Fibromyalgia syndrome is a condition that 10 million U.S. adults have been diagnosed with at a 4 to 1, female to male ratio. Fibromyalgia sufferers experience widespread pain, aching and stiffness in muscles and joints, along with other symptoms. The condition is often misunderstood and misdiagnosed, as there are no lab or imaging tests available to identify it.

Currently, diagnosing the disorder is based largely on a patient's self-account of symptoms. Research has found there to be a 66% error rate in diagnosing fibromyalgia, as only 34% of cases could be confirmed at follow-up appointments. This is because doctors must first rule out other conditions such as cancer, Lyme disease, hypothyroidism, anemia, rheumatoid arthritis and several others that may show similar symptoms. It's important to note that fibromyalgia frequently exists alongside other medical conditions, making diagnosis even more challenging as well as causing more suffering for the individual. On a positive note, many fibromyalgia patients have found relief through chiropractic care.

Causes of Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is believed to be related to a defect in central nervous system pathways. Researchers propose that repeated nerve stimulation may cause the brain of those with this disorder to change by increasing pain signals, altering neurotransmitter levels. In addition, receptors in the brain may develop a memory of the pain and become more sensitive to it, amplifying pain signals.

Factors that increase one's risk of fibromyalgia include sex, family history and disorders such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Fibromyalgia may also result from a physical trauma or psychological stress.

Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

One person's set of symptoms may differ from another's, but the most common symptoms are aching all over the body, varying degrees of pain, tender points, fatigue, sleep difficulties, morning stiffness, and depression and/or anxiety. Other symptoms may include difficulties concentrating or remembering things (often referred to as “fibro fog”); muscle spasms, tingling in the hands, arms, feet and legs; and headaches. The condition may be accompanied by irritable bowel syndrome, painful menstrual cramps, temporomandibular joint disorders and painful bladder syndrome.

The aching that comes with fibromyalgia can mimic the pain caused by bursitis, tendonitis or osteoarthritis—except that it is usually all over the body. The pain may be sharp, deep, throbbing, dull or aching. It can be felt in the muscles and ligaments around joints and tendons. This pain comes and goes, and it can spread throughout the entire body. There may also be tender points around the body rooted in the tissues surrounding joints.

Fatigue may be present whether a person has had a good night's rest or not and can mimic feelings of having the flu or working long hours with a lack of sleep. Sleeping issues are also common, and a person may have difficulty falling asleep and may wake up several times throughout the night. Morning stiffness typically occurs in the muscles and joints of the back, arms and legs and may last only 15-20 minutes or for hours up to the entire day.

Why Seek Chiropractic Care for Fibromyalgia?

As difficult as fibromyalgia is to diagnose, it can be even more difficult to treat. The good news is that chiropractic care is available for those who suffer from the pain and discomfort that fibromyalgia can bring. Regular chiropractic adjustments may help alleviate pain in the neck, back and legs. Chiropractic care may also help improve sleep and reduce fatigue.

In addition, many people with fibromyalgia have found relief through long-term aerobic exercise, strength training and flexibility exercises. Mind-body therapies such as guided imagery, biofeedback and meditation may also be beneficial.

Chiropractors can address your concerns and recommend exercises and interventions that may reduce symptoms. If you are concerned about symptoms you're experiencing, we can help determine whether they are a result of fibromyalgia and recommend appropriate treatment options.

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