22 Nov November 22, 2010

Conservative Approaches to Managing Fibromyalgia

Dr. Sadie Rausenberger, DC

I wake up in the morning feeling unrested, but pull myself out of bed for yet another day of living in constant pain with most movements.  I am feeling very frustrated because I had to turn down an invitation to go hiking with a friend.  I just know it’s going to cause a flare up.    This repetitive pain and tenderness all over my body has made me just not want to do anything, and also led me to be depressed, feeling sad, and almost like my brain is foggy…..when will this ever end????????

Does this sound like you or someone you know?  The above paragraph is a day in the life of a person with Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS).  The National Fibromyalgia Research Association defines Fibromyalgia (FM) as a complex, chronic condition of widespread muscular pain and fatigue. Research shows that about 2 percent of all adults in the US have fibromyalgia (3.5 percent of women, 0.5 percent of men). In total numbers, that means that more than 6 million, and possibly as many as 11 million Americans meet the criteria for fibromyalgia. It affects women more than men in an approximate ratio of 9:1.1

  • Pain and always feeling tired may keep FMS sufferers from their chosen profession, daily activities, and leisurely activities or exercise they enjoy.
  • Symptoms are commonly seen between 20-55 years of age.
  • Fibromyalgia pain continues throughout a person’s lifetime.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic rheumatic syndrome characterized by widespread pain, fatigue, and low energy.  It affects millions of Americans, mostly women, and can be both physically and emotionally draining. Fortunately, there are treatment options available to help reduce the pain of fibromyalgia and it’s related conditions without the use of drugs.

Living with FM can become much more manageable once you start seeing a health care practitioner who focuses on all aspects of the condition and the symptoms it creates.  There are several areas to consider when trying to manage FM.    The most important areas include nervous system function, sleep, diet, and exercise therapy.

The innate intelligence your body harbors is the key to getting better.  Gentle, low force chiropractic procedures reduce pressure on nerves which enables proper function of the nervous system.  Once the brain and nervous system start feeling the restoration of the nerve impulses, your body can function at it’s maximum potential.

Treatment can help to improve range of motion, reduce aches and pains, and relieve muscle spasm.  Recent studies have shown that adjusting any fixated part of the spine may reduce the irritability of trigger points in muscles innervated by that part of the spine.

Exercise and strength training has been proven to reduce the diffuse pain of FM and also improve sleep patterns/quality.  A study done by the Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercises Sciences Program at Florida State University concluded that in women with FM, they had improved strength with resistance.  Also, when chiropractic treatment was added, patients had decreased drop out rates to the strength training program and were able to do their normal daily activities with less pain.3

Individualized exercise programs can help alleviate the pain associated with the syndrome.  Exercise has proven to be one of the most natural treatments for FM because it helps the body to produce more serotonin and adrenaline, which are both natural pain relievers.  Studies have shown that increased resistance training, cardiovascular exercise, and regular stretching can help reduce the diffuse pain of FM.

Specific lifestyle changes and nutritional supplementation can improve energy, sleep, and help to manage stress.  Simple approaches include the use of vitamin supplements to combat stress, replace deficiencies, and support the immune system.  Nutritional therapy can also be helpful in counteracting stress, ridding the body of toxins, and restoring nutrients which have been malabsorbed by the body. These changes will also help to naturally reduce pain, inflammation, and help to promote healing.

Massage therapy can reduce the pain, stiffness, and tender points caused by fibromyalgia syndrome. Massage therapy enhances the production of certain pain blockers, including endorphins, serotonin, and norepinephrine. These hormones work to counteract pain signals conducted by the brain, and this would explain why massage offers such dramatic pain relief.  A published study showed fibromyalgia sufferers reported a 38% decrease in pain symptoms after receiving just ten, 30 minute massage sessions. They also reported they slept for longer periods at a time and were disturbed less by sleep disorders.

There are many different approaches to managing Fibromyalgia.  A combination of lifestyle changes, chiropractic care, specific exercises therapy, and massage therapy can help to alleviate symptoms associated with Fibromyalgia.  If you have, or know of someone who is suffering from this disease, please contact our office for a consultation.

1National Fibromyalgia Research Foundation. www.nfra.net

2Cailliet R. Pain: Mechanisms and Management. Philadelphia: F. A. Davis; 1993.

3Pub Med. J Altern Complement Med.  2009 Mar; 15(3):321-8.

Tags: , , , ,