Fibromyalgia can be devastating! I’ve been in practice long enough to remember when the medical profession denied its existence. You know what I mean! They would prescribe antidepressants to people suffering from fibromyalgia.
All too often this was a male physician essentially telling a female patient it is all in their head!
Even now, decades later the medical profession really doesn’t know what causes fibromyalgia. According to the CDC the risk factors for fibromyalgia include:
- Gender: women are twice as likely as men to suffer from fibromyalgia
- Stressful or traumatic events like a car accident or PTSD
- Repetitive injuries
That sounds like most adults with a bias towards women.
How Does Medicine Treat Fibromyalgia?
Again, according to the CDC fibromyalgia can be “effectively treated and managed” with medication and self-management strategies. The question that arises for me is how do they define effectively?
Here are the typical array of medical management strategies:
- Patient education classes
- Stress Management techniques
- Good sleep habits
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to treat underlying depression
So, What is the CAUSE?
Let’s look at what the National Institute of Health has to say: “the cause of fibromyalgia is not known”.
It would be wonderful if we knew what causes fibromyalgia, but we don’t. And, even if we did, the medical solution would be medication. Medications come with their own set of problems. All medications have unwanted effects.
Here’s what the Arthritis Foundation says are the most common side effects of common medications used to treat fibromyalgia:
- Decreased cognitive and motor skills
- Difficulty speaking
- Vision problems
- Jerky movements
- Temporary memory loss
- Unusual eye spasms
- Viral infection
- Dry mouth
- Weight gain
In addition all drugs put stress on the liver and kidneys that increases with time.
3 Keys Why the Causes of Fibromyalgia Don’t Matter
#1 We assume that if we knew the cause it would lead directly to a solution or cure. Much of the time the cause has little to do with what needs to be done to structure a solution to the problem.
#2 “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” The medical profession has become captured by the pharmaceutical industry so much that the only treatments that medicine offers are drugs and surgery. What if there is no drug that could ever cure fibromyalgia? Perhaps we should be looking in a different way.
#3 Every fibromyalgia sufferer has a different story. Yes, there might be some similarities but it is clear that the onset of fibromyalgia differs greatly among people. It appears that there is not a simple cause, at least not the type of cause that medicine is looking for.
A Functional Approach to Fibromyalgia
If we look at the varied causes or common factors among fibromyalgia sufferers we find things like stressful or traumatic events. Stress is the operative word. Every fibromyalgia sufferer has a history of significant stress.
The stress might be emotional in nature as in work stress, family stress, challenges in their family growing up, financial stress, etc. And, the stress might include physical stress like the trauma of an accident or repetitive trauma.
If you look at every symptom of fibromyalgia they ALL have one thing in common. They are all expressed by the nervous system. Every fibromyalgia sufferer is experiencing a significant imbalance in their autonomic nervous system.
When the balance between the Sympathetic “fight or flight” System and the Parasympathetic “rest and digest” system become imbalance the result is some combination of the following:
- Impaired digestion
- Increased muscle tension and pain
- Increased inflammation
- Alteration in heart rate and blood pressure
- Impaired quality of sleep
I’ve already outlined the futility of looking for and finding a “cause” of fibromyalgia. What if we took an approach to support the body and the nervous system in returning to a greater state of balance?
Fibromyalgia is a condition of chronic imbalance. Rather than treat the fibromyalgia I suggest supporting the whole body in cultivating greater balance in the autonomic nervous system.
How to Restore More Neurological Balance
As a chiropractor my focus is on the nervous system. My intention with everyone I work with is to help their body and their nervous system return to greater balance. When the nervous system is free from interference it is capable of healing and maintaining health.
My approach to fibromyalgia includes the following strategies to achieve a combination of reducing nerve irritation and restoring autonomic balance:
- Gentle Upper Cervical Balancing: the very top of the neck is home to the brain stem. This is the origin of the autonomic nervous system. Imbalance and misalignment here can cause interference to both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
- Balancing and alignment of the Pelvis: the pelvis is the structural foundation of the upper body and key to balance of the autonomic system. We want the pelvis to be level and moving freely.
- Correct spinal misalignments and restrictions: the upper and mid back are common sources of irritation to the sympathetic system. This is a common driver of increased muscle tension and pain.
- Activate the Vagus Nerve: almost every departure from health, including fibromyalgia, is accompanied by a lowering of activity of the Vagus Nerve of the parasympathetic system.
The Vagus Nerve is involved in every aspect of health and wellbeing from quality sleep to healthy digestion to lowered pain to a healthy immune response and more.
Earlier I noted that all fibromyalgia sufferers have experienced chronic stress. This stress causes a lowering of Vagus Nerve function. Most of these people have a history of significant stress, often for years and often dating back to childhood before a significant stress triggered the onset of fibromyalgia.
In my experience we can almost always help the fibromyalgia sufferer. For some it means a complete resolution of their symptoms and for others it is a significant reduction. Either way it translates into a higher quality of life.
About the author:
Bringing more than 3 decades of practice experience, Dr. Bill Berkowitz focuses on balancing and corrective care, applying his expertise to provide patients with predictable, repeatable and measurable results.
Dr. Bill consistently strives to enhance the well-being of his patients by addressing the root imbalances of their problems and promoting optimal balance, alignment, and function of the spine and nervous system.
Bill’s wealth of knowledge and experience has allowed him to develop a nuanced understanding of the human body and its intricate connections. With each adjustment, he supports the body in returning to a state of balance that goes beyond mere symptom relief, focusing instead on long-term correction for his patients’ well-being.
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