Fibromyalgia , myofacial pain syndrome, and fibrositis are all terms used to describe a syndrome of chronic muscular pain. As early as 1850, German physicians described patients who presented with long-standing pain characterized by generalized aching in muscles and by areas which were tender to touch. The term fibrositis, from fibro-, meaning fiber, and -itis, indicating an inflammation, was originally used to describe this condition. Since no actual inflammation has been found, the more correct term is fibromyalgia, indicating pain in the muscles. Some felt there was a psychological component, and tried to describe the "fibrositic personality". This, too was found to be untrue.
More recent research has indicated that there are certain physiological abnormalities present, such as decreased blood flow, muscle weakness, and fatigue due to poor sleep patterns, leading to a formal classification of fibromyalgia syndrome as a disease. But much remains unknown about the condition and its treatment.
Fibromyalgia is diagnosed when a patient has diffuse body pain that has been present for at least 3 months, as well as fatigue, sleep disturbance, cognitive changes, mood disorder, and/or other symptoms to variable degree, when symptoms cannot be explained by some other illness. The possibility of other disease processes, such as hypo-thyroidism or rheumatoid arthritis, must be ruled out.
Treatment has had limited success. Some relief is often obtained through moderately strenuous exercise, such as walking, and through changing postural and occupational factors which aggravate the condition. Exercise is often more painful at first but if the patient can get through the first six to eight weeks, there does seem to be some improvement. In some cases, the antidepressant amitriptyline is used in low dosages to improve sleep patterns. Spinal manipulative therapy has been found to provide relief, though usually temporary.
What role can chiropractic play in the treatment of fibromyalgia? To begin with, many of the musculoskeletal problems which are successfully treated by chiropractors are characterized by many of the same symptoms as fibromyalgia syndrome. Therefore some cases diagnosed as fibromyalgia are actually completely relieved by treatment to the spine, restoring muscle balance and proper sleep patterns.
In those cases for which chiropractic treatment does not provide complete or permanent resolution, spinal adjustments often do give short-term relief and can be a valuable component of the treatment program.
Support for the relevance of chiropractic to this condition comes from recent research indicating that with fibromyalgia there is an increase in inflammatory symptoms originating in (and perhaps caused by) the autonomic, or sympathetic, nervous system. Spinal manipulation often has a direct effect on the functioning of the autonomic nervous system.
If you suffer from some of the symptoms described above, or if you have been diagnosed as having fibromyalgia, partial or complete recovery may be possible with restoration of proper musculoskeletal balance and joint movement. Exercise, posture and lifestyle changes may be helpful in addition to spinal adjustments. It may also be helpful to work in conjunction with other health care practitioners in management of this condition.