Fibromyalgia is a debilitating disease affecting nearly 5 million Americans. It is characterized by widespread pain throughout the body with no specific cause. In addition to chronic pain, people who suffer with fibromyalgia also usually suffer with an inability to get restful sleep, depression and general exhaustion. There are no specific tests that can definitively diagnose fibromyalgia. There are no changes that blood work would show, or studies of the brain or nervous system that show any abnormalities. The diagnosis of fibromyalgia then becomes one of exclusion. Meaning once all other potential diseases or causes have been ruled out through blood work, brain scans, MRIs etc. the only thing left is fibromyalgia. Since the primary symptom of fibromyalgia is chronic pain and pain from stimulants that shouldn’t cause pain, like light pressure, it is believed to start with the nervous system in some form, but again the specific cause eludes research at this time.
With no identifiable specific cause, treatments focus on solely managing the symptoms. Therefore patients will be put on medications to manage the pain, medications to help them sleep, and medications for the anxiety or depression. After taking all of these medications less than 50% of the patients who are on them show any improvement.
So we know that fibromyalgia starts with some miscommunication in the nervous system, and we can see that the medications provide little relief and don’t focus on any potential cause. What if there was a treatment that focused on evaluating how the nervous system was functioning and worked on correcting any problems with that nervous system dysfunction allowing the body to function properly and heal itself?
Chiropractic care is a treatment that does just that. The goal of a Chiropractor is to evaluate how a patient’s spine is moving and what it looks like structurally. Any misalignments, or subluxations, of the spine will put pressure on the delicate nerves as they exit the spine and reduce the flow of energy through the nervous system. These subluxations can also put pressure on the spinal cord itself, directly through the structural shifts and indirectly by affecting the flow of the fluid around the spinal cord and brain. A chiropractic adjustment will normalize the movement and structure of areas of the spine which are subluxated restoring normal flow of the signals in the nervous system.
This particular case study involves a woman who had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia 2 ½ years before seeking Chiropractic care. Her symptoms were like so many with fibromyalgia. She had pain in her back and legs down to her feet, suffered from headaches, depression, fatigue, sinus infections, and difficulty sleeping. She followed the route many with this disease start on. She was on 5 different medications for pain and one for depression. She had done a year’s worth of physical therapy with no relief. Worried about the side effects of the medication and not getting any relief she sought out Chiropractic care.
Her Chiropractic exam revealed several interesting findings. First it’s important to note a Chiropractic exam does not just focus on her pain symptoms. The Chiropractic exam serves to evaluate the condition of her spine. It’s structure, or overall shape, and how it moves and functions. The spine is housing and protecting the spinal cord where all signals from the brain travel en route to the parts of the body they control.
Her Chiropractic exam revealed that the very top bone, or vertebra, in her neck was out of alignment. It also showed the normal forward curve of her spine in her neck was significantly reduced. These two misalignments put strain on the brain stem, the upper part of the spinal cord, and the nerves as they exit between the spinal bones. There is a control center in this area of the upper spinal cord and brain stem. Guess what it controls.
If you guessed pain sensations and sleep you’re correct! So you can clearly see how a misalignment of the spine can stress the spinal cord and nerves interfering with a major control center within the nervous system that controls the very problem areas in fibromyalgia; pain and sleep disturbances.
Our patient in this study was adjusted by the Chiropractor to correct the misalignment in the bones in her neck. She was checked and adjusted as needed over the course of several months. At her re-evaluation it was found that the normal forward curve in her neck had been restored, and her upper neck bones, or vertebra, were no longer misaligned. Correcting those misalignments makes the Chiropractor excited but what excited the patient was that she no longer had any pain, was sleeping well, returned to exercising and had chosen to discontinue her pain medications. She had her life back!
Chiropractic care to correct misalignments in the spine allows the nervous system to function properly. In this case it allowed the areas of her spine that controlled the sensations of pain to function normally again. With no interference the body can heal itself and do amazing things.
It’s as simple as that.
By: Dr Scott Szela
ref: Upper Cervical Chiropractic Research – October 21, 2014