Fibromyalgia and Chiropractic
Fibromyalgia is a condition that has been becoming more common and receiving more attention within the last few years. Fibromyalgia causes pain and achiness throughout the body, generalized fatigue, and many other associated symptoms. Up to 3-5% of the population suffers from fibromyalgia, and it is more common in women. While it is not life threatening, its symptoms can impact the way you live your life.
What causes fibromyalgia to develop? No clear cause of fibromyalgia has been determined, but there are several theories. One common theory is that an abnormality of deep sleep causes a decrease in the production of certain hormones. People with fibromyalgia generally do not have a problem falling asleep, but their deep sleep is interrupted with bursts of awake-like brain activity. The lack of deep sleep results in less hormone production. This causes fibromyalgia patients to be more susceptible to pain.
How do you know if you have fibromyalgia? Generally, you feel like you have the flu all of the time. You are very achy and tender all over your body, and you are very fatigued. You may feel like your brain is fogged, and you have problems concentrating throughout the day. Usually, there is a traumatic or emotionally stressful event that initially brings on the symptoms. There are also many other secondary symptoms that are associated with fibromyalgia. These symptoms include irritable bowel syndrome, restless legs syndrome, chronic headaches, irritable bladder syndrome, TMJ syndrome, dry eyes and mouth, depression, and anxiety. All symptoms of fibromyalgia can be exacerbated with stress, over-exertion, premenstrual syndrome, menopause, and weather changes.
How do you Diagnose Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia can be accurately diagnosed by your chiropractic physician. Your doctor will assess 18 tender points on the body. There must be pain in 11 of 18 tender points, pain above and below the waist, pain on the right and left side of the body, and the pain must be present for at least 3 months. The presence of these tender points, combined with your health history and symptoms, will determine if you have fibromyalgia or not.
Relief from Fibromyalgia
So what can you do to cope with and deal with fibromyalgia? The most important thing is to obtain an accurate diagnosis from your chiropractic physician. While body aches and fatigue are the defining characteristics of fibromyalgia, they can also be symptoms of other more serious conditions. Once diagnosed, your chiropractor can also help you deal with your fibromyalgia. By using gentle chiropractic adjustments, gentle stretching, and physical therapies, your chiropractor can help lower the sensitivity of your muscles. This treatment often results in less aches and pains. Your chiropractor may also make nutritional recommendations to ensure your body has enough vitamins and minerals to repair itself and maintain healthy tissues.
Fibromyalgia and Exercise
There are also two important things you can do to help yourself cope with fibromyalgia. The first step is incorporating light aerobic exercise into your life. Exercise results in more hormone production that can help make up for some of the hormone production lost during abnormal sleep. Start with just 5 minutes per day of walking, yoga, or low impact aerobics (like Curves), and gradually increase your tolerance up to 20-30 minutes per day. The other important step is learning to listen to your body. If you begin to get fatigued or achy, stop what you are doing, and take a break. You may find you need to break up housework into small half-hour intervals. Asking for help from your family, and learning to take on only what you can comfortably handle are also important steps to managing fibromyalgia symptoms.