Fibromyalgia, also known as fibrositis, is a nervous condition that is characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain in the body.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fibromyalgia affects over 40 million -about 2% of adults in the U.S.(1). Unlike most other pain disorders, fibromyalgia is not linked to some type of inflammation or immune response in the body.
It is a disease of the nervous system in which pain processing is altered and people report becoming more sensitive to pain.
Signs and Symptoms?
The main symptom is unexplained widespread pain in different parts of the body. Even if a person hasn’t shown symptoms, it can be activated by sudden injuries, surgery, accidents, etc. A person might feel more pain and stiffness on both sides of the body and below the waist in the morning, especially after long periods of inactivity.
Pain symptoms and stress interfere with sleep leading to cognitive and mood problems, in turn worsening other symptoms like fatigue, lack of focus, trouble concentrating, and depression. Psychological issues can also trigger fibromyalgia, stressors like major traumas, PTSD, CPTSD, anxiety, and depression.
Common with fibromyalgia are other conditions like Restless Leg Syndrome, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, chronic migraines, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Lupus, and Arthritis. Increased sensitivity to touch and the feeling of inflamed joints have also been reported.
Fibromyalgia is difficult to diagnose, making it hard for patients to be taken seriously, or commonly mistaken for other ailments, leading some to call it an invisible illness.
Radiographs and lab samples fail to identify signs of fibromyalgia. The physician will base the diagnosis on the history of symptoms, physical examination, and labs that are normal.
The pattern of pain symptoms, patient demographics, and the absence of other explanations for the pain eventually lead to a diagnosis, but many times a patient has to look up their own symptoms, do their own research and advocate for themselves to doctors to realize what is wrong.
How is it Treated?
Treatment focuses on the management of symptoms and cognitive therapy to help with pain processing. Lifestyle changes like physical activity, stretching, therapeutic diets, and meditation may help lessen the severity of symptoms.
Medications including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), muscle relaxants, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed by physicians if conservative treatments seem ineffective.
Fortunately, there are many drug-free, alternative treatments that actually work to decrease pain and improve the overall health of fibromyalgia patients.
Treatments like acupuncture, CBD massage therapy, Vasper machine, Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, osteopathic and chiropractic manipulation, and therapeutic exercise are all great options. These help improve nerve function and decrease pain symptoms.
CBD massage therapy, for example, calms the nervous system, reduces inflammation, and helps the patient relax. Acupuncture, an eastern medicine modality, helps regulate sleep, hormones, pain, and other symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Vasper, an exercise machine, helps regulate hormones and resolves the issue of sleep difficulties that aggravates many of the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Sleep disruption creates a vicious cycle of making symptoms worse and, in turn, makes it harder to sleep.
Manipulative treatments help remove mechanical restrictions on the nerves and neurovascular structures that improve the movement of fluid throughout the body. This is ideal for removing any excess fluid that may linger and irritate receptor nerve endings.
Therapeutic exercise, osteopathic and chiropractic manipulations are ideal for calming the stress response and desensitization of the central nervous system, which improves pain symptoms. You can really find and target main pain points, work at the issues, and strengthen the body.
- “Fibromyalgia.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 Oct. 2017, www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/fibromyalgia.htm.
- “Fibromyalgia.” Rheumatology.org, www.rheumatology.org/I-Am-A/Patient-Caregiver/Diseases-Conditions/Fibromyalgia.