Fibromyalgia (FM) is a very common condition affecting approximately ten million Americans (2-4% of the population)—with a ratio of about four women to each man with the disease. Part of the diagnosis and treatment challenge is that many of the complaints associated with FM occur in ALL of us at some point, such as fatigue, generalized whole body aches/pains, non-restorative sleep, depression, anxiety, etc. So what is the difference between the FM sufferer and those without it? Let’s take a look!
The primary distinction between patients with FM and the “rest of us” has to do with the word “chronic.” This term means “…persisting for a long time or constantly recurring; long-standing, long-term.” In fact, the term “fibromyalgia” is described as a complex chronic pain disorder that causes widespread pain and tenderness that may present body wide or migrate around the body. It is also known to “wax and wane over time,” meaning it flares up and down, off and on.
The diagnosis of FM is typically made by eliminating every other possible cause. Hence, after blood tests and x-ray or other imaging, the ABSENCE of other problems helps nail down the diagnosis of “primary fibromyalgia.” Then there is “secondary fibromyalgia,” which is DUE TO a known disorder or condition such as after trauma (like a car accident), rheumatoid arthritis, migraine headache, irritable bowel syndrome, “GERD” (which is heart burn due to reflux), pelvic pain, overactive bladder, tempromandibular joint dysfunction (jaw pain, with or without ringing in the ears), or stress. It’s also often accompanied by anxiety, depression, and/or some other mental health condition.
It should be clearly understood that there is no “cure” for FM. It has also been widely reported in many studies that the BEST management approach for FM is through a TEAM of healthcare providers. This team is frequently made up of primary care doctors, doctors of chiropractic, massage therapists, mental / behavioral specialists, physical therapists, and perhaps others (acupuncturist, nutritionist, stress management specialists, and more).
The “general” treatment approach is typically done with medications, cognitive behavioral therapies (CBT), gentle exercise, and manual therapies. Additionally, patients are encouraged to participate in the healing process via self-management strategies that focus on reducing stress and fatigue, optimizing diet, and developing a consistent sleep habit.
Think of the role of the chiropractor as a strong member of the team. A doctor of chiropractic can offer many of the known methods of managing FM described above, as their training includes diet and nutrition, stress management, exercise training, and ability to provide “whole person care.” Treatments delivered in the chiropractic setting like spinal manipulation, mobilization, and massage offer GREAT relief to FM patients! Again, coordinating care between various providers is the best approach, but you need someone willing and able to do that. A doctor of chiropractic is a great choice!
It is very difficult to manage FM on your own. Let a doctor of chiropractic tailor a treatment plan that is appealing to you and your specific interests. Managing FM is definitely NOT a “…one size fits all” approach like an inhaler is for asthma. Each individual’s situation is too highly unique!