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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Corbin D.C

Can Chiropractic Help with Fibromyalgia? Cardiff Chiropractor

What is Fibromyalgia?


Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and tenderness in specific areas of the body. It’s often associated with sleep disturbances, memory issues (sometimes referred to as "fibro fog"), mood disorders, and can present multiple symptoms that vary in intensity. Some sufferers may get pins and needles in their limbs along with a feeling of heaviness in their body. For some symptoms can come and go having periods of flare ups and remittance.


What causes fibromyalgia?


The causes of fibromyalgia are not fully understood but are thought to involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors. It may be related to the way the brain and spinal cord process pain signals, leading to a heightened sensitivity to pain. Some believe childhood trauma can be a factor along with prolonged stress. Women in their 40s are twice as likely to suffer from fibromyalgia compared to men. Some studies show inflammation may be a factor causing fibromyalgia. Sadly science still cannot give a definitive answer to the cause of fibromyalgia. Being overweight, over 40 and poor fitness levels is a common profile of a fibromyalgia patients.


How is fibromyalgia treated?


Fibromyalgia treatment aims to alleviate pain and improve quality of life. It's typically approached with a combination of non-pharmacological and pharmacological methods. The problem with long term medication use is that it can cause other issues down the line. There seems to be a link with mood disorders and fibromyalgia. But it's very much the chicken and the egg story, what came first? The following are common approaches to the treatment of fibromyalgia.


1. Medication:


Several types of medications may be recommended, including over-the-counter pain medications or prescription painkillers.


Antidepressants: These can help alleviate pain and improve sleep. They work on the different neurotransmitters in the brain and release those happy chemicals. They can take a few weeks to take affect and can have varying results. Like with any medication, side effects are quite common. Such as dry mouth, blurry vision, confusion and a host of others. What they are best at doing is taking the edge off.


Anti-seizure drugs: Designed for epilepsy treatment may be effective in reducing certain types of pain.


2. Therapy:


Physical Therapy: To improve strength, flexibility, and stamina. Research shows exercise outperforms all other treatments. Exercise releases happy chemicals naturally which helps to reduce pain. Also getting stronger reinforces the fibromyalgia sufferers confidence in their body which in turn improves mental health. But, its just not that easy. One of the most prominent symptoms of fibromyalgia is fatigue. Often the thought of exercise when suffering from moderate to severe fatigue is scary. Even small tasks such as washing the dishes can create moderate to extreme fatigue. The key is graded exposure to exercise. Gradually increasing the amount of exercise over time. This give the body, and the mind, time to adapt.


OccupationalTherapy: To find ways to perform daily activities without increasing pain.


Counseling: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help manage pain and stress by changing the way you think and behave. CBT is an affective tool when used consistently. Have you ever bought a self help book before and become excited for a new you? You are not the only one, the only catch is that only a small percentage actually read the book and implement the tools described in the book. It seems the excitement of what the book can do outways the energy to actually use it. A good councilor can motivate a patient to use the tools give for better clinical outcomes.


3. Lifestyle and home remedies:


Often recommended and can include:


Exercise: As mentioned above.


Stress-Reduction Techniques: Activities such as deep-breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga can be helpful. Stress is a short cut to body wife inflammation. So much research is being done on the effects of inflammation. It is believed that inflammation is one of the biggest contributions to modern Western illnesses.


Healthy Diet: Though no specific diet for fibromyalgia is recommended, a balanced diet can improve overall well-being. Again eating well means less inflammation. That means less pain. Gut health is a good place to start when imprint diet. Science is linking gut health to many chronic diseases as well as dementia and cancer.


Sleep Hygiene: Implementing a sleep routine can help combat fatigue. Many of my patients who suffer from fibromyalgia suffer with poor sleep. Whether struggling to get to sleep, or struggling to stay asleep leads to fatigue. More fatigue means more pain and the cycle continues. On the flip side, some patients sleep excessively, sometimes up to 12 hours. Also weather, temperature and air pressure can affect a fibromyalgia patients quality of sleep. Routine is essential to getting into a healthy sleep cycle. I'll write another blog on this subject because it is a huge subject.


Pacing: Learning to balance rest with activity to avoid "overdoing it" can prevent exacerbation of symptoms. As I mentioned, Implementing small doses of increased activity paves the way for improved symptoms down the road. For someone not suffering from fatigue or pain, increasing exercise is relatively easy. But for someone who is, the thought of exercise can feel overwhelming, scary and create a cascade of thoughts to deter them from ever starting. This is why a multi pronged approach is often necessary with fibromyalgia. To motivate and guide someone to improved symptoms.


4. Alternative medicine:


Some may seek alternative therapies such as:


Acupuncture: May help to relieve pain for some people. It is a gentle approach, relaxing and often energising. Many people feel a sense of well-being after acupuncture.


Massage Therapy: Can reduce muscle tension and improve relaxation.


Suppliments: Many fibromyalgia patients are low in iron, B12 and Vitamin D. Natural supplements can be effective in improving symptoms. It is always reccomended to have a blood test before taking supplements. If we have enough of something already, save your money.


Can Chiropractic treatment help fibromyalgia?


Chiropractic Treatment: Helps alleviate some musculoskeletal aspects of fibromyalgia. Such as tender points. I use a combination of stretching, acupuncture, spinal manipulation and lifestyle advice. I have found it to be really affective for most of my patients but it is not a long term fix. If a patient can afford it then they come once a month for a top up. The relaxation improves sleep, which improves fatigue which improves their mental health.


It's important for individuals with fibromyalgia to work closely with their healthcare provider(s) to create a personalized treatment plan. Since fibromyalgia affects people differently, treatments that work for one person might not work for another. Managing fibromyalgia often requires a trial-and-error approach to discover the combination of strategies that are most effective for the individual. Sadly it can take hard work. Once a patient can battle their emotions and overcome mental hurdles and barriers, that is where the magic happens. Often people can feel helpless and overwhelmed with chronic illness. We as healthcare practitioners have to truly listen, without judgment and with empathy.


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