Let’s take an in-depth look as to what fibromyalgia really is, and then we will discuss how you can find relief if you suffer from this condition. Fibromyalgia (FM) is ranked second among the most common illnesses impacting your bones and muscles. However, it is often misunderstood and misdiagnosed. It is most commonly known for widespread muscle and joint pain and fatigue. In some cases, you may experience two or more of the following chronic pain conditions at the same time:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- TMD — temporomandibular joint dysfunction
- Internal cystitis
Who Is at Risk for Getting Fibromyalgia?
Anyone can get FM, but it most often occurs in women and those in middle age. You may be at a higher risk of getting fibromyalgia if you suffer from other diseases, such as:
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (often just called lupus)
- Ankylosing spondylitis (arthritis in the spine)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Other risk factors are:
- Having a family member with fibromyalgia
- Having depression or anxiety issues
- Previous physical or emotional abuse
- Having PTSD
- Living a sedentary lifestyle
What Are the Symptoms?
You basically hurt all over. Most common symptoms can include:
- Low threshold to pain
- Tender points
- Muscle pain, twitching, tightness, or burning
- Insomnia or other sleep issues
- Feeling depressed, anxious, nervous, or worrying a lot
- Extreme exhaustion
- Fibro fog — problems remembering, thinking, and concentrating
It has been said that fibromyalgia can feel similar to bursitis or arthritis. However, you do not hurt in a specific area, but rather the pain and stiffness is throughout the body. Some other symptoms that are not so common but you may experience are:
- Digestive issues — pain in your stomach, constipation, diarrhea, IBS, bloating, queasiness
- Dry mouth, eyes, and nose
- Abnormal headaches
- Numbness and tingling in your extremities, hand and feet, or face
- Having to urinate more frequently
- Being very sensitive to light, sound, hot, and cold
What Causes Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia begins with the brain. When you are in pain, your brain is the first to know about it. Nerve signals from the area of your body experiencing pain travel to your spinal cord, through your brainstem, and to your brain. This acts as a warning sign. For example, if you put your hand on a hot stove, the pain you feel signals you to move your hand away from the problem. As you begin to heal, the pain eases up.
Fibromyalgia is a whole different story. Signals are constantly being sent to your brain and telling it you are in pain when you really are not. The pain never goes away. Some doctors and researchers feel that the reason for this is a glitch in the way your spinal cord and brainstem handle pain signals.
For one thing, fibromyalgia patients may have an overabundance of cells that carry pain signals and fewer cells to slow down these pain signals. This is like having the radio in your car turned up all the way at all times, even when the car is turned off. This results in minor bruises and bumps hurting way more than they should. You may even feel pain from something as simple as a gentle touch from a friend. These are things that should not register as pain, but with fibromyalgia patients they do.
No one really understands why this occurs in some people and not in others. There are a variety of things that can cause the pain signals in your body to act up. Different things seem to trigger fibromyalgia for different people. These can include:
- Emotional or physical abuse: Adults who suffered abuse as a child are more likely to get fibromyalgia. This can be due to the way the brain reacts to pain and stress.
- Genetics: FM seems to run in families. Your parents may have passed on genes to you that cause you to be more sensitive to pain. Or you may have genes which cause you to feel depressed or anxious making pain feel worse.
- Gender: FM is more common in men than women and doctors believe it has to do with the way women react to pain.
- Other illnesses: Arthritis or infections can be painful and increase your chances of getting FM.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): You may encounter this mental health problem if you have gone through an extremely stressful event such as a car accident, rape, war, or child abuse.
- Not getting enough exercise: FM is seen more in people who are sedentary than in those that are physically active. Exercise is a great way to curb fibromyalgia pain.
Finding the Root Cause of Fibromyalgia and Eliminating it
One of the reasons mentioned above for fibromyalgia to occur has to do with a malfunction in the signals being sent to the brain via the brainstem. The brainstem is designed to be protected by the bones in the spine, particularly the C1 and C2 vertebrae, as they are located in the same region. However, if you have endured a car accident resulting in whiplash, an injury while playing sports, a minor trip and fall, or any kind of trauma that resulted in a blow to the head, even if it was many years ago, you may have a misaligned atlas (C1) or axis (C2). This can actually put the brainstem under stress and lead to distorted signals. For example, the brainstem may tell the brain you are experiencing pain when there is actually little or no pain.
To correct this misalignment in the neck, here at Arc of Life Family Spinal Care, we employ a gentle method that encourages a natural realignment rather than forcing the bones by cracking or twisting the spine. Once the brainstem is relieved from the pressure it is under, proper signals can be sent once again and the symptoms of fibromyalgia may ease up or go away completely.