Fibromyalgia (FM) is a commonplace, chronic pain condition causing a person to experience widespread pain throughout the entire body and tenderness to touch. Symptoms of fibromyalgia come and go. FM affects people on a physical, social, and mental level. As many as 10 million of those living in the United States have fibromyalgia, with women being affected much more often than men. It can happen to anyone at any age, even children. The word fibromyalgia literally means pain in the ligaments, tendons, and muscles. However, FM can have more effects than just pain and the symptoms differ from person to person.
Fibromyalgia is diagnosed based on a combination of symptoms:
- How the person feels (tiredness, tenderness, overall well-being, and how they are able to function)
- Cognitive difficulties (memory issues or being unable to think clearly)
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Tension headaches
- Pelvic pain
- Irritable or overactive bladder
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- TMJD (including tinnitus)
- Gastrointestinal problems (including GERD)
- How day to day life is impacted
There is no quick fix for fibromyalgia according to the medical community. There are a number of different approaches to care for this condition. Some include medication, cognitive behavioral therapies, and gentle exercise. These are most often recommended. Because of the stigma that goes along with people suffering from chronic illnesses, FM sufferers often become withdrawn and isolated, leading to depression.
The History of Fibromyalgia
It may surprise you to learn that FM has existed for many years. In fact, our great-grandparents who had fibromyalgia were probably diagnosed with rheumatism. In 1904, Sir William Gowers spoke about “fibrositis”. This was the very first time the term was used to describe a symptom of soft tissue rheumatism. The word fibrositis indicates an inflammation is present. As time went by and more research was done, it was discovered that it is was not the same type of inflammation found in those with arthritis. In 1976, the “itis” was dropped from the name, and the term fibromyalgia began to be used to indicate this condition. Syndrome was added to the word fibromyalgia because of the variety of symptoms that accompany this condition. However, in the late 1990’s, the syndrome part of the name was dropped because it was learned that fibromyalgia is its own distinct entity. No matter how much research has been done on this condition, it still presents many questions that have no answers currently. Medical doctors and patients alike are frustrated at the lack of information and knowledge about the way to care for FM. However, one thing is known: the central nervous system plays a big role in this condition.
The Central Nervous System and Fibromyalgia
The central nervous system (CNS) is made up of the brain, the spinal cord, and a complicated network of neurons. This system of the body has the responsibility of sending, receiving, and interpreting the signals being sent from all parts of the body.
The two main organs of the central nervous system are the brain and spinal cord. The brain process information from the spinal cord and interprets it. A three-layered covering of connective tissue called meninges protects the brain and spinal cord.
The CNS is a system of hollow cavities called ventricles. They connect to the cerebral ventricles in the brain and continue throughout the spinal cord. The ventricles are filled with cerebrospinal fluid. This fluid has the job of surrounding, cushioning, and protecting the brain and spinal cord from trauma. It controls a number of bodily functions.
- Regulation of hormones
- Cognitive thinking
The brainstem is a vital part of the CNS. The brainstem is a combination of the midbrain and hindbrain. This part of the brain is responsible for auditory and visual responses as well as motor function The spinal cord is a bundle of nerve fibers that are connected to the brain. It runs down the center of the neck as far as the lower back. Spinal cord nerves send information from body organs and external stimuli to the brain via the brainstem. In return, the brain sends signals to the body via the brainstem and then the spinal cord.
Interestingly, a connection has been seen between a misalignment in the bones of the upper cervical spine and how this can negatively impact the central nervous system, leading to symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia and Neck Misalignments
The top bones of the neck, the atlas (C1) and axis (C2) need to remain in perfect alignment for the body to work properly. If they are out of alignment, they have a huge impact on how the central nervous system functions. This may be the underlying cause of fibromyalgia. If a misaligned bone puts the brainstem under pressure, the signals it is receiving from the body can become compromised. If the brainstem tells the brain that the body is in pain, when it is not, fibromyalgia can be the end result.
Upper cervical chiropractors have seen much success in caring for patients with fibromyalgia. The gentle, effective method they use to help the bones of the neck move back into proper alignment has been praised by those with fibromyalgia as being the answer they are looking for. FM patients report seeing an improvement in many areas:
- Chronic fatigue
Research backs up these results. A study done on 23 people with FM proved that upper cervical chiropractic care improved symptoms of these patients by 90 percent.
Upper cervical chiropractors are specifically trained to find and correct the tiny misalignments that may be causing you pain and suffering. We do not pop or crack the neck or back to get results. Our methods are low force but get the job done, allowing the body to naturally begin the healing process.