Fibromyalgia: A Whole Body Approach

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Fibromyalgia is a complicated disorder that’s difficult to diagnose because it involves multiple body systems. As a result, there are a myriad of factors in the body that can play a role in a patient’s symptoms. That said, it’s best to take a whole body approach when it comes to treating a complex condition like FM, starting with the nervous system.

When a patient presents to a chiropractor, the initial examination will look at the body as a whole and will not be limited the main area of complaint. This includes a postural examination in regards to individual leg length (to see if one is shorter); the height of the pelvis, shoulder, and occiput (head); and a gait assessment to evaluate the function of the foot, ankle, knee, hip/pelvis, spine, and head.

Because the nervous system is housed in the spine and cranium, chiropractors specifically look at how the spine compensates for abnormal function elsewhere in the body. When spinal segmental dysfunction is present, altered neurological function often coincides, which results in the symptoms that drive people to the office.

The benefits of spinal manipulative therapy (SMT)—the primary form of treatment delivered by doctors of chiropractic—have been recognized by all other healthcare professions including medical doctors, physical therapists, and osteopathic physicians. In fact, referring patients to chiropractors for SMT has become very commonplace in the healthcare environment. Research has proven SMT to be a FIRST course of care and highly recommended for MANY complaints, especially low back, mid-back, and neck pain, headaches, and many more!

Because fibromyalgia (FM) involves the WHOLE BODY—hence its definition of “wide spread pain,” chiropractic offers a unique approach because it too benefits the whole body by restoring function to the nervous system. For example, when balance is off due to a short leg (this affects 90% of the population to some degree), it can tilt the pelvis, which then places stress on the spine so that it must curve (scoliosis) to keep the head level. Correcting the short leg with a heel lift can restore balance to the pelvis, take pressure off the spine, and relieve some of a patient’s pain symptoms.

In prior articles, we have looked at the many benefits chiropractic offers the FM patient in addition to SMT and other manual therapies. Some of these include tips for improving sleep, exercise training (very important in managing FM), diet—specifically an anti-inflammatory diet (rich in anti-oxidants)—and supplementation (such as magnesium, malic acid, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D3, Co-enzyme Q10, and more).

Most importantly, studies show that the FM patient is BEST served when a “team” of healthcare professionals work together on behalf of the FM patient. Depending on a patient’s needs, the team can include a doctor of chiropractic, a primary care doctor, a massage therapist, a clinical psychologist, and others.

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What can I do for my Fibromyalgia pain?

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Fibromyalgia (FM) is a very common condition affecting approximately ten million Americans (2-4% of the population)—with a ratio of about four women to each man with the disease. Part of the diagnosis and treatment challenge is that many of the complaints associated with FM occur in ALL of us at some point, such as fatigue, generalized whole body aches/pains, non-restorative sleep, depression, anxiety, etc. So what is the difference between the FM sufferer and those without it? Let’s take a look!

The primary distinction between patients with FM and the “rest of us” has to do with the word “chronic.” This term means “…persisting for a long time or constantly recurring; long-standing, long-term.” In fact, the term “fibromyalgia” is described as a complex chronic pain disorder that causes widespread pain and tenderness that may present body wide or migrate around the body. It is also known to “wax and wane over time,” meaning it flares up and down, off and on.

The diagnosis of FM is typically made by eliminating every other possible cause. Hence, after blood tests and x-ray or other imaging, the ABSENCE of other problems helps nail down the diagnosis of “primary fibromyalgia.” Then there is “secondary fibromyalgia,” which is DUE TO a known disorder or condition such as after trauma (like a car accident), rheumatoid arthritis, migraine headache, irritable bowel syndrome, “GERD” (which is heart burn due to reflux), pelvic pain, overactive bladder, tempromandibular joint dysfunction (jaw pain, with or without ringing in the ears), or stress. It’s also often accompanied by anxiety, depression, and/or some other mental health condition.

It should be clearly understood that there is no “cure” for FM. It has also been widely reported in many studies that the BEST management approach for FM is through a TEAM of healthcare providers. This team is frequently made up of primary care doctors, doctors of chiropractic, massage therapists, mental / behavioral specialists, physical therapists, and perhaps others (acupuncturist, nutritionist, stress management specialists, and more).

The “general” treatment approach is typically done with medications, cognitive behavioral therapies (CBT), gentle exercise, and manual therapies. Additionally, patients are encouraged to participate in the healing process via self-management strategies that focus on reducing stress and fatigue, optimizing diet, and developing a consistent sleep habit.

Think of the role of the chiropractor as a strong member of the team. A doctor of chiropractic can offer many of the known methods of managing FM described above, as their training includes diet and nutrition, stress management, exercise training, and ability to provide “whole person care.” Treatments delivered in the chiropractic setting like spinal manipulation, mobilization, and massage offer GREAT relief to FM patients! Again, coordinating care between various providers is the best approach, but you need someone willing and able to do that. A doctor of chiropractic is a great choice!

It is very difficult to manage FM on your own. Let a doctor of chiropractic tailor a treatment plan that is appealing to you and your specific interests. Managing FM is definitely NOT a “…one size fits all” approach like an inhaler is for asthma. Each individual’s situation is too highly unique!

What are some good exercises for Fibro?

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Fibromyalgia (FM) is a very common, chronic condition where the patient describes “widespread pain” not limited to one area of the body. Hence, when addressing exercises for FM, one must consider the whole body. Perhaps one of the most important to consider is the squat.

If you think about it, we must squat every time we sit down, stand up, get in/out of our car, and in/out of bed. Even climbing and descending steps results in a squat-lunge type of movement.

The problem with squatting is that we frequently lose (or misuse) the proper way to do this when we’re in pain as the pain forces us to compensate, which can cause us to develop faulty movement patterns that can irritate our ankles, knees, hips, and spine (particularly the low back). In fact, performing a squatting exercise properly will strengthen the hips, which will help protect the spine, and also strengthens the glutel muscles, which can help you perform all the daily activities mentioned above.

The “BEST” type of squat is the free-standing squat. This is done by bending the ankles, knees, and hips while keeping a curve in the low back. The latter is accomplished by “…sticking the butt out” during the squat.

Do NOT allow the knees to drift beyond your toes! If you notice sounds coming from your knees they can be ignored IF they are not accompanied by pain. If you do have pain, try moving the foot of the painful knee about six inches (~15 cm) ahead of the other and don’t squat as far down. Move within “reasonable boundaries of pain” by staying away from positions that reproduce sharp, lancinating pain that lingers upon completion.

There are MANY exercises that help FM, but this one is particularly important!

Trigger point massage

Session Description

 

A treatment with Bryan is very user friendly. And, no, you don’t have to remove any clothing. However, bringing a t-shirt and a pair of shorts or sweats is recommended.

 

The first time you come for a treatment you will be asked to fill out a Client History form. Bryan will go over the information you provide, asking for more detail and discussing the type of pain you are having and its location.

 

The treatment itself involves locating the Trigger Points in the muscle or soft tissue and applying a deep focused pressure to the Point. This will reproduce the pain and the referral pattern that is characteristic of that pain.

 

The treatment will be uncomfortable at first, but as the Trigger Points release, the pain will decrease. The pressure will always be adjusted to your tolerance level. If, at any time, you feel too uncomfortable you can ask Bryan to ease off a bit.

 

Depending on your specific problem, Bryan may also use some stretching and / or range-of-motion techniques, as needed.

 

After treatment, it is usually recommended that the client apply moist heat to the area treated.

 

What is the BEST diet for Fibromyalgia?

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Fibromyalgia (FM) and its cause remains a mystery, but most studies suggest that FM is NOT the result of a single event but rather a combination of many physical, chemical, and emotional stressors.

The question of the month regarding the BEST FM diet is intriguing since one might assume that the many causes should mean that there isn’t one dietary solution. But is that true? Could there be a “best diet” to help ease the symptoms from such a multi-faceted disorder?

Certainly, healthy eating is VERY important for ALL of us regardless of our current ailment(s). Obesity is rampant largely due to the fact that 60% of the calories consumed by the “typical” American center around eating highly inflaming food that include those rich in Sugar, Omega-6 oil, Flour, and Trans fats (“SOFT” foods, if you will!). Obesity has been cited as “an epidemic” largely due to kids and adults becoming too sedentary (watching TV, playing on electronic devices, etc.) and eating poorly.

Perhaps the BEST way to manage the pain associated with FM and to maintain a healthy BMI (Body Mass Index, or ratio between height and weight) is to substitute ANTI-INFLAMING foods for those that inflame (or SOFT foods).

You can simplify your diet by substituting OUT “fast foods” for fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. So there you have it. It’s that simple. The problem is making up your mind to change and then actually doing it. Once these two things take place, most everyone can easily “recalibrate” their caloric intake and easily adapt.

Not only have studies shown that chronic illnesses like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes significantly benefit by following this simple dietary shift, but so does pain arising from the musculoskeletal system! This is because the human body is made up largely of chemicals, and chemical shifts are constantly taking place when it moves. If you reach for an anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen or naproxen and it helps, it’s because you ARE inflamed and the drug reduces the pain associated with that inflammation. This is an indication that an anti-inflammatory diet WILL HELP as well (but without the negative side effects)!

The list of chronic conditions that result in muscle pain not only includes FM but also obesity, metabolic syndrome, and type II diabetes. Conditions like tension-type and migraine headaches, neck and back pain, disk herniation, and tendonopathies and MANY more ALL respond WELL to making this SIMPLE change in the diet. For more information on how to “DEFLAME,” visit http://www.deflame.com! It could be a potential “lifesaver!

Fibromyalgia and Exercise

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Are there differences in lifestyle between people with vs. without fibromyalgia (FM)?

A recent study found women with FM found spend more time engaged in sedentary behaviors and less time in physical activity. In the study, researchers followed 413 female patients with FM and 188 age-matched healthy female controls. Researchers used three different approaches to access physical activity: a triaxial accelerometer to examine sedentary time, time spent in physical activity, and step counts.

They discovered those who suffered from FM spent an average of 39 more minutes per day in sedentary activity and 21 fewer minutes per day in light physical activity, 17 fewer minutes per day in moderate physical activity, and 19 fewer minutes per day in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. In addition, those with FM took a mean of 1,881 fewer steps that those without FM.

Now, this isn’t really a surprise given the fact that people with FM are in pain and more likely to have difficulties sleeping and tolerating prolonged activities. After comparing the sufferers to the non-sufferers, the researchers found only 21% of FM patients vs. 46% of non-FM controls achieved the recommended 150 minutes/week (a little over 20 min. / day) of “moderate-to-vigorous” physical activity. They also found that only 16% vs. 45%, respectively, walked the recommended ≥10,000 steps per day.

One of the BEST forms of exercise for most people is walking. A walking program should be a staple exercise. It’s important to note that this should be GRADUALLY introduced so as to avoid an overuse injury—strain or sprain of the muscles and joints. This gradual introduction into activity is ESPECIALLY important for the FM sufferer as overuse injuries can make them afraid to do something that can REALLY help when done correctly!