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Could It Be Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia (FM) affects at least 6 million Americans; minimally 4 million of which are women (1). FM is the third most prevalent rheumatologic disorder (after osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis) and it represents 5% of family practice office visits and 20% of rheumatology visits. Approximately 90% of FM patients are women between the ages of 40 and 60 years, with an average age of 49. Some physicians feel FM does not exist and offer no therapeutic options while others over diagnose the condition using Fibromyalgia as a “wastebasket diagnosis.” (2, 3).

FM is a condition characterized by pain in the muscle and soft tissue fibers of the body. People with Fibromyalgia will experience widespread pain of at least three months duration. Some people are often unable to continue with their vocations due to this widespread pain. Other symptoms associated with FM include chronic fatigue (physical or mental), tiring easily, morning stiffness, urinary urgency, anxiety or stress, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), sleep disturbance, tingling and numbness, excessive menstrual bleeding, gastrointestinal symptoms (2).

Approximately 75% of Fibromyalgia sufferers experience sleep disturbance, which can range from insomnia to wakefulness, to non-restorative sleep. The discomfort will be aggravated by extremes in temperature as well as humidity (2, 4). Some characteristic symptoms of fibromyalgia and associated prevalence (pain symptoms) include widespread pain (98%), pain in the neck (85%), low back (79%), mid back (72%), 15 or more painful sites (56%), headaches (53%), and difficulty with menstruation (41%) (2).

If you experience tenderness in any number of these locations, it may indicate you suffer from Fibromyalgia. A chiropractor can recognize and detect these tender points in a person’s body and offer a multifaceted healthcare treatment plan including exercise therapy, stress reduction, nutrition and manual therapies that has shown the most promise for Fibromyalgia sufferers (5). Other treatments that include drugs such as naproxen, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, etc., and muscle relaxants such as cyclobenzaprine, are often not sufficient to relieve the aching and discomfort. Unfortunately, drugs only mask the symptoms and carry significant side effects (2, 6). In a study reported in the American Journal of Physical Medicine Rehabilitation, Chiropractic care scored amongst the most effective measures, more effective than drugs (7).

  1. Soderberg, S., Norberg, A., “Metaphorical Pain Language Among Fibromyalgia Patients,” Scan J. Caring Sci., 1995, 9: 55-59.

  2. Wolfe, F., Diagnosis of Fibromyalgia, J. Musculoskeletal Med 1990: 7(7): pp. 53-69.

  3. Bennett, R.M., Myofacial Pain Syndromes and Fibromyalgia Syndrome: A Comparative Analysis. Man Med 1991; 6(1): pp. 34-45.

  4. Duarte, M., “Primary Fibromyalgia Syndrome and Myofacial Pain Syndrome: Clinical Features and Criteria for Diagnosis. Chiro Tech 1989; 1(3): pp. 97-100.

  5. Cox, James, M., Low Back Pain: Mechanism, Diagnosis and Treatment, Chapter 7, pg. 251

  6. Campbell, S.M., Gatter, R.A., Clark, S., et al. A Double-Blind Study of Cyclobenzaprine versus Placebo in Patients with Fibrositis, Arthritis Rheumatology 1986; 29: pg. 1371.

  7. Waylouis, W.G., Heck, W., “Fibromyalgia Syndrome: New Associations,” Am Journal Phys Med Rehabilitation, 1992; 71: pp. 343-348.

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