Fibromyalgia is a little-understood autoimmune disorder that, according to the American Fibromyalgia Symptom Association (AFSA), affects anywhere from 3 percent to 5 percent of the general population. It is more common in women than in men. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for patients to get a proper diagnosis or treatment for their condition.
Such difficulties often cause fibromyalgia sufferers to consider alternative treatments such as chiropractic adjustments. As a result, many of the patients that Dr. Nathen Horst sees are frustrated and confused, in addition to being in pain due to their fibromyalgia.
What Is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is not classified as a disease, but rather as a set of symptoms that can cause muscle pain across the entire body, chronic fatigue, and problems with memory or cognition (sometimes called fibro fog). Patients who experience a majority of the following symptoms may have fibromyalgia:
- Overall muscle pain
- Painful or tender areas at 11 specific points on the body, clustered around the neck, shoulders, chest, hips, knees, and elbows
- Chronic fatigue
- Memory and concentration problems
- Sleep disorders
- Difficulty exercising
- Irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, or diarrhea
- Chronic headaches
- Jaw pain
Patients may also suffer from dizziness, blurry vision, nasal congestion, and chemical sensitivities. In some cases, all of these symptoms can be exaggerated by changes in stress levels, weather, depression, or anxiety.
Because fibromyalgia is considered an invisible disability, the best treatment is medications, such as Lyrica and Cymbalta, along with physical therapy and stress management. Medications may treat depression, anxiety, pain, and sleeplessness. Unfortunately, both Lyrica and Cymbalta may have unpleasant side effects, including weight gain, dizziness, or blurry vision. Some patients may also benefit from antidepressants such as Elavil. However, actual relief may be rather hit or miss, as different patients may have different clusters of fibromyalgia symptoms.
Chiropractic adjustments work by putting the joints of the body, particularly the vertebrae of the spine, back into proper alignment. If the joints are out of proper alignment, the surrounding tendons, ligaments, and muscles may overcompensate, which can lead to pain. Additionally, if the vertebrae of the spine are out of alignment (called vertebral sublaxations), the nerves leading out from the spinal cord may be compressed or pinched. By putting these joints or vertebrae back into their proper position, the body can then begin to heal itself from many of the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
An article published in the March 2009 issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine looked at the outcome for a group of 21 female patients with fibromyalgia. All the patients underwent physical therapy for 16 weeks, consisting of 10 resistance exercises to be performed two times a week. Eleven patients also received chiropractic treatments. At the end of the 16 weeks, although all the patients benefitted from the physical therapy, those who also underwent chiropractic treatments performed better in terms of flexibility, balance and coordination, and endurance.
Fibromyalgia patients may feel as though their doctors do not believe them when they complain of their fibromyalgia symptoms. Fortunately, chiropractic care may finally offer these patients some real relief.