Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain, fatigue, changes in mood and cognition, and digestive complaints. It is often misdiagnosed or goes undiagnosed for years since most tests will come back normal. Scientists believe that fibromyalgia is caused by changes in the brain that make the body more sensitive to pain. Fibromyalgia may be to blame when aches and pains last for a long time or don’t seem to have a clear cause.
Here’s what you should know about fibromyalgia and how you can manage your symptoms.
How is Fibromyalgia Diagnosed?
There is no test specifically for fibromyalgia, so it’s diagnosed based on symptoms. Your doctor will probably run tests to rule out other conditions since fibromyalgia symptoms can have many causes. When a patient’s test results come up normal and symptoms persist, then a diagnosis of fibromyalgia is likely.
Recently scientists invented a blood test that can accurately detect cellular differences in people with chronic fatigue syndrome. Since many researchers believe that chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia are closely linked, this same test or a similar one may be able to diagnose the condition in the future.
Patients with fibromyalgia often struggle for years before receiving a diagnosis. When symptoms begin, they often think they’ve injured themselves or are developing arthritis. It’s only after symptoms continue long-term and other conditions are ruled out that the diagnosis becomes obvious.
What are the Symptoms of Fibromyalgia?
The diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia states that patients must suffer from severe pain in 3-6 areas of their body or milder pain in at least seven areas. Fibromyalgia patients differ in their experiences, but some feel widespread pain throughout their whole body most days.
Fatigue, sleep disturbances, depression, anxiety, and digestive issues like IBS are common in fibromyalgia patients. There may be an underlying problem that is causing all of these issues.
What are the Treatment Options?
There are both prescription and over-the-counter treatment options for fibromyalgia, but many sufferers don’t find complete relief through one treatment alone.
Doctors use certain antidepressants and antiseizure drugs to treat the pain and fatigue associated with fibromyalgia. These drugs change chemicals in the brain and make it less sensitive to pain. Some patients find that these drugs also improve their sleep.
Over-the-counter pain relievers are recommended for taking the edge off of fibromyalgia pain. While necessary for some, these need to be used with caution as long-term use can cause serious side effects.
Other than prescriptions, self-care and exercise are the two most recommended treatments. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise every day can improve pain, mood, and sleep in fibromyalgia patients. A good bedtime routine and stress management techniques like meditation can also improve symptoms and increase the quality of life.
Complementary Treatment Options
Since Western medicine is currently limited in the treatment it can provide to fibromyalgia patients, they often turn to Eastern or alternative medicine traditions.
Acupuncture is scientifically proven to improve many types of moderate pain, including that caused by fibromyalgia. Some patients find great relief with acupuncture and do it regularly as part of their care plan. In addition to relieving pain, acupuncture can also reduce feelings of depression and anxiety and improve sleep. Some of these benefits may be related to the endorphin-inducing effect of acupuncture. Endorphins are feel-good, pain-fighting chemicals. Other biological processes may also be involved that have not yet been discovered.
Massage causes the body to produce endorphins and has many of the same benefits as acupuncture. Frequent massages can desensitize pain trigger points and improve other symptoms like fatigue and sleep problems.
Chiropractic adjustment is another commonly used treatment for fibromyalgia. Readjusting the spine and other joints can improve range of motion. Spinal adjustments can even decrease overall pain if done frequently. This may be due to the influence adjustment has on the nervous system. Regular chiropractic adjustment has also been linked with better sleep and improved mood.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition, and most treatments require a commitment of at least several weeks before benefits begin to show. The commitment is well worth it, though, since regular, long-term treatments can greatly improve patients’ symptoms and quality of life.
What does Gut Health Have to Do with it?
Since gastrointestinal problems often co-occur with fibromyalgia, some researchers think that the microbiome in the gut may be linked to fibromyalgia symptoms. The microbiome consists of “good” and “bad” bacteria, viruses, and fungi in our guts. Our system functions optimally when the “good” strains outnumber or balance out the bad ones. Different strains of “good” bacteria in our guts have different jobs. Some of them process vitamins, and others produce neurotransmitters. Much of our serotonin, an important neurotransmitter that affects mood and pain tolerance, is made in our guts. Some fibromyalgia patients have found relief from their symptoms by using diet, probiotics, and other supplements to improve their gut health.
If you want to try improving your gut health but can’t afford expensive probiotics, consider adding gut-healthy fermented foods and fibers to your diet. Fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut contain probiotics that have been shown to regulate digestion. Special types of fiber found in vegetables act as food for the good bacteria in our guts and help them thrive. Foods high in these prebiotic fibers include onions, garlic, bananas, and Jerusalem artichoke.
Living Well With Fibromyalgia
People struggling with fibromyalgia symptoms should seek medical care and consider all their treatment options. Most patients feel their best when using more than one treatment for their symptoms. This might include medication, exercise, and one of the complementary treatments above. A self-care routine for fibromyalgia should also include stress management, good sleep hygiene, and a healthy diet. CBT, a type of psychotherapy, can help patients cope with their fibromyalgia symptoms and can even improve symptoms for some.
When struggling with any chronic condition, it’s important to set realistic standards for yourself and focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t do. Finding a hobby you enjoy, or something you can look forward to in your daily routine will improve your quality of life and may even help you feel better.
Chiropractic Care for Fibromyalgia in Kentucky
At All Star Chiropractic we provide holistic healthcare for fibromyalgia patients. Schedule a consultation today to find out more about how chiropractic adjustment can improve your symptoms.