This blog post explores fibromyalgia treatment, symptoms and causes. We have also linked some useful websites at the end of this post for further reading including FibroIreland – the Irish Fibromyalgia association which offers a support network for patients with fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia is a long-term condition that causes widespread, musculoskeletal pain all over the body and can be accompanied by a broad spectrum of additional conditions such as:
- Muscle stiffness
- Extreme tiredness
- Irritable bowel syndrome.
- Memory issues
What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a long-term condition characterised by widespread pain throughout the whole body. It is also characterised by an acute pain response to pressure at multiple body sites. The World Health Organisation formally recognised and included fibromyalgia within the international classification of diseases in 1992. As of today, fibromyalgia is not classified as either a long-term illness or a disability in Ireland. It was debated as recently as April 2019 in the Oireachtas but there was no change to the classification.
Living with Pain:
A diagnosis of fibromyalgia can be a daunting experience. However, like any long-term condition, living with fibromyalgia can be managed with a combination of exercise rehabilitation, sleep, diet and stress management techniques
How common is fibromyalgia?
While anyone can develop fibromyalgia and at any age, this condition is mainly diagnosed in women. The most common age range to receive a diagnosis of fibromyalgia is between 30 and 60 years. Globally, it affects an estimated 1 in 20 people.
What Causes Fibromyalgia?
Research is still ongoing to understand exactly what causes fibromyalgia. Some studies are indicating repeated nerve stimulation causes the brains of people with fibromyalgia to change. This change involves abnormalities in levels of certain chemicals in the brain that signal and receive pain.
The brain of fibromyalgia sufferers seems to develop a memory of the pain and over time becomes more sensitive to pain and touch. This leads to an overreaction of pain signals in the central nervous system. As a result, a person with fibromyalgia will have a lower pain threshold and will experience extreme sensitivity to pain. The exact mechanisms giving rise to this process are still unclear.
Poor sleep quality commonly preceds the onset of fibromyalgia. Because sleep quality has a huge impact on nervous system and brain health it is very important to address sleep quality to dampen down the activation of the parts of the nervous system that facilitate pain. The brain detoxifies in the latter hours of sleep and, when this is lacking, then nerve cell function can be gradually impaired.
Recently, the relationship of leptin concentrations in pain was investigated. Leptin is a protein that’s made in the fat cells, circulates in the bloodstream, and goes to the brain. It regulates our sense of hunger and can be impaired in those who are overweight or have poor blood sugar control. Leptin is involved in activating the immune system and is responsible for pro-inflammatory cytokine release. Blood samples from women suffering from fibromyalgia demonstrate that increased leptin is associated with a higher pain intensity
Who are the risk factors for developing widespread pain?
- Sex: This condition is more likely to affect females
- Age: This condition tends to appear in early or middle adulthood.
- Family History: If there is a history of fibromyalgia in the family
- Physical or psychological trauma: If you have suffered damage to your tissues or an emotional trauma, such as a death
- Other disorders: Lupus, osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis
Recent research has looked at the role of the immune system in the development of fibromyalgia pain. Researchers have linked the presence of inflammatory markers (interleukins) linked to pain severity & demonstrates a direct link between inflammation and pain. A constant state of systemic inflammation is suggested to link to the pathology of the condition.
Does Chiropractic Treatment Help with Fibromyalgia?
A new study from the journal Rheumatology International reported that chiropractic care is effective as a fibromyalgia treatment to reduce symptoms.
The study involved 120 participants who reported severe pain associated with fibromyalgia of four years or greater duration. All participants underwent 12 weeks of therapy that incorporated an education programme, cognitive behavioral therapy and an exercise programme involving three one-hour sessions per week & a twenty minute home exercise programme performed twice daily.
Interestingly, half of the participants were randomly assigned to undergo chiropractic adjustments of the upper cervical spine.
They underwent treatment three times per week for the first month. This was then reduced to once a week sessions for the remaining eight weeks.
The group undergoing chiropractic care showed greater improvement than the control group. This was evident by a 15 percent or greater improvement in questionnaire scores monitoring pain & functional outcomes. The authors suggest that chiropractic care may offer additional benefits when combined with standard care.
- Fibromyalgia Ireland – https://fibroireland.com/
- Arthritis Ireland – https://www.arthritisireland.ie/fibromyalgia
- Chronic Pain Ireland – https://www.chronicpain.ie/content/fibroireland
For further information see our website page on: https://www.physioclinic.ie/treatments/fibromyalgia/
Moustafa IM, Diab AA. The addition of upper cervical manipulative therapy in the treatment of patients with fibromyalgia: a randomized controlled trial. Rheumatology International 2015; 35(7): 1163-1174.