may include:
- Feeling stiff upon waking
- Fibro fog – problems thinking and remembering
- Abnormal headaches
- Problems getting a good night’s rest
- Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet
- Painful menstrual periods
Often, other conditions coexist with fibromyalgia:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- TMJ – temporomandibular joint dysfunction
- Interstitial cystitis
- Tension headaches
- Anxiety and depression
Who Is at Risk for Developing Fibromyalgia?
It is estimated that 5 million of those living in the United States over age 18 have fibromyalgia. As many as 90 percent of these are women. However, it has been seen in children and men, too. Most generally, people are diagnosed during middle age. Women with a family member who has fibromyalgia may be more likely to get it, and if they have one of the following conditions, they may be at a higher risk:
- Spinal arthritis (ankylosing spondylitis)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Lupus (systematic lupus erythematosus)
What Causes Fibromyalgia?
The exact cause of fibromyalgia remains a mystery. There are a number of theories, but none have been entirely agreed upon. A variety of factors may be involved, such as:
- An illness
- Certain diseases
- Repetitive injuries
- Stressful or traumatic events – such as vehicle accidents
Some scientists believe fibromyalgia may be due to certain genes that cause a person’s pain to be more stimulated than someone else. This may be linked to some recent research that is taking a closer look at the brains of those suffering from fibromyalgia. What does this reveal?
Studying the Brain of Fibromyalgia Patients
A study was published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience that revealed people with fibromyalgia have an increased frequency of their rhythmic brain waves when it comes to areas that are connected to pain sensors.
The thalamus was involved in another study, showing that the rhythmic patterns in the brain, called neural oscillation, are disrupted in patients with fibromyalgia and other conditions. The thalamus is connected to the cortex through these signals, and proper signals are vital for appropriate brain function. The study was conducted in South Korea and looked at the brains of 18 women with and 18 women without fibromyalgia. These women were all of the same age.
The analysis revealed that fibromyalgia patients had increased power in 3 of the 4 types of oscillations (beta, gamma, and theta), However, the fourth one showed a slowing down of peak performance. Along with this information, an MRI was used to help localize the disturbances to specific regions of the brain.
The brain areas involved were the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and orbitofrontal cortex. These are areas where cognitive and emotional processing of pain take place. This study is the first to point to thalamocortical dysrhythmia as being the possible underlying reason for fibromyalgia and many chronic pain disorders.
Widely Accepted Care for Fibromyalgia
If you visit your family doctor or even a specialist, you will find that their suggestions for caring for fibromyalgia are limited. They will mostly focus on caring for individual symptoms. The following medications may be suggested:
- Antidepressants: Cymbalta (duloxetine) and Savella (milnacipran) are often tried in order to ease the pain and tiredness associated with fibromyalgia. The muscle relaxer cyclobenzaprine or amitriptyline may be recommended to help with sleep.
- Anti-seizure drugs: Medications originally made to care for epilepsy have been seen to help with reducing certain kinds of pain. Gabapentin (Neurontin) and Lyrica (the first drug approved by the FDA for fibromyalgia) can help in some cases.
- Pain relievers: Certain over-the-counter pain pills, such as Tylenol, ibuprofen, and naproxen sodium, have proven to be helpful. A prescription pain reliever, such as tramadol, may be tried if these don’t work. Narcotics are usually avoided because of their tendency to be addictive and lead to more pain over time.
Therapy for Fibromyalgia
Some other suggestions are:
- Occupational therapy: Helping you make adjustments to your personal work area or how you do your daily tasks may lead to less stress being placed on the body.
- Counseling: Talking with a professional who understands your situation can help you build confidence in your abilities and help you cope better with stress.
- Physical therapy: Gentle exercises that help you improve your strength, stamina, and flexibility are a good way to help. Water-based exercises may be a good choice.
Proven Help for Fibromyalgia Does Exist
One area that is able to help fibromyalgia patients find some relief is that of upper cervical chiropractic care. As we noted earlier, proper brain function is a vital part in keeping fibromyalgia at bay. One way to ensure good brain function is to correct the bones of the upper cervical spine. Studies have shown that if these bones are misaligned, even by ¼ of a millimeter, they can cause problems with the brain. The brainstem was designed to be protected by the C1 and C2 vertebrae. However, if these bones move out of place due to a car accident, a trip and fall, or other minor trauma to the head, the brainstem may be placed under pressure. This causes it to send improper signals to and from the brain, leading to all kinds of health problems. If the signals coming through the brainstem are changed to tell the brain there is pain when there is no pain, fibromyalgia can be the end result.
We use a gentle method to help realign the bones in a few short visits. This often leads to a decrease in the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Some see it go away and not return.