Last week I discussed what fibromyalgia is and some of the criteria that must be fulfilled to receive a proper diagnosis. If you have already been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, then you are very much aware that there is no simple treatment. In most cases, it is what the patients can do for themselves rather than what the health care practitioners can do for them.
Like most chiropractors, I am currently treating many fibromyalgia patients. As with any syndrome, some patients respond well and others not so well. The muscles of a fibromyalgia patient are often very tight and extremely tender to the touch. These tight muscles attach to many different bones throughout the body. These bones may be the vertebrae of the spine (neck and/or back), the pelvis, the shoulders, and even the knees. When these tight muscles are applying a constant pull on the bones, the joints at that area will not have their full movement. When any joint has a restricted movement, it will eventually begin to feel stiff and achy. If this situation is left untreated, the joints can become quite painful. When any patient, with fibromyalgia or not, is experiencing pain in a joint, the body will try to protect that area by even further tightening the neighboring muscles. You can now see how the muscle spasm from fibromyalgia causes joint stiffness, which leads to joint pain, which leads to more muscle spasm, which leads to further joint stiffness, which leads to even more joint pain. This cycle propagates itself until you cannot sleep at night, you feel fatigued, and any amount of activity causes pain.
In terms of conservative or natural treatment, this is where the chiropractor and massage therapist come in. The chiropractor is well trained to identify what joints are being affected and how to restore their movement. This will allow the joints to function in a healthier state and become less painful. The chiropractic treatment is most successful when used in conjunction with massage therapy. Without addressing the muscle spasm at the same time, the joints will just become stiff and sore again.
As I mentioned earlier, it is unreasonable for anyone to expect even a team of health care practitioners to decrease their fibromyalgia symptoms without the patient doing his or her part. Because people with this syndrome find it painful to move, they often limit their physical activity. Their muscles become weak and tight from inactivity and the tendons, ligaments, and cartilage are more prone to injury. Despite the extra pain that it may cause, patients should try to get even a few minutes of exercise per day. The key is to start gradually and do only low impact, higher repetition exercises.
If you were expecting to find out that there was a simple and quick treatment for fibromyalgia, I am sorry to say that it doesn’t exist. There are many potential causes of the symptoms and there is no one chiropractic doctor, medical doctor, or massage therapist that can do it all for you. It is generally a team approach that requires you to do your part as well.