Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition. It affects as many as 4% of those living in the United States. It is known for widespread pain that usually affects the muscles and ligaments. This condition was previously known as fibrosis. Mostly women are affected.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
There are a number fibromyalgia symptoms and signs, including some of the following:
- Chronic pain throughout the body and might be in the muscles, bones, or joints
- Extreme exhaustion
- Tenderness throughout the body
- Not getting a good night’s rest even when you slept well
- Depression or anxiety
- Forgetfulness, poor concentration, and other cognitive difficulties called fibro fog
- Chest wall pain
- Abdominal pain
- Dry eyes
- Dry mouth
- Heart palpitations
- Bladder symptoms
- Pelvic pain
- Weight gain
- Allergies and chemical sensitivities
- Numbness and tingling
What Causes Fibromyalgia?
It has been established that fibromyalgia is genetic in nature, and it often comes about after you have been involved in a stressful event:
- Emotional stress — a traumatic life event
- Physical stress — a motor vehicle accident
- Medical stress — certain infections, illnesses, or surgery
Sometimes it can be brought about by another health condition, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and other health conditions and autoimmune diseases.
The pain of fibromyalgia seems to come from the way in which the spinal cord and brain process pain sensations. Fibromyalgia patients have a lower threshold for pain overall. This means pain is felt more intensely as it is amplified by the abnormalities present in the central nervous system. This makes things that would not be painful to someone without the condition very painful for those with fibromyalgia. For example, most people find a massage to be relaxing and enjoyable. Those with fibromyalgia may actually find massages to be quite painful. Something like a small backache can be felt as very extreme back pain in fibromyalgia sufferers due to the way the central nervous system processes pain sensations.
Who Is at Risk to Develop Fibromyalgia?
There is quite a bit of evidence suggesting a strong link to genetics when it comes to this condition. Parents, children, and siblings of people with fibromyalgia have eight times more risk of getting it than those with no relatives with the condition. Several genes have been suspected to play a role in fibromyalgia. When looking closely at twins that have the condition, it seems as if half of the risk is genetic and half is environmental.
Another thing that can put you at greater risk is having an autoimmune disorder. In these people, fibromyalgia is referred to as secondary because it is likely the autoimmune disorder triggered it. Any type of emotional trauma or physical injury (especially involving the spine and torso) can be another reason fibromyalgia occurs.
The Tender Spots of Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is most known for widespread pain and tenderness. This includes multiple areas of the body and most commonly in joints, tendons, and muscles. Stiffness in the joints also occurs. Pain is felt both above and below the waist. Sometimes it is localized, often in the shoulders and neck or low back. The pain of fibromyalgia is considered chronic, present for more than 3 months. It is common for sufferers to say they hurt all over or feel like they have the flu. Some days are worse than others, and many patients report having flare-ups where the pain is more intense for a few days in a row.
How Fibromyalgia Is Linked to the Central Nervous System
A study has been done that proves there is a definite connection between the central nervous system and fibromyalgia. German researchers looked at the role of the central nervous system in conjunction with the onset of fibromyalgia. They found that pain processing is definitely altered in those with fibromyalgia. There also discovered a clear distinction between fibromyalgia and depression, although the two conditions can co-exist. Here are some highlights from the study:
- Fibromyalgia patients have lower pressure pain thresholds and higher pain intensities
- At-threshold pain stimulation causes cerebral activation that does not occur in those without the condition
- These patients register pain on both sides of the brain, even if it is experienced on one side only
- Those with lower cortical activation did better in the test than those with high cortical activation
- Cognitive performance did not differ when compared to control subjects, while prefrontal activation was distinct between those with fibromyalgia and depression
This is exciting news for those with the condition, as it helps doctors to better understand what is happening when you experience fibromyalgia. So, now we must ask: What is causing the central nervous system to react improperly?
Fibromyalgia and the Central Nervous System
The brainstem, the part of the central nervous system that controls many functions of the body, can be negatively impacted by a misalignment in the bones of the upper neck. The C1 and C2 vertebrae were specially designed to protect the brainstem from damage. However, if they become misaligned due to an injury to the head or neck, they can put the brainstem under stress. This can cause it to send faulty signals to the brain. For example, it may send improper signals about the amount of pain the body is experiencing, leading to symptoms of fibromyalgia.
We examine our patients closely for these tiny misalignments. Even if they are only ¼ of a millimeter, they can cause a number of serious problems due to the fact that the brainstem is involved. We use a gentle method to help these bones move back into place without the force of cracking or popping the spine. This often results in relief of the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. Patients report feeling better overall in many cases.