In previous articles on this website, I discussed what fibromyalgia is and some of the criteria that must be fulfilled to receive a proper diagnosis. If you have already been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, then you are very much aware that there is no simple treatment. In most cases, it is what the patients can do for themselves rather than what the health care practitioners can do for them.


Like most chiropractors, I am currently treating many fibromyalgia patients. As with any syndrome, some patients respond well and others not so well. The muscles of a fibromyalgia patient are often very tight and extremely tender to the touch. These tight muscles attach to many different bones throughout the body. These bones may be the vertebrae of the spine (neck and/or back), the pelvis, the shoulders, and even the knees. When these tight muscles are applying a constant pull on the bones, the joints at that area will not have their full movement. When any joint has a restricted movement, it will eventually begin to feel “stiff” and “achy”. If this situation is left untreated, the joints can become quite painful. When any patient, with fibromyalgia or not, is experiencing pain in a joint, the body will try to protect that area by even further tightening the neighboring muscles. You can now see how the muscle spasm from fibromyalgia causes joint stiffness, which leads to joint pain, which leads to more muscle spasm, which leads to further joint stiffness, which leads to even more joint pain. This cycle propagates itself until you cannot sleep at night, you feel fatigued, and any amount of activity causes pain.


In terms of conservative or natural treatment, this is where the chiropractor and massage therapist come in. The chiropractor is well trained to identify what joints are being affected and how to restore their movement. This will allow the joints to function in a healthier state and become less painful. The chiropractic treatment is most successful when in conjunction with massage therapy. Without addressing the muscle spasm at the same time, the joints will just become stiff and sore again.

As I mentioned earlier, it is unreasonable for anyone to expect even a team of health care practitioners to decrease his or her fibromyalgia symptoms without the patient doing their part. Because people with this syndrome find it painful to move, they often limit their physical activity. Their muscles become weak and tight from inactivity and the tendons, ligaments, and cartilage are more prone to injury. Despite the extra pain that it may cause, patients should try to get even a few minutes of exercise per day. The key is to start gradually and do only low impact, higher repetition exercises.


If you were expecting to find out that there was a simple and quick treatment for fibromyalgia, I am sorry to say that it doesn’t exist. There are many potential causes of the symptoms and there is no one chiropractic doctor, medical doctor, or massage therapist that can do it all for you. It is generally a team approach that requires you to do your part as well.


Fibromyalgia, Difficult to Diagnose

Over the past four to 18 years of operating a chiropractic practice in Merritt, I have been treating an increasing number of patients with a broad array of symptoms that fulfill the criteria of a syndrome called “fibromyalgia”. Patients with this syndrome are becoming more numerous every year. This is partly due to the fact that more health care practitioners are becoming educated on what exactly it is and making the diagnosis more frequently.

The average fibromyalgia patient suffers for years and spends thousands of dollars on medical or alternative therapies before receiving an accurate diagnosis. Typically, patients receive an inaccurate diagnosis, resulting in more than half of them undergoing unnecessary surgery. Have patience with your health care practitioners; it is very difficult for an accurate diagnosis to be made. Patients can come in with different symptoms every visit, which often do not seem related to each other. These can vary from headaches, irritable bladder/bowel, dysmenorrhea, cold sensitivity, restless legs, numbness or tingling, exercise intolerance, weakness, sleep problems, chronic fatigue, morning stiffness, multiple tender points, blurred vision, falling, itching, pelvic pain, hearing loss, to muscle aches and pains. The most commonly described symptom is pain. This is by no means an all-inclusive list of symptoms that a fibromyalgia patient may experience, as there are many more. To make things even more confusing, the signs and symptoms can, and frequently do, fluctuate from hour to hour and day to day.

It is important to understand that fibromyalgia is not a catchall “wastebasket” diagnosis. It is a specific, chronic, non-degenerative, non-progressive; non-inflammatory, truly systemic pain condition –a true SYNDROME. It is not a DISEASE. A disease has a known cause and well-understood mechanism for producing symptoms. For example, rheumatoid arthritis is a specific type of arthritis that can be distinguished from other types of arthritis through x-rays, blood tests, and specific signs/symptoms. We know a lot about how it happens and there are specific forms of treatment that often help. In comparison, fibromyalgia is a SYNDROME. It has a specific set of symptoms patients’ experience and signs that the health care practitioner can identify, all occurring at once.  There are no blood tests or other laboratory tests that allow an accurate diagnosis.

To be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, your health care practitioner must be able to identify 11 of 18 specific points on the body that are abnormally tender. The official definition requires that the tender points must be present in all four quadrants of the body –the upper right, upper left, lower right, and lower left parts of the body. You must also have widespread, pretty much continuous pain and some of the previously mentioned symptoms for at least three months.

Patients may on occasion be improperly diagnosed with fibromyalgia. For example, patients may have pain only on one side of the body and not necessarily in the upper and lower limbs. Unfortunately, some patients may be given a diagnosis of fibromyalgia by a health care practitioner simply because he or she cannot figure out what is really wrong.  The safest bet is to take the initiative to become informed on the subject so that you can work with your healthcare practitioners in determining what treatment route to pursue. Personally, I have found that regular chiropractic treatment can help decrease the severity of the ongoing fibromyalgia symptoms. If you have any questions about how a chiropractor can help with your fibromyalgia, or any other physical problem, please contact your health care provider or chiropractor.