Understanding Fibromyalgia and Your Options for Care

Worldwide, fibromyalgia affects up to 5% of the population, or about 15 million people in the United States. It is now a very common disorder, especially in women who are affected four times more frequently than men. Fibromyalgia is not a disease in the sense that it has a viral or bacterial cause. Rather, it is a collection of symptoms, mostly pain, affecting the neuromusculoskeletal system. Since other types of diseases can cause widespread pain, these need to ruled out before a fibromyalgia diagnosis is made. In addition to pain, other aspects of your quality of life may be affected, including sleep deprivation (including lack of restorative sleep), general fatigue, and even depression. You may also have difficulties with concentration and even memory loss. Up to 40% of patients will have a mood disorder, such as depression or anxiety.

In terms of medical treatment options, there are antidepressants, muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory drugs, and pain or narcotic medications. You should carefully consider these options and whether the risks are outweighed by any potential benefits. Studies are very limited for any type of treatment approach, so you may be presented with different options, by many different types of doctors.

Many patents do not consider non-drug treatments such as exercise and chiropractic care, but these less-invasive treatments are an important option.

Especially if you have central (spine) pain, this is a disorder that responds well to chiropractic care. Chiropractic care for patients with low back pain is well validated in several randomized clinical trials.

Despite the muscle pain you are experiencing, simply avoiding movement can lead to more chronicity of your condition. Aerobic exercises, as well as strength training, can bring dramatic relief of muscle pain for patients. Many patients find their mood is elevated when exercise becomes a part of the daily routine. Sleep may also be more restorative when you use your body more intensely during the day.

Lastly, weight-loss and proper nutrition are essential elements to overall good health. The important thing to consider is a multifactorial approach, which addresses your weight and nutritional habits, structure, lifestyle, and spinal hygiene. No one thing will be the magical “silver bullet” for fibromyalgia.