Our topic for March is Fibromyalgia.
It’s possible that you or someone you know has been already told that they may have “FM”. Our conversation for this topic needs to first address the process of diagnosing conditions.
There are some conditions that have excellent diagnostic tools available to tell you with a high degree of certainty that your symptoms are related to an underlying problem. This usually involves imaging like x-rays, ultrasounds and MRIs.
For other conditions that people present with, our healthcare system relies on “diagnosis of exclusion”. This essentially means that if you have a cluster of symptoms without any major objective reliable positive test, then you get a label to help study these issues better.
Fibromyalgia can be a debilitating condition that affects your nervous system and alters your experience of pain and other symptoms. Although there are tests available, this is very much a diagnosis of exclusion and should not be something that condemns you for the rest of your life.
How can your doctor diagnose you with fibromyalgia?
There are many blood tests that can be done to look for “markers” or “clues” to see what is happening with the body. These might include checking your complete blood count, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, peptide tests, rheumatoid factor, thyroid function tests, anti-nuclear antibody, celiac serology and vitamin D levels, to name a few. There also may be a test that your health care provider might do where they check for approximately 18 different “trigger points” in the soft tissues in different parts of your body to classify your symptoms.
What is important to take away form this is that what we are dealing with are patterns of functional problems that your body will commonly present with. Although they can be used to classify people into groups for the purposes of studying the condition, they are not very reliable as a diagnostic tool. People presenting with FM type symptoms have a complex condition that often will affect one person very different than the next, even though they may have the same test results.
Fibromyalgia is first and foremost a neurological condition. Nerves control every single function in your body. What people will experience is a “hypersensitivity” reaction. Essentially, a stimulus (outward feeling due to touch, pressure or injury) that would have otherwise caused an average response from your nervous system now leads to an exaggerated and higher response. This may mean that you feel discomfort by the simple feeling of a scarf touching the skin on your neck or certain types of clothes rubbing against your skin may cause pain. You may have pain when someone hugs you or when you sit/lie on the ground because you cannot tolerate the pressure.
Because nerves will control other bodily functions, you may experience mood related issues due to hormonal changes in your body, have digestive issues and struggle with other health related challenges.
**Refer to one of our previous discussions on why continued stress can impact your brain’s ability to self-regulate well leading to increased symptoms**
Chiropractic is positioned really well to help patients with symptoms of fibromyalgia, but the answer to why chiropractic can help patients with fibromyalgia type symptoms is two pronged.
A trained chiropractor can help give you self-management strategies to make sure you are empowered to do things that will help you lessen the impact of the condition on your quality of life. However, the biggest impact a chiropractor can make for FM patients is providing treatment that puts their body in a better position to self-regulate in an “above-down” fashion. Certain regions of your brain have mechanisms in place to restore proper function in different areas on your body. Appropriate chiropractic adjustments can help restore that above-down function and improve the experience of symptoms.
Again, fibromyalgia type symptoms are multi-faceted. Your brain’s ability to self regulate is also going to be impacted by you having a good support network around you and having meaningful social interactions. Limiting prolonged periods of stress and having mechanisms in place to help with navigating negative emotions are also going to help. Empowering FM patients to be actively involved in their recovery is the best strategy.
Send us a DM to see if you are a good candidate for the type of treatment we provide.