Perhaps one of the most difficult chronic conditions to properly diagnose, fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread chronic pain of the musculoskeletal system. Also known as fibrositis, fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) affects the joints, muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues of the body.
Fibromyalgia patients often suffer in silence for years, experimenting with a variety of medications, injections, and therapies that provide little to no relief. At ChiroCare of Florida, our physicians specialize in bringing all our patients back to a state of total wellness, allowing them to re-experience the life that fibromyalgia stripped away.
Understanding the Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Classified as a syndrome, fibromyalgia is not a disease. Rather, it is a condition that results in a variety of different symptoms which affect all systems of the body. The name fibromyalgia itself comes from the Latin roots”fibro” meaning fibrous tissue, such as tendons and ligaments, “my” meaning muscles, and “algia” meaning pain.
Fibromyalgia patients often feel an aching sensation all over, with sore, stiff, and overworked muscles. Muscles can also experience a burning sensation, as well as frequent muscle spasms. Other symptoms commonly associated with fibromyalgia include:
- Mood swings
- Morning stiffness
- Cognitive cloudiness
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Issues falling and staying asleep
- Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ/TMD)
Those with fibromyalgia most commonly experience symptoms in their gastrointestinal, muscular, and sensory systems.
Diagnosing Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
For thousands of Americans, diagnosing fibromyalgia is a long, painstaking process. This can be attributed to many factors, including how similar symptoms are to other disorders. In patients presenting widespread pain and fatigue, a physician must rule out medical conditions that are also linked to these symptoms, such as hypothyroidism, anemia, rheumatoid arthritis, Lyme disease, ankylosing spondylitis, or multiple sclerosis (MS).
Moreover, diagnosing fibromyalgia is increasingly difficult because common diagnostic testing is not helpful. Laboratory tests such as blood work or medical imaging such as x-rays and CT scans, typically come back as normal, with pain not showing as a distinguishable marker in test results.
In general, fibromyalgia is diagnosed only after other diseases and disorders are eliminated. For a conclusive fibromyalgia diagnosis, pain symptoms must be present at least three months, and a patient must have at least 11 “tender points.”
Pain Points for Fibromyalgia Patients
“Tender points,” also referred to as points of pain, are areas that cause pain but lack typical indicators, such as heat, redness, or swelling in the afflicted area. When diagnosing fibromyalgia, a physician will check what are called the “18 Points” of pain. These are 9 pairs of tender points that are painful when pressure is applied, and may spread pain to other parts of the body.
Those with fibromyalgia experience a more heightened pain in these spots than a person without the disorder. In order for a tender point to be deemed “positive,” a patient must experience pain when the point is pressed on with a finger or medical device equivalent to 4 kg of pressure.
Tender point pairs include:
- Back of the neck
- Front of the neck
- Lower back
- Upper back
For a fibromyalgia diagnosis, at least 11 of these points – as a pair or not – must react to a physical examination and persist for 3 or more months.
Surprising Statistics About Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is one of the most common chronic pain conditions. Approximately 5 percent of the global population is affected by the disorder, with an estimated 10 million people living with the disorder in the U.S. alone.
Typically, patients are diagnosed during middle age, between the ages of 20 to 50 years. However, the prevalence of the disorder increases in tandem with age, and by age 80, approximately 8 percent of adults meet the American College of Rheumatology classification of fibromyalgia.
Surprisingly, fibromyalgia is staggeringly more common in women, with 75-90 percent of patients being female. However, an estimated 20 percent of those among all ages diagnosed with fibromyalgia are men. Despite the condition being most common among adults, children may also be affected by the disorder, with a condition called Juvenile or Pediatric Fibromyalgia.
According to a 2011 study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, fibromyalgia has been associated with lower levels of health-related quality-of-life and a loss of work productivity. When coupled with the fact that many cases are improperly diagnosed, it is crucial to have all present symptoms reviewed prior to receiving treatment. In fact, past research has found that the diagnosis of fibromyalgia could be confirmed only in 34 percent of cases at follow-up – a 66 percent diagnostic error rate.
Where Does Fibromyalgia Come From?
At the present time, doctors do not fully understand what causes fibromyalgia. As the condition lacks typical physical markers present with most chronic pain conditions, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is that causes the disorder. A common belief is that fibromyalgia is associated with the central nervous system (CNS), the system of the body that controls most functions of the body and mind.
Some researchers suggest that the musculoskeletal pain experienced by fibromyalgia patients may be caused by central sensitization. This is a condition in which the CNS becomes sensitized, or more likely to respond to certain stimuli, in turn increasing the amount of pain experienced. Other researchers believe the chronic pain standard of fibromyalgia could be linked to an overactive endocrine system and the autonomic nervous system, both controlled by the CNS.
The autonomic nervous system, which is activated when you’re stressed, and endocrine system, which releases hormones in response to stress, causes the widespread chronic pain associated with fibromyalgia. When these systems are overactive, they induce excessive hormones that sensitize pain receptors, causing pain and tenderness.
Chiropractic Care for Fibromyalgia Relief
Chiropractic is a popular, all-natural approach to minimizing pain and encouraging healing in the body. Nearly 20 percent of American men and women have visited a chiropractor in their lifetime, and 80 percent of those who have used chiropractic report significant pain relief, better mobility, and an increased sense of wellness.
Chiropractic is a cohesive approach to handling the various pain symptoms that accompany fibromyalgia. Chiropractors practice holistic healing, treating the body as a connected system. When the bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, and tendons of the body aren’t properly functioning they can lead to an improperly functioning system. At ChiroCare of Florida, our physicians work to restore balance in the musculoskeletal system by utilizing spinal adjustments, manipulations, and stretches to alleviate pain associated with fibromyalgia.
In fact, in a recent study examining the effectiveness of chiropractic spinal manipulations for relieving symptoms related to fibromyalgia, patients reported a decrease in pain and fatigue as well as an increase in the quality of their sleep after only 15 treatments.
Chiropractic Manipulations for Fibromyalgia
Chiropractors administer manipulations to adjust the spine and neck. The spinal column houses one half of the CNS, and when a component of the spinal column is misaligned or damaged, it can interrupt normal pain signals to the brain. Chiropractors perform manipulations to correct any misaligned vertebrae or spinal discs, and to free space in the spinal column for damaged tissue to heal.
Chiropractic manipulations typically consist of short, quick thrusts to the areas housing the vertebrae of the spine. These are targeted motions, which are achieved by turning or placing direct pressure on the intended area. This allows the vertebrae to shift back into its proper place. Manipulations help provide numerous benefits including:
- Improved pain tolerance
- Improved range of motion in joints
- Increased blood flow, helping to release toxins and promote muscle healing
- Increased production of endorphins, allowing the body to wield off pain naturally
Manipulations aim to help the body function better mechanically, help nerve signals travel more easily, and lessen the pain caused by fibromyalgia.
Massage Therapy for Fibromyalgia
As fibromyalgia can affect various locations throughout the body, a multifaceted treatment plan is often most effective at mitigating pain and helping soothe tender points. In addition to manipulations, massage therapy is highly rated as a complementary treatment for patients with fibromyalgia.
Those with fibromyalgia not only suffer chronic pain, but frequently experience changes in mood, and difficulties sleeping. Massage therapy not only helps to ease pain, but it also helps to boost mood and allows a patient to relax. Moreover, massage therapy is a non-invasive, all-natural method for lessening the need for pain medications.
Benefits of massage therapy for fibromyalgia patients include:
- Relieving stress
- Easing muscle pain
- Increasing blood flow
- Improving sleep quality
- Improving joint mobility
- Promoting muscle relaxation
Additionally, further soothing treatments, such as ultrasound therapy and acupuncture, can be utilized to help reduce pain symptoms.
Get Treatment for Fibromyalgia Pain Today
If you’ve been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and are looking for a targeted approach to pain relief, the all-natural, non-invasive therapies of chiropractic care can be a solution for you. Without prescribing addictive pain medications, chiropractors are able to help alleviate the chronic pain that plagues fibromyalgia patients.
At ChiroCare of Florida, your health is our top priority. Experience the ChiroCare of Florida difference, with doctors who truly care for your overall wellness. Contact us today to schedule your appointment, and take the first step to relieve your fibromyalgia symptoms.