Fibromyalgia Treatment

Advance Health Blog

Fibromyalgia Treatment

Chris Goetz - Monday, May 13, 2013

What is the best way to treat Fibromyalgia?

Goetz with CaptionMost of the time when we experience pain, it is centralized in a particular part of the body.  The sources of back pain or a headache, or more specific pain like an ear ache or the pain from a sprained wrist, are often readily apparent and a course of action obvious.  There is, however, a small portion of the population, maybe 3 or 4 percent, that suffers from a disorder characterized by chronic widespread pain that affects many parts of the body at once.

Fibromyalgia is a disorder that can develop from psychological, genetic and environmental factors.  Patients with fibromyalgia suffer from chronic bouts of pain throughout the body, most commonly in the extremities.  Another primary symptom is a heightened, painful reaction to any pressure applied to the body.  Other common symptoms include moderate to severe fatigue, sleep disorders, stiffness in the joints and detrimental effects on memory and mood.  In some cases patients may experience tingling sensations, muscle spasms and twitching and even irritable bowel.  Fibromyalgia occurs nine times more often in women than in men, but it is also a widely under-diagnosed condition.

Although its cause is unknown, fibromyalgia often exists simultaneously with stress related disorders and psychological disorders like anxiety and depression.  Some researchers believe these conditions may actually contribute to the onset of fibromyalgia.  Relationships have also been established with poor health, obesity and behavioral choices like smoking, drinking, and lack physical activity.  The neuro-chemical irregularities that accompany fibromyalgia can also cause fatigue, sleep and mood problems, perhaps explaining why they occur together.  While not all medical professionals agree on the cause, the American College of Rheumatology has defined these criteria for the diagnosis of fibromyalgia:

  • A history of widespread pain in all four quadrants of the body, lasting more than three months
  • Pain in at least 11 of 18 designated tender points, although a person with the disorder may also experience pain in other areas of the body

Since its causes are unknown, fibromyalgia has no common treatment or cure.  Instead, treatment usually consists of managing its symptoms.  What developments there have been over the years in understanding fibromyalgia have led to more success in treating it.  In particular, treatment plans may include medication, chiropractic, patient education, psychological and behavioral therapy as well as stretching and exercise regimens.  Many holistic and natural approaches can also provide benefits.

The US Food and Drug Administration approved pregabalin and milnacipran as medications to treat fibromyalgia.  Some antidepressants like duloxetine and amitriptyline can reduce pain, fatigue, depression and sleep disorders and have been used successfully in treating fibromyalgia.  Their long term use, however, should be closely monitored for side effects.

Chiropractic adjustments to the neck and back are known to have a restorative effect on the entire body, and many fibromyalgia patients find that chiropractic care offers relief of all over body pain. Chiropractic care keeps the muscles from losing mobility, or tightening.  Loss of movement and pliability causes a neurological reflex and tightening of the muscles, leading to pain and the development of fibromyalgia trigger points.  A routine of regular chiropractic adjustments, at least once or twice a week, will keep muscles mobile and relaxed, helping to reduce the onset of pain.  Chiropractic care is often provided alongside physical therapies like massage therapy, ultrasound and electrical muscle stimulation, which are all excellent for relieving stress and pain.

Chiropractic can also provide relief from cervical spine stenosis, a condition often suffered by fibromyalgia patients.  This condition compresses the covering of the upper spine, causing severe pain all over the body.  Chiropractic care works to specifically relieve pressure and the compression caused by cervical spine stenosis.

Many natural approaches have been found to have positive, quantifiable effects on fibromyalgia symptoms and pain.  A daily dose of 300 - 600 milligrams of magnesium can dramatically reduce the number of tender points experienced by a fibromyalgia patient.  Vitamin B has a similar effect.  Increased consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish, flax and walnut oil, paired with a reduction in saturated fats, will help prevent interferences and deficiencies in the nervous system that lead to fibromyalgia symptoms.  Acupuncture is another effective approach in relieving the pain and stress oof fibromyalgia.

Behavioral changes can be very effective in treating the symptoms of fibromyalgia as well as reducing its onset.  Improving health by quitting smoking, losing weight and regulating sleep are known to be effective.  Exercise will, of course, improve health and fitness as well as sleep and is therefore recommended to combat symptoms.  Cardiovascular exercise is strongly connected to a reduction in fibromyalgia symptoms in some patients, though most professionals will recommend an exercise program based on strengthening and stretching muscles that also emphasizes relaxation and breathing techniques like Pilates, yoga or tai chi.

Fibromyalgia, although rare, can have a dramatic effect on a patient.  The pain and accompanying fatigue and other symptoms can be debilitating and very disruptive to one's life.  While there is no known cure, your doctor can help manage symptoms and the condition.  With proper lifestyle choices, good health and the help of your physician, fibromyalgia can be controlled instead of controlling.

Dr. Chris Goetz was an offensive lineman with the San Diego Chargers and New York Jets from 1990-1992. Having seen the benefits of therapy as he recuperated from his NFL injuries, he decided to enroll in Chiropractic Medicine school and dedicate himself to bringing relief and wellness to others. He has been Owner/Director of Advance Health Services of Miami since 1999.