Fibromyalgia in Suwanee GA
The word fibromyalgia is derived from three words: fibro, which is Latin for fibrous tissue; myo, which is Greek for muscle; and algia, also Greek and meaning pain. It is a chronic syndrome which covers symptoms including muscle pain, fatigue, and multiple tender points, and it affects 3 to 6 million people in the United States, over 90% of whom are women. It is not known exactly why there is such a preponderance of female sufferers.
Diagnosing fibromyalgia is not easy, and may take many years to properly identify. The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) defines fibromyalgia as a history of pain lasting more than 3 months in all four quadrants of the body; that is, on both your right and left sides, and above and below the waist. The ACR further details 18 tender points around the body that are characteristic of fibromyalgia, and diagnosis requires a person to have 11 or more. As well as pain and fatigue, fibromyalgia may also produce:
- Disturbed sleep
- Morning stiffness
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Painful menstrual periods
- Numbness/tingling in the extremities
- Restless legs syndrome
- Sensitivity to temperature
- Cognitive and memory problems (“fibro fog”)
To make diagnosis even more difficult, fibromyalgia can easily be mistaken for “myofascial pain syndrome” or “myofascitis”, as both can cause pain all over the body. However, the two conditions are very different. Myofascitis is the result of inflammation caused by overuse or injury to the muscles, is usually related to a specific activity or injury, and manifests quite suddenly. Fibromyalgia is the result of stress-induced changes to the metabolism and healing process, and appears in a slow, creeping fashion, most often starting in early adulthood. Correctly differentiating between the two is crucial as the relative treatments are nothing like the same.
What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that may never go away your entire life, although on the plus side, it does not cause any damage to your joints, muscles, or internal organs.
The most up-to-date research suggests that fibromyalgia is a stress-induced condition related to Systemic Lupus Erythematosis (usually just referred to as ‘lupus’) and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. All of these conditions target women far more than men, and are marked by similar symptoms such as chronic fatigue, disturbed sleep, and IBS. The main difference is with lupus, which is an autoimmune reaction that attacks the healthy tissues of the body. With fibromyalgia, metabolic abnormalities are the primary issue, causing decreased blood flow to the pituitary gland in the brain. This then lowers certain important hormones, such as those responsible for releasing growth hormone and stimulating the thyroid. Muscle healing is adversely affected, memory and cognition are damaged, and full-blown hypothyroidism may even result.
Specifically, fibromyalgia causes a buildup in the muscle of a protein called “ground substance”. This is found in muscle, bone and connective tissues everywhere in the body, and serves to make these structures stronger and less prone to injury. The excessive amount of ground substance in a fibromyalgia sufferer means that the injured area does not heal properly, leading to the muscle knots characteristic of the condition.
While lupus can be definitively diagnosed with laboratory tests, there are no such surefire tests for fibromyalgia. However, there are a number of tests that can help to rule out certain other disorders, and a physical examination will identify if a person has the characteristic tender areas on the back of the neck, shoulders, sternum, lower back, hips, shins, elbows, or knees. Unfortunately, this lack of 100% certainty can lead some doctors to dismiss a patient’s suffering as “all in the mind”, or – not very much better – to conclude that there is no effective remedy on offer.
This is not true. While fibromyalgia is certainly not easy to treat, a combination of chiropractic, trigger point therapy, massage, and lifestyle changes (diet and exercise) can prove effective in reducing the severity of the condition.
Chiropractic treatment of fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia causes muscles to tighten and lose their natural pliability, which triggers the spine to decrease its own flexibility, which leads the muscles to tighten even more. It is a vicious cycle that can get worse and worse, causing ever greater pain. Chiropractic care is therefore essential as it ensures that sufferers do not lose too much movement from their spine and muscles. The spine must be properly adjusted and kept moving to counter the insidious creep of fibromyalgia. Treatments should happen three to four times per month, and these sessions will be gentler than normal to take into account the muscles’ susceptibility to injury and their lack of healing ability.
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