For those who have fibromyalgia, or if you know someone who does, the widespread sensitivity, depression, migraines, insomnia, and, perhaps most of all, debilitating pain is the stuff nightmares are made of.
Worse yet, so many people don’t even believe that fibromyalgia is a “real thing.” Most likely because it’s not something that you can see on an x-ray or MRI or blood test. There is no known root cause (as of yet) and no cure. Simply because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there or is somehow less “real” than other diseases.
Since there is no test, doctors must rely on your group of symptoms and descriptions of what you are experiencing to make a diagnosis. They also run a number of tests trying to rule things out, such as mental health issues, rheumatic diseases such as lupus, neurological disorders or disorders of the spine.
You might be wondering if you read that last one correctly. Did we say, “the spine”? Yes, we did. This is because some of the sensations that fibromyalgia patients experience, numbness or tingling in the extremities, can actually be related to pinched nerves, sciatica, and low back problems, including bulging discs.
Guidelines for Diagnosis
The old guidelines for diagnosing fibromyalgia used to be related to what are called tender points or trigger points. These are very sensitive areas of the body that, when pressed firmly with a thumb, would cause intense pain. In the past, a person needed to have at least 11 of the 18 trigger points register for a doctor to diagnose fibromyalgia.
The problem with this is that fibromyalgia comes and goes. So, while you might have 15 tender spots on Monday, you could have only 8 on Thursday. Oh, and how much pressure is “firm”? The problem using this guideline is clear.
New criteria that most doctors use today includes:
- Widespread musculoskeletal pain throughout the body lasting 3 months or more
- The presence of other symptoms, such as extreme fatigue, insomnia, waking up feeling like you never slept, or brain fog
- All other possible root causes or conditions have been ruled out
For some people, the signs of fibromyalgia begin to appear not long after a traumatic event, either physical or mental. These can include car accidents, recreational or sporting accidents, such as falling from a horse or skiing, or being the victim of a violent crime.
Those with post-traumatic stress disorder are more likely to develop fibromyalgia, sometimes years after the event occurred. There is a genetic factor as well. If a family member has experienced similar symptoms of fibromyalgia, chances are increased that you could as well.
The Bad News
Besides having some people believe that there is nothing really wrong with you, doctors will tell you that there is little that can be done because they don’t understand or know what the root cause is.
You have probably heard suggestions such as:
- Get more exercise
- Take vitamin D
- Try biofeedback
- Take antidepressants or anticonvulsants
If you are tired of hearing the same old thing and wonder what else, if anything, can be done, we do have some good news coming up.
The Good News
There are a few things that most doctors won’t necessarily recommend but have been shown to help improve fibromyalgia symptoms.
Can You be Cured from Fibromyalgia?
No, there is no cure, but there are many more treatment options available to fibromyalgia patients now then ever before.
What Can I Do to Help My Fibromyalgia?
We want to offer 5 tips that you might not have previously considered that could make living with fibromyalgia a little bit easier, which would be a welcome change.
Tip #1-Tai Chi
We know that the old “get more exercise” phrase is old, but this is a new twist that you shouldn’t ignore.
Compared to aerobic exercise, the ancient art of tai chi offers far more relief from the severity of fibromyalgia symptoms in a study that lasted one year. Subjects saw improvements in depression, anxiety, and self-efficacy.
For those who wish to stay at home, there are numerous tai chi workouts online or videos that can be rented or purchased. This ancient exercise program is easy to start, even if you haven’t done much exercise. Tai chi is sometimes called “meditation in motion”, but perhaps a more accurate name would be “medication in motion”, since it helps so many people with fibromyalgia and other health issues.
Tip #2-Medical Cannabis
If you aren’t already trying this, it’s time. In an 11-month study, subjects had improvement in every area after using medical marijuana. In fact, this study found that 50% of these fibro patients quit taking any other medication.
Take note that cannabis sativa is best for daytime use as it induces a sense of energy while cannabis Indica gives the user a feeling of calmness and promotes better sleep. Many plants are hybrid of both types, but you might do better obtaining these specific varieties.
Tip #3-Chiropractic Massage
Right off the bat, we want to say that we realize that massage therapy is not for everyone who has fibromyalgia, but for some people, it has real benefits.
In a review of ten studies involving more than 145 subjects the analysis found that massage had large, positive effects on pain and a medium amount of effect on depression and anxiety.
The great thing about having a massage done at your chiropractor’s office is that the doctor has already taken your history and has done an exam. They are aware of your sensitive areas and can guide the massage therapist with this knowledge, including the type of massage that should be performed. For most fibromyalgia patients, this would be myofascial release.
Almost all chiropractor’s offer massage therapy, and why not? These two therapies go hand in hand with stress relief and natural healing.
Tip #4-Herbal Supplements
We aren’t referring to the usual “vitamin D” recommendation. While we aren’t knocking it, there are a great many other options that you might not have heard about, including:
- Acetyl-L-Carnitine. Our bodies use acetyl-L-carnitine (LAC) to produce a hormone called acetylcholine, which the brain uses for memory, concentration, and moods. In one study, a group who consumed LAC had fewer tender points, less depression, and less pain than the placebo group after 10 weeks.
- Magnesium. Women with fibro tend to be deficient in magnesium. One study found that fibro patients who took 300 mg of magnesium citrate for 8 weeks had fewer tender points and other fibromyalgia symptoms.
- SAMe. S-Adenosyl methionine, known everywhere as SAMe, is a natural substance that our bodies make for immune function and making cartilage. This compound also assists in brain hormones that influence our moods, such as serotonin. We make less of SAMe as we age. SAMe hasn’t been studied as much as other supplements, but it does seem to help some fibro patients.
- Brown Seaweed Extract. This is a little-known supplement that shows promise. In one study, subjects who took 1,000 mgs of this extract each day had reduced joint pain and stiffness. This one works quickly, with subjects feeling results after just 1 week.
Be certain to speak to your doctor, pharmacist, or chiropractor before taking any supplements, especially if you are taking any other prescription drugs to prevent an interaction or unwanted side effects.
Tip #5-Chiropractic Care
Chiropractic care has helped a great many people suffering from fibromyalgia. While it’s not a cure, it is a fibromyalgia treatment that is very effective.
First, can a chiropractor diagnose fibromyalgia? Yes, chiropractors are qualified to diagnose this condition and have a diagnostic algorithm that can help them determine this.
When your spine is misaligned, the nerves that run through the vertebrae are affected. This means that the brain and nerves are not able to send or receive the proper signals.
All fibromyalgia pain is linked to the central nervous system and is the result of some type of interference within the nerve. This is why so many fibromyalgia patients resort to drugs that stop nerve pain.
When all obstructions between the nerve and the brain are removed, the result is less pain. Can chiropractic help fibromyalgia pain? Studies have found that patients who use chiropractic care for their fibromyalgia saw more improvement in their condition than those who did not use it. Improvements included less pain, better sleeping patterns, and improved moods.
Can chiropractic make fibromyalgia worse? Anything is possible, but it’s unlikely.
If you are concerned that chiropractic adjustments might hurt, you can read this article about what they feel like. Your chiropractor has most likely seen numerous fibromyalgia patients, so they understand your pain levels and will work to ensure that your experience is a good one.
If you are living with the pain of fibromyalgia, the team at Better Health Chiropractic and Physical Rehab would like to help. Call for a same day appointment or click here to make an appointment online. We would be happy to check your insurance and if you don’t have insurance, you will want to read this article.
Don’t live with untreated fibromyalgia pain. We want to help you live your best possible life! Call us today and find out why more Alaskans trust our 3-promise pledge!