Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes all-over aches and pains throughout the body. Experiencing chronic pain can be extremely debilitating, both physically and emotionally. Oftentimes fibromyalgia sufferers have stretches of days when they may be unable to care for themselves, for their families, maintain a normal work schedule, or feel well enough for socializing. Widespread pain is not the only symptom of fibromyalgia. Other common signs and symptoms include extreme fatigue, memory or cognitive problems, digestive issues, and sleep disorders.
What is Fibromyalgia?
As many as 5 million Americans age 18 and older are affected by fibromyalgia. 80% of those people are women. Most fibromyalgia sufferers are diagnosed between the ages of 35 and 45, however, fibromyalgia is notoriously difficult to diagnose. The reason for this is because the symptoms of fibromyalgia can mimic many other disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Although we hear more about fibromyalgia now than ever before, it is by no means a new condition. It was first described by physicians in the early 1800s. In the early 1820’s the tender points associated with fibromyalgia were identified by a Scottish doctor, and the condition was named “fibrositis” because inflammation of soft tissues was thought to be the source of the pain at that time. The term fibromyalgia was coined in 1976. By that time, inflammation was no longer thought to be the source of pain. The emerging thought about the cause of fibromyalgia, even though the condition is not completely understood, is that there is a problem with how the brain and nerves communicate pain signals.
Fibromyalgia sufferers have brains that misunderstand everyday sensory experiences, making them more sensitive to touch, temperature (both hot and cold), bright lights and noise when compared to those without the condition. This may be due to lower levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin and norepinephrine. The reduced presence of these brain chemicals can change the way that pain is perceived, causing the reaction to be more severe in someone with fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia Tips to Make Life a Little Easier
When you’re in the midst of a fibromyalgia flare-up, sometimes getting through the day can be a tall order. Thankfully there are small things you can do that might make the days better and help you overcome a bad flare:
- Dietary and lifestyle modifications: many fibromyalgia sufferers have found some relief in eliminating certain foods and drinks from their diet. Added sugar, grains/gluten, and alcohol are the most common starting points. Reported benefits from trying to remove these potential triggers include reduced brain fog and less pain.
- Gentle exercise: we know that when the pain takes hold, exercise is the last thing on the mind of someone with fibromyalgia. It doesn’t take much movement to reap the benefits – a 5-minute walk or gentle movement in a warm water pool can do wonders to bring pain levels down and even help you get a better night of sleep.
- Stress less: practicing stress-reducing techniques can help immensely when it comes to fibromyalgia. Meditation, yoga, journaling, taking a warm bath, talk therapy, support groups or any other method of bringing more calm into your daily life has health benefits that can both shift your frame of mind as well as reduce physical pain. Many fibromyalgia sufferers experience depression and anxiety, so anything that can help reduce stress and worry is a positive step.
- Get better quality sleep: this seemingly basic piece of advice can be extremely difficult to do for fibromyalgia sufferers. Night pain, stress, restless leg syndrome, and other fibro symptoms can all thwart even the best attempts at getting some rest. Eliminating daytime naps, having a consistent sleep/wake cycle (even on days off), keeping your bedroom cool and dark, and avoiding screen-time in the few hours leading up to bedtime can all help you to get the sleep your body needs to repair and heal.
- Upper cervical chiropractic care: because the underlying cause of fibromyalgia has a connection with how the brain and body communicate, upper cervical chiropractic care has been a natural fit for a lot of people. We’ll get into more detail below, but the goal of upper cervical chiropractic is to remove interferences in the body’s nervous system (the system responsible for sending and receiving pain signals) in order to restore function back to normal. Many fibromyalgia sufferers have been having great, lasting successes since upper cervical care aims to address the root cause rather than surface-level symptom management.
Natural, Lasting Fibromyalgia Relief
In order to find lasting relief from fibromyalgia, it is necessary to begin to uncover the underlying cause. Current research shows that people who suffer from fibromyalgia have changes within their central nervous system (the brain, brainstem, and spinal cord) that cause a misinterpretation of pain signals. Your spine is designed to protect the tissues of your central nervous system, and when things are aligned properly, it does a great job at that. However, if by accident, injury, or wear and tear, a spinal misalignment has occurred, it has the potential to irritate nerves and disturb their ability to communicate normally. Upper cervical chiropractors focus on a very specific area of the spine – the uppermost vertebrae in the neck – because of the critical impact they can have on the whole body. These vertebrae protect the brainstem, which plays an integral role in pain processing.
If you are coping with the chronic effects of fibromyalgia and are ready to get to the bottom of what’s going on, then scheduling a no-obligation consultation with an upper cervical chiropractor close to you can be the next logical step towards better health. Many folks who find their way into an upper cervical chiropractic practice feel like they have exhausted all of their other healthcare options, but leave feeling hopeful for a better quality of life.