Fibromyalgia - Is It Really Incurable?
Fibromyalgia is a tough thing to see in a chiropractic office, even though that’s right where the person needs to be. Sometimes a patient is in so much pain it’s hard to touch them for an exam let alone adjust their spine. They are usually skeptical, and rightfully so. Often times they have been told by friends, family, and even doctors that their problems are “all in their head”. Many times they say things like “I hurt from the top of my head to the tips of my toes”, “I feel like I got hit by a Mack truck”, or “My arms and legs feel like they are stuck in cement”. My least favorite is “I really love to exercise and I can’t do anything with my kids anymore because I’m in too much pain all over. Please help me be able to exercise.” It’s terribly debilitating and can take a person’s hope away.
Fortunately for the millions of suffering Americans this disease IS reversible, although a Google search or an outdated textbook (or medical doctor) might tell you otherwise. I can confidently tell you this because I have personally helped many people not just limit their flare-ups to virtually non-existent but actually reverse their Fibromyalgia diagnosis to merely a memory in their medical charts (listen to our podcast accompanying this article, I interview one of these patients).
We don’t “treat” fibromyalgia (or any disease for that matter), but by understanding some of the basic designs and functions of the body and working with a qualified doctor and team, you can begin to understand more about your potential solutions. We implement three Real Health solutions: Nutrition, True Cellular Detox, and Chiropractic for an Innate healing solution. When used together they remove any possible interference from your body healing and are the secret to you getting your life back.
Fibromyalgia literally translates to muscle pain, or pain in the ligaments, tendons, and joints. It’s characterized by unexplained pain all over the body which can vary in intensity, and is diagnosed by that too - pain all over the body in 11 out of 18 pain spots. It’s one of the worst conditions to suffer from and one of the worst diagnoses to receive because it gives no real answers - you have pain all over you body. Medical doctors have no answers at all outside of switching medications from Lyrica to gabapentin to prednisone to muscle relaxers and back again in a search to relieve your pain but never finding a true cause. Fibromyalgia is much more than just pain too, it is usually accompanied by chronic fatigue, brain fog, troubled sleep, and an inability to recover from normal physical exertion. Over 10 million Americans suffer with fibro, and it affects 4x more women than men.
Although very misunderstood and mysterious, fibromyalgia is classified as a “heightened pain state”. It’s described as “overactive nerves”. Your body produces and interprets more pain signals than it should considering the given pain stimulus, often times with no painful stimulus at all. In other words, if a 1lb weight was dropped on your normal healthy arm and you said it was a 2/10 on a 1-10 pain scale, a fibromyalgia patient would rate it a 12/10 and three days later it might still be a 5/10. The touch of a small pet’s paw might make them jump off the couch. Picking up a granddaughter might lead to 2 days of bedrest. Debilitating pain - burning, aching, stabbing, shooting.
Fibro is classified as a Centralized Pain State, meaning the abnormal pain perception is occurring in the Central Nervous System, or brain and spinal cord, even though the pain is felt throughout the arms and legs. Many hypotheses exist regarding cause and cure including theories on brain and pain neurotransmitters, inflammatory cytokines, sleep disturbances, circadian rhythm of cortisol, oxidative damage, etc etc...and it’s a big (and growing) part of the pharmaceutical drug industry’s research and marketing. As always though, there is no one single cause, and there is no one single solution (like a drug or pill or shot).
The Real Health 3-Part Solution for Fibromyalgia
Nutrition - It Starts With Food
Good health starts with real food. It’s hard to heal while eating junk. But will nutrition reverse fibromyalgia? I would argue that while you can’t heal without proper nutrition, you won’t fully heal from diet alone, but it’s the most important place to start. You can’t extinguish a fire and fuel it at the same time. The goal of eating for fibromyalgia is DECREASING INFLAMMATION. Many “diets” have had great success because the one thing they all have in common is they (typically) avoid fake food and encourage real foods including vegetables. That’s a great place to start! It’s an absolute MUST for anyone suffering from fibromyalgia to avoid inflammatory foods and follow a strict anti-inflammatory diet. Eating processed or sugary junk foods is like pouring gas on the fire, and that kind of self-sabotage deserves no sympathy. As I’ve heard many patients tell me - “No food tastes as good as NOT having fibro flare-ups feels.”
I recommend a ‘plant-based paleo’ diet rich in a large variety of vegetables, high-fat foods like coconut products and avocados, grass-fed beef and butter, organic chicken and eggs, wild-caught fish, nuts, and seeds with very little sugar, little to no grains (no bread, pasta, rice, corn) and absolutely no processed or genetically modified (GMO) foods. I also like to incorporate different healing techniques taught originally by Dr. Pompa called Diet Variation to challenge metabolism and down-regulate cellular inflammation faster. Once you are eating a healthy diet you can then begin to “supplement” additional things (like cyclic doses of probiotics, omegas, L-Carnitine, etc etc - work with a physician!) that can also help decrease inflammation, but not until your diet is right. When these techniques are combined with detoxification and chiropractic it’s magic!
True Cellular Detox - You Have to Fix the Cell to get Well!
Detox is the wrong word to use for what we do in our office and what you need to do to really truly get healthy. People think of detox as a 10-Day Detox package from their local health food store or a Liver and Gut Cleanse they read about on Pinterest. While all of those things can be helpful, they aren’t going to solve the problem of fibromyalgia. You have to fix the cell to get well. What that means is that when your cells are functioning properly, your body is functioning properly and you don’t have pain or symptoms. Many symptoms of fibromyalgia are linked to toxicity and the problems caused at the cellular level including low energy or chronic fatigue, brain fog, and abnormal sleep cycles. A critical part of our True Cellular Detox program we offer is getting your cells functioning properly again - decreasing cellular inflammation, repairing the cell membrane, restoring cellular energy, re-establishing an important cellular process called methylation. Fibromyalgia has been linked to toxicity from many sources including excitotoxins from food like MSG and aspartame, glyphosate (round-up), Volatile Organic Compounds (fumes), heavy metals, and more. These toxins create cellular inflammation and without effectively getting rid of the toxins, you will never eliminate the inflammation and never truly get well.
Chiropractic - The Missing Piece of the Puzzle
It doesn’t make sense to me. 10 million people in our country have a debilitating disease causing pain all over the body and horrible suffering. The medical system is of little-to-no help outside of dangerous medications. All they know is that it’s a problem with the central nervous system interpreting sensory information improperly and creating a heightened pain state. It begs the question - WHY AREN’T MORE FIBRO PATIENTS GETTING THEIR SPINE & NERVOUS SYSTEM CHECKED AND ADJUSTED BY A CHIROPRACTOR REGULARLY? The answer is because people have huge misconceptions about what chiropractic is and what it does.
Your spine is an incredibly complex combination of bones, muscles, ligaments, joints, and not the least - the nervous system. The spinal column surrounds and protects the central nervous system and the beginning of the peripheral nervous system, the sensitive nerve roots. Each bone or vertebra of the spine has at least 6 joints associated with it, and there are 24 moveable segments. When the spine is subluxated, or a specific vertebra or group or vertebrae has restricted motion, this decreases what’s called proprioception or mechanoreception at that joint or in that given area. Decreased mechanoreception at any joint (knee, hip, shoulder, spine) has negative neurological effects on the nociceptive or pain pathways, and this leads to a cascade of neurological and eventual endocrinological consequences including an increased stress response. This is often accompanied by other physiological features such as muscle spasms and local inflammation, eventually leading to fibrosis and degeneration, adding further insult to injury and causing more and more deleterious results. This in turn affects generated pain signals in many different ways and even affects the way the brain interprets these pain signals. In the clinic we often see the most spinal damage in the lower cervical and upper thoracic area (lower neck, shoulders, upper back), and that’s no surprise. Research shows that fibromyalgia patients show the same spinal cord hypersensitivity seen in a recent whiplash injury.3 The more scary fact is that these ‘altered nociceptive signals’ are often sub-cortical, meaning you don’t consciously feel the pain although neurologically the root cause is still happening just the same and affecting your health on every level. This is the basis for the chiropractic adjustment! When combined with certain techniques like intermittent compressive/extensive traction and physical therapy exercises we can decrease subluxation, improve abnormal joint patterns, remove neurological interference and improve fibromyalgia symptoms. Spinal alignment and segmental motion is an absolute must for everyone but especially fibromyalgia sufferers.
What Do You Do Now?
Many people will try to do this on their own, and for 99% of people - you just can’t. You can do a lot, but you really need a coach and a partner, and you literally have to have a chiropractor to get adjusted. No stretching or massage or yoga will take it’s place. Visit our website to make an appointment or even schedule a digital consultation. If you aren’t ready for that yet, read our other blog posts or listen to our podcast episodes and keep learning about your health and how you can take control of it. We don’t take all patients and we don’t want you until you are ready to commit to taking control of your own health. When you are ready, we can’t wait to meet you and hear how we can help you!
2.Indian J Clin Biochem. 2014 Jan; 29(1): 1–2.
A Quest for Better Understanding of Biochemical Changes in Fibromyalgia Syndrome
3.Pain. 2004 Jan;107(1-2):7-15.
Evidence for spinal cord hypersensitivity in chronic pain after whiplash injury and in fibromyalgia.