Fibromyalgia (FM) is still a topic being researched by scientists. Although there have been some studies on a potential diagnostic blood test for fibromyalgia, more clinical trials need to be completed before the test will be fully recognized as a diagnostic tool. At the moment, no test or scan can diagnose fibromyalgia, which explains why it can be challenging for doctors to pinpoint the cause of the extreme body pain in fibromyalgia.
Doctors theorize that fibromyalgia is caused by a problem in the central nervous system, particularly the brain and spinal cord’s processing of pain signals. When a patient has fibromyalgia, the neurotransmitters that flow between the body and brain are disrupted, causing heightened pain sensitivity.
It is difficult to achieve deep sleep when one has fibromyalgia. The lack of sleep causes serotonin to be underproduced. Serotonin is a chemical that plays a role in the emotions and motor, cognitive, and autonomic functions of the body. When serotonin levels are low, the body loses the ability to heal itself, and fatigue and depression may follow.
Some studies also have associated fibromyalgia with a decrease in the hormones controlling thyroid regulation. Hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and cortisol can be affected by our lifestyle choices, such as poor diet, lack of exercise, and certain medications. All these contributing factors are related to the central nervous system.
The Link Between Fibromyalgia and the Central Nervous System
The central nervous system is responsible for controlling the different systems of the body. If it malfunctions, it will take a toll on the whole body. That’s why you should take good care of your central nervous system to make sure it is performing as it should.
The nervous system consists of these parts:
- The central nervous system: consists of the brain and spinal cord, considered the main control center of the body
- The peripheral nervous system: includes all the nerves that lie outside the brain and spinal cord and extend to the muscles and organs
- The autonomic nervous system: works automatically, without a person’s conscious effort. It has two divisions – the sympathetic nervous system which stimulates the body’s fight-or-flight response, and the parasympathetic system which encourages the rest-and-digest activities including slowing down of heart rate and relaxing of muscles
Due to the irregularity in their autonomic nervous system, patients with fibromyalgia are in a constant state of flight or fight, and often experience an increased heart rate when both standing and lying down. Other changes happen in the nervous system because of fibromyalgia:
- Panic disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder – PTSD
- Joint tenderness
- TMJ – the pain of the jaw
- Tenderness in various muscle groups including the neck and shoulders
- IBS – irritable bowel syndrome
Proven Methods to Relieve the Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Since there is no known cure for fibromyalgia yet, the only course of action is to relieve the pain and the symptoms. Here is a list of fibromyalgia treatment options that can ease your symptoms and make your illness easier to live with.
- Visualization: Picturing your condition as something that can be controlled rather than a burden can help you manage the pain and not be overpowered by it.
- Eating healthy: Committing to a healthy diet can help the nervous system maintain balance and reduce sensitivity to pain. Avoiding the following foods can help:
- Fried foods
- White sugar
- White flour
- Massage: Getting massages using herbs and essential oils can stimulate circulation and release chronic patterns of muscular tension in your body.
- Relaxation therapy: Meditation, yoga and other progressive relaxation techniques can help reduce sleep disorders, anxiety, and depression, which are also symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Correct Spinal Alignment Reduces Fibromyalgia Symptoms
There are a lot of success stories about how upper cervical chiropractic care is making a substantial difference for people with fibromyalgia. One story worth sharing is of a 32-year-old woman who suffered from pain, extreme fatigue, and depression for two years due to fibromyalgia. When she began seeing an upper cervical chiropractor, it was revealed that she had a misalignment in the C1 (atlas) vertebra. She started getting adjustments to correct the issue. After just six months of chiropractic care, her fibromyalgia symptoms were significantly reduced.
In case you are wondering how a misalignment in the bones of the upper neck impacts fibromyalgia, well, the central nervous system includes the spine and brainstem. The atlas is responsible for protecting the delicate brainstem, the communication road between the brain and body. Any minor blow to the head or neck can cause the neck muscles to overstretch and result in a misalignment of the atlas. If it shifts out of position, it can interfere with the communication of pain signals to and from the brain. Luckily, atlas misalignment can easily be fixed by a specialist such as an upper cervical chiropractor.
At Family First Chiropractic & Wellness Center, we are experts in finding spine misalignments through careful examinations and diagnostic imaging. We measure the degree to which your atlas has misaligned and then use a very gentle, scientific technique to realign your vertebrae. We avoid popping or cracking of the spine or neck. Once the bones move back into their normal position, the body begins to repair itself from the damage done by the misalignment. As a result, fibromyalgia symptoms may descrease or disappear altogether.