Fibromyalgia is a condition that is characterized by widespread pain. However, unlike many other pain conditions, inflammation is not the primary cause. Fibromyalgia pain has to do with the way that that the body processes pain, thereby making it more of a neurological condition than a musculoskeletal one. And that also explains why the fibromyalgia symptoms checklist is so long and varied. Here are some of the things that you need to know if you or a loved one is dealing with fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia Patients Experience Specific Tender Points
Most people think of the widespread pain caused by fibromyalgia. After all, in order for the condition to be categorized as fibromyalgia, the pain must be experienced on both sides of the body as well as both above and below the waist. However, what many people do not know is that one of the main criteria for diagnosis is pain in at least 11 of 18 tender points on the body. Interestingly, 14 of the 18 points are found near the spine, and 4 are in the neck. We will discuss the connection between the spine (and the neck in particular) and fibromyalgia later on in our article.
Why Getting a Diagnosis Can Be Difficult
First of all, patients run into a surprising number of doctors who simply won’t diagnose fibromyalgia. Whether this is because they don’t believe it is a real condition or because they are searching for something treatable depends on the doctor. You may need to try several doctors before you find one who will even consider a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. Also, pain levels can vary and if you don’t have pain at 11 or more of the trigger points on the day of your visit, getting a diagnosis will be tough. Additionally, most doctors will want to rule out other pain conditions that are easier to test for. This can make the entire process take months or even years.
Fatigue and Sleep Disturbances Are Common Symptoms
Fibromyalgia is often confused for chronic fatigue syndrome (and vice versa) because both conditions can result in widespread pain as well as fatigue that doesn’t go away with proper rest. In addition, fibromyalgia patients often find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. This leads to even more problems with both fatigue and pain since the body cannot process pain properly without sufficient sleep. Therefore, having a good sleep schedule and creating the right environment for sleep are both important for anyone suffering from fibromyalgia.
There Is an Extensive Fibromyalgia Symptoms Checklist
In fact, it is so long that we are not even going to cover the entire fibromyalgia symptoms checklist today. Just know that in addition to everything we have already discussed in this article, some other common symptoms and associated conditions include:
- Migraines or headaches
- Numbness and tingling (especially in the hands and feet)
- Cognitive difficulties
- Balance problems
- Sensory sensitivities including sensitivities to touch and to temperature variances
What it comes down to is that fibromyalgia manifests itself a little differently for everyone. You need to know what triggers a flare-up for you and how best to provide self-care through lifestyle adjustments.
Most Doctors Will Prescribe Medication
From person to person, the results of medication for fibromyalgia will vary wildly. Very often, medications will be used to fight symptoms rather than underlying issues. A couple of common medications are pain medicines and sleep aids. In addition, a person may receive an anti-depressant or antianxiety drug to deal with these associated conditions.
How the Neck Is Related to Fibromyalgia
We’ve already highlighted the fact that 4 of the 18 fibromyalgia tender points are in the neck and many more are along the spine. What is the connection? While the underlying cause of fibromyalgia is considered to be unknown, a small misalignment of the C1 vertebra (atlas) may play a role in creating the circumstances in the body that lead to the onset of fibromyalgia symptoms. For example, a misaligned atlas can cause the following issues in the body:
- Reduced cerebral blood flow – For optimal nervous system function, you have to have plenty of oxygen. The cervical vertebrae help because they have loops of bone called vertebral foramen that provide safe passage for the arteries. However, this means that even slight misalignments can have an effect on blood flow and optimal brainstem function.
- Inhibited brainstem function – The atlas surrounds the sensitive area where the brainstem meets the spinal cord. Therefore, even the tiniest misalignment can apply pressure to the brainstem and inhibit proper function. As a result, pain processing, sleep, and many other vital functions of the central nervous system can be affected.
- Cerebral spinal fluid drainage problems – When the upper neck is misaligned, cerebral spinal fluid struggles to drain properly. This can lead to everything from pooling to increased intracranial pressure. Many fibromyalgia symptoms such as cognitive symptoms and migraines can relate to these complications.
Upper Cervical Chiropractic – Natural Help for Fibromyalgia
Since misalignments of the upper neck can clearly be related to the onset of fibromyalgia symptoms, it is a good idea to see an upper cervical chiropractor if you suffer from this condition. This specific form of chiropractic care focuses on providing precision adjustments of the atlas. Gentle corrections are long-lasting and give the body time to heal from longstanding injuries. As a result, some patients in case studies have found genuine relief from fibromyalgia.