Fibromyalgia is a Global Problem

What do I mean by global? Well it does occur in countries around the world, but more to the point, fibromyalgia is only one piece of a complex full-body puzzle. Patients with fibromyalgia will report widespread pain in the neck, back and in other areas, but there's also much more to the story.

Usually, patients will have sympathetic activation-stressed nerves, which can result in a depressed immune system, obesity, TMJ problems, and even high blood pressure. Headaches are also quite common, as are other aches and pains. Fibromyalgia sufferers usually have a long list of symptoms they have had over the years.


And after years of pain, most patients have avoided certain movements and exercises, thus further diminishing their quality of life.


This can all seem daunting to many doctors who want to find a pill for every pain. You may have also been prescribed antidepressants thinking this would get at this global bodily disorder.

There is not one thing that seems to help these types of patients-no silver bullet. If there were such a cure, I'd do it tomorrow.


Rather you need to address the problem globally by correcting misalignments of the full spine and extremities, and making sure your joints are moving properly. Diet is also an issue. For many patients they will need to lose weight and I can assist in doing this in a controlled way. Most patients need guidance about certain foods and fats that promote inflammation, which is a key point in addressing symptoms.


There may also be certain chemicals that you are ingesting that are contributing to the problem, rather than helping.


Lastly, all of my patients need to start exercising. Being a couch potato is no solution for fibromyalgia. Inactivity and inflexibility just makes joint and muscle pains worse.

I start patients off with simple daily stretches to add flexibility followed by walking. Some patients can barely get out of bed, so we start with walking to the end of the block. The goal is to get up to 15-30 minutes of fast paced walking each day. Once your weight is down to a manageable level, I encourage patients to join a gym, so they can develop more strength in all of their muscles. This comprehensive approach I believe is key to addressing fibromyalgia symptoms, as well as other important health problems that often accompany it.


Fibromyalgia?...Got Blood?

The pain of fibromyalgia (FM) can be debilitating, as anyone with the condition can tell you. What has perplexed researchers over the years is the source of this pain. Is it scarred muscle tissue? Nerve pain? Is it something in your head? Perhaps the adrenal glands are involved or maybe it's the stress hormone called cortisol?


A recent article in the journal Medical Hypothesis brings forth some of the common features of FM pain. It is well known that exercise eases the pain in FM. But why is this? Shouldn't exercise cause more pain? We have often heard the slogan "no pain, no gain." Maybe this is true for the gym bodybuilder but in FM, exercise makes muscles hurt less, not more. One theory is that the pain in FM brought on by poor circulation. Put simply, a lack of blood supply (and oxygen to muscle tissue) is key to muscle aches.


Exercise causes the blood vessels in your muscles to open up, bringing much needed blood, nutrients and oxygen to the muscle cells. The lack of blood supply is called ischemia and exercise seems to reduce it. This may be why exercise is so beneficial to FM patients.


As your muscles ache with lack of movement and stress, perhaps it's time to take a new direction, and become more active with exercise. Simple walking is a good place to start, followed by resistance strength training, targeting specific muscle groups.


Your doctor of chiropractic can outline a specific exercise routine that not only gets the blood moving to your muscles, but also does not move you so much or too fast, where potential joint injuries can occur. So start slow at first and gauge your progress conservatively. If you find even simple exercises cause joint pain, then this is a different matter altogether and should be brought to the attention of your doctor


Once you begin exercising you may find that additional sleep and rest will be needed, so that you recover adequately from each day's activities. Combining exercise with proper nutrition and a low-inflammatory type of diet, are natural ways to combat the muscle pain of FM and get you back into the game.

This natural approach is much preferred to medication, which can often have long-term side effects. Discuss any medications with your doctor before discontinuing them. Some patients will go through withdrawal symptoms, but there is hope for those who want to deal with FM by integrating an progressive exercise program into their daily routine.


Fibromyalgia and Its Causes

A lot of fibromyalgia sufferers don't know about the important linkage of their disease to spinal trauma. Indeed for many years fibromyalgia was thought to be a part of whiplash injuries of the neck it occurred so commonly. There are many scientific research papers that show for many patients, whiplash and spinal trauma occurs more frequently in fibromyalgia patients.

Fibromyalgia diagnosis is based on widespread bodily AND spinal pain. Spinal pain is a necessary part of the diagnosis. Most patients think that fibromyalgia is more a problem of pain sensitivity by the brain. While this is important, you have to also consider why are you susceptible to such little pressure at various points. What makes your nerves so responsive? In many cases it is nerve irritation at the spinal level. When the spine is injured, the joint is sprained and there is damage to the ligaments and disks. This is called a subluxation. Overtime the muscles become more involved and tight.


For some patients, these problems are so substantial that there becomes sensitivity to pressure where the nerve from the spine feeds the arms and legs. The result is pain all over, and more and more restriction of movement. But lack of movement doesn't help the problem. It generally makes the pain worse.


It is important to become more active if you have fibromyalgia pain. Not doing daily work activities and exercise for fear of pain is a syndrome called pain-avoidance behavior. It's important to break the cycle with walking, gradually increasing distances.


Research has shown that progressive exercise (even resistance training with weights) can help ease the pain of fibromyalgia and improve quality of life. With chiropractic care you can make the spine more flexible and able to withstand the stresses of exercise. Multiple scientific studies have shown that chiropractic adjustments improve spinal pain symptoms. Combined with a sound nutritional program that provides the fuel your body needs, this multimodal approach addresses many needs of the fibromyalgia patient. Dealing with a complex problem like fibromyaglia with drugs is no solution, and often carries unintended side effects, especially when consumed over long periods of time.


Every fibromyalgia patient needs a detailed spinal examination by a doctor of chiropractic to identify areas of sprain (subluxation). When the movement of the joint is restored, this can impact on activity and the strength of your body to resist life's stresses. Exercising is easier when there is less pain, and progressive exercise is key to the recovery from fibromyalgia


Fibromyalgia, Syndrome X
& Antioxidants

Syndrome X is called the lifestyle disease or metabolic syndrome. Patients with this disorder are overweight, have high cholesterol (i.e. LDLs) levels, and high blood pressure. They may also have insulin resistance or even be diabetic. This syndrome leads to heart disease, stroke, type II diabetes, and even certain types of cancer. Most of the major diseases are caused by bad behaviors or lifestyles, and not our genes. Who our parents are is very important, but not as much as diet and environment.


Patients with fibromyalgia are more likely to have syndrome X. When you consider fibromyalgia treatment, a global and holistic approach is needed. Doctors of Chiropractic can help to keep your spine pain to a minimum so that you can exercise and get strong again. While these aspects of health care are critical, you need to also consider good nutrition when taking on the challenge of fibromyalgia symptoms. There are several nutritional deficiencies that have been noted in this disease.


Studies have shown that when the blood is measured in both fibromylagia and syndrome X patients, there are lower levels of antioxidants when compared to those without these diseases. Patients who had the greatest amounts of pain also had the lowest levels of antioxidants. Antioxidant blood levels are affected by how much stress you are under, and also your consumption of proper nutrients.


Most of us do not have large daily intakes of fruits of vegetables. Kale, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and bell peppers, need to take the place of soda and chips. Five daily servings at a minimum are needed. The western diet has far too much fat, especially saturated fat, too much meat, too little fiber and vegetables, and too many calories overall. A plant-based diet (e.g. vegan) has been shown in one study to lessen fibromyalgia symptoms. You may not have to go as far as vegan or vegetarian, but eating meat at every meal is the other extreme.

Supplementation of a balanced diet with vitamins C and E are recommended for most patients, to ensure adequate levels of anti-oxidants.


Maintaining a healthy body weight with also lower your oxidative stress and make you need less antioxidants to counter the excessive weight. Taking a holistic and natural approach by looking at spine structure, exercise and stretching, and diet will give you the best tools for fighting fibromyalgia without drugs and their untoward side effects.


Vitamin C and Muscle Pain

Patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia use a variety of different complementary and alternative treatments. Since medications and surgery are rarely indicated, the use of safer (less toxic) alternatives has become widespread. About 1/3 to ½ of patients will report trying different treatments, such as exercise programs, prayer, chiropractic, and vitamin supplements.

Antioxidants such as certain vitamins may offer an important link to muscle pain and fibromyalgia symptoms in some patients. Long used by athletes to speed wound healing and recovery from work-outs, vitamin C has now caught the attention of researchers, who are trying to see how this vitamin works and whether it is effective as a supplement for patients with fibromyalgia.


Sometimes patients will take individual nutrients for particular symptoms or because that was what was recommended by a doctor. Other times the nutrient is part of a larger regimen including food and weight loss advice, other vitamins, minerals, and herbs. Most patients take a variety of supplements but what they take varies a lot from patient to patient.

The "Myers cocktail" is based on the work of the late John Myers, MD. Alan R. Gaby, MD, has modified this and used it as an intravenous vitamin-and-mineral formula for the treatment of a wide range of clinical conditions, including fibromyalgia. It consists of magnesium, calcium, B vitamins, and vitamin C.


Patients who have experienced traumas have essentially suffered tissue and cellular damage. Antioxidants are part of the repair mechanism for cell healing. Vitamin C is important for tissue repair and its concentrations are lowered in patients who have suffered a trauma.

One study of twelve fibromyalgia patients showed supplementing with vitamin C (500 mg daily) showed a 17-20% decrease in symptoms. Because Vitamin C, in particular, has little known toxic effects at high doses, a few to several grams can be recommended daily. The vitamin should be buffered to minimize stomach irritation. Bowl tolerance (loose stools) occurs when the body is saturated with the vitamin. One way to ingest buffered vitamin C is to take one gram each hour until bowl tolerance is reached. That amount would then be the maximum dose for the patient. The dose should then be spread throughout the day. Taking vitamins with foods may also aid in their absorption.


Ask your health care provider about the different vitamins you may be taking and your general diet. Getting our nutrient from whole foods is the best source for different vitamins and minerals. Supplements should really be used to supplement a diet naturally rich in antioxidants, such as one with many daily servings of vegetables and fruits.

Sources: Mayo Clin Proc2005,80(1)55; Altern Med Rev.2002,7(5)389; Neurosurgery 1984;14(2):142; Altern Med Rev 2000,5(5):455; Altern Med Rev 2001, 6(1):46


Fibromyalgia and Long-term Drug Use - Are There Alternatives?

Most patients with the severe pains of fibromyalgia consult medical doctors for help. Although many patients use chiropractors and other alternative approaches, most continue to use analgesics (pain medications) to get through the day.


These drugs come in a wide variety and help with varying degrees of success, but all will have unintended side effects, especially when taken over many years. Some patients have wanted to escape this pain-pill-pain-pill cycle are looking for more healthy and natural choices to manage their pain.


Doctors and scientists too are responding to their demands of the public and have focused their efforts and trying to get patients to decrease their use of medications.


Researchers from the Mayo Clinic (Pain Med Jan-Feb, 2007) studied 159 patients for three weeks in an outpatient program while they attempted to withdraw their medications. The fibromyalgia patients were taking opioid analgesics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), benzodiazepines, and muscle relaxants. In addition to measuring how many drugs and the quantity over the three weeks, the scientists also measured the patients' quality of life and psychological wellbeing.


The results of this analgesic-withdrawal program were dramatic. Patients had significant reduction in their medication use and at the same time, their physical and emotional wellbeing also significantly improved.


Chiropractic care does not involve the prescription of pain medications. Our care begins with a comprehensive examination including tests of spinal mobility and function .We take a detailed history to make sure your diagnosis is correct and that we have a solid baseline to compare how well you do over time. Many patients will have x-rays take to more precisely measure abnormal vertebral displacements.


The care approach for the fibromyalgia patient incorporates specific adjustments to counter spinal distortions (poor posture), and limited mobility. At the same time we will try to promote a healthy lifestyle for you consisting of regular exercises, stretching, and a nutritious and balanced diet. This comprehensive natural approach is much different from typical medical treatments. Although there is limited research as to how helpful these natural alternatives are, it is clear they do not carry the unintended side effects of long-term medication use. The researchers at the Mayo Clinic have now provided some evidence that, if a patient chooses, they may be able to decrease some of the medications they are currently taking.