Fibromyalgia can be a stubborn condition that interrupts the enjoyment of daily life. Some of the symptoms it is known for are pain throughout the entire body, stiffness in the body’s soft tissues (muscles, ligaments, and tendons), extreme fatigue, and low-quality sleep. Fibromyalgia is not limited to any group of people. However, women are seven times more likely to be diagnosed with the condition and are usually diagnosed in middle-age.
The Causes of Fibromyalgia
Typically, the exact cause (or causes) of fibromyalgia remain unknown. But there are a number of theories about what factors play into it or what may trigger it. Here are a few:
- Stress (which can be physical or emotional)
- Repeated exposure to cold or damp conditions
- Repetitive strains
- Other underlying health conditions such as lupus, Lyme disease or rheumatoid arthritis
One way to describe what fibromyalgia sufferers experience is an unusually high sensitivity to pain that results the brain processing and perceiving the sensations as far more intense than they truly are. This phenomenon is called central sensitization.
About Central Sensitization
Anyone who has fibromyalgia or other chronic pain conditions has probably heard the term central sensitization. This condition occurs when your body’s nervous system gets “over excited,” putting it into an abnormal state of reactivity. As this experience persists, it can become their body’s new normal, thus reducing the pain threshold.
The two typical characteristics associated to central sensitization are as follows:
- An increased sensitivity to pain
- Heightened sensitivity to touch
Both of these are a result of nerves that have a heightened sensitivity. Due to this abnormal sensitivity, the messages that are being sent to the brain by these nerves are no longer accurate and are telling the brain that the pain is more extreme than it is. Another way of saying this is that when a person has central sensitization, ordinary sensations that would not be perceived as painful are now interpreted as extremely painful.
Natural Ways to Feel & Function Better
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition (which means there is not a known cure). Most people suffering from it are concerned about overusing medications for relief because of the potential side effects. The good news is that there are several natural ways to get relief that could improve the quality of your everyday life.
- Dietary changes: adding fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi and yogurt to your daily food regimen brings some beneficial probiotic boosts to your GI system. Most of your immune system is within the gut, and including probiotic-rich foods can alleviate yeast overgrowth. A few other nutritional additions to include are antioxidants and omega-3 foods that reduce inflammation and can even help with pain levels. Staying away from heavy alcohol consumption, caffeine, and processed foods is also a good idea when keeping inflammation levels low.
- Consistent, low-impact exercise: incorporating daily movement can have a dramatic effect on pain levels as well as sleep quality. Begin by doing short, mild walks, progressing to about 30 minutes. A few more low-impact options are swimming, yoga, and cycling.
- Improve your sleep environment: having a regular sleep-wake cycle is actually where good sleep begins. Keeping the same bedtime and wake time (even on the weekends) helps with regulating your circadian rhythm and improving sleep quality. A few other ways to improve sleep are avoiding food and drink as well as limiting screen (phone and TV) time about an hour before bed, keeping a dark room, and finding a quality mattress.
- Try supplements: a few popular supplements that are recommended are magnesium (low levels may be linked to fibromyalgia), 5-HTP (may help to ease anxiety, insomnia, and pain), and melatonin (often used to improve sleep).
- Ensure proper nervous system function: the nerves in your body serve such a vital role in communicating between the brain and body, sending valuable messages. The nervous system also plays a key role in hormone regulation and production, which essential for quality sleep and optimal energy.
How Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care Can Affect the Health of Your Nervous System
The fact that fibromyalgia is a difficult condition to manage is no secret, particularly because its expression varies drastically in each individual. One commonality that all fibromyalgia sufferers share is that they do not process pain normally.
Upper cervical chiropractic is a specialized niche within the chiropractic profession that focuses on nervous system function. More specifically, upper cervical chiropractors are concerned with an area of the nervous system called the brainstem, which acts as a type of “switchboard” for the messages being sent between the brain and body. It also plays an important role in processing pain signals properly. The two uppermost vertebrae in your spine are your atlas (C1) and axis (C2), and within their protective bone, the brainstem is situated. The atlas and axis are located just below the skull at the very top of the neck. These vertebrae are unique in that they are the most mobile of all the vertebrae in the spine, and they are responsible for most of the head’s range of motion.
The role of the atlas and axis is important for fibromyalgia sufferers for a few reasons:
- Oftentimes, cases of fibromyalgia occur sometime after a physical injury or trauma of some type. These kinds of injuries can easily result in a misalignment of the upper cervical spine, which would put pressure on the brainstem and the connected nerves and tissues.
- The central nervous system (brain, brainstem, and spinal cord) are all involved in processing pain signals. Any disruptions to this system and the passing of signals caused by an upper cervical misalignment could be a connected to the development of fibromyalgia symptoms.
At Turning Point Spinal Care, we perform a thorough examination of each of our patients so that we can best understand the effect that the upper part of your neck is having on the function of the nervous system. We can then identify if an upper cervical misalignment is altering the brain’s ability to communicate optimally with the body. We use a gentle approach when administering our precise adjustments and providing a correction that will hold for as long as possible. The longer the adjustment holds, the more effective is the body’s natural healing process of the surrounding muscles and tissues, which means the body will more quickly support proper alignment of the spine once again. This is the way we have brought relief to so many fibromyalgia sufferers, helping them regain function and quality of life that may never have happened otherwise.