Chiropractic Continuing Education

Chiropractic for Fibromyalgia

          Fibromyalgia is one of the most common chronic pain conditions in the United States today, affected around 1 in 50 Americans according to the American College of Rheumatology. Fibromyalgia is one of the many pain conditions that chiropractic is helpful for, and as chiropractic providers, we know that it is an effective, natural treatment option for those suffering from fibromyalgia. Although many people tend to brush off fibromyalgia, it is a very real condition that hinders the quality of life of those affected. Chiropractic, whether alone or in conjunction with other treatments, is a beneficial treatment option for fibromyalgia.


Fibromyalgia Basics


            Fibromyalgia is a long-lasting condition that causes musculoskeletal pain all throughout the body in addition to fatigue and issues sleeping. It is not understood fully what causes it, and there is no cure. However, there are ways in both traditional medicine as well as in chiropractic that can help treat and manage symptoms.


Fibromyalgia Symptoms Include:

  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Chronic pain throughout the body, often in the head, arms, legs, chest, stomach, back, and buttocks
  • Numbness in the arms and legs
  • Joint and/or muscle stiffness
  • Tenderness to the touch
  • Digestive issues
  • Fibro Fog (issues concentrating and with memory)
  • Increased sensitivity to noise, temperature, light, and odor


Research has found that the condition tends to run in families, and that genetics are likely to contribute to the condition. Researchers also believe that if the person has another disease or even mental health issues, that these people are also more at risk of developing fibromyalgia.


Conditions More Likely to Lead to Fibromyalgia:


  • Chronic back pain
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Lupus
  • Depression & Anxiety
  • Bechterew’s Disease
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Painful Bladder Syndrome
  • Migraine/other headaches
  • TMD


Many people confuse fibromyalgia with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) as they are very similar, but CFS and fibromyalgia do have differences.


CFS vs Fibromyalgia:


  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) – it mimics many symptoms of fibromyalgia, but in CFS there is an overwhelming lack of energy which overshadows any pain and they often feel flu-like symptoms such as fever or swollen glands. It is also tied to immune-system abnormalities, and is said to often derive from a viral infection like the flu or mononucleosis.
  • Fibromyalgia – fatigue is part of fibromyalgia, but it tends to take a backseat to the intense muscle pain. There is a tender-point evaluation with 18 points, and a patient needs to meet at least 11 of them to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia instead of CFS. It also is said to arise after a type of trauma such as an emotional shock or physical injury.


Most patients who have fibromyalgia also have CFS, and tend to have multiple underlying conditions. Doctors also have criteria in addition to the tender-point evaluation that need to be met to be diagnosed for fibromyalgia.


To meet the indicators for fibromyalgia there needs to be pain in at least 4 of the following 5 areas:


  • Axial area – neck, back, abdomen, or chest
  • Left or Right Upper area – shoulder, jaw, or arm
  • Left or Right Lower area – hip, leg, or buttock


Standard treatment options to reduce the pain from fibromyalgia utilizing over-the-counter pain relievers, anti-depressants, and even anti-seizure medications which can be helpful in decreasing certain types of pain. In addition to medications, it is advised in standard treatment to take advantage of stress management, exercise, and implement quality sleep habits. Adding chiropractic to standard treatment can be beneficial to fibromyalgia patients, as well as chiropractic treatment alone.


Chiropractic for Fibromyalgia


            Since fibromyalgia affects the way that the spinal cord and brain processes pain signals, chiropractic treatment is used to realign any spots in the spine that are causing pain focusing on the body as a whole. The spine being out of alignment can affect the pain signaling and function in the body as well as relieving tension in the body, which is why chiropractic can be beneficial for fibromyalgia patients.


Chiropractic treatment for fibromyalgia works by:


  • Utilizing movement therapy to decrease pain and increase function
  • Realigning the limbs and spine effectively reducing pain and encouraging well-being
  • Restoring the connection between the brain and spinal cord to reactivate proper pain signals and re-establish the nervous system.
  • Implementing lifestyle recommendations in the treatment based on specific needs of the patient.
  • Empowering the patient through chiropractic treatment to help them feel more control over their pain management and confident in their recovery from fibromyalgia.


In addition to all of this, chiropractic can boost sleep quality, and increase range of motion lost due to fibromyalgia pain. The goal of chiropractic treatment is to keep the muscles and spine from losing range of motion to prevent muscles from tightening further leading to increased pain. It is better to use a gentler chiropractic adjustment for fibromyalgia patients as their muscles often have decreased ability to heal.
Being sure to be aware of any muscle changes that happen in fibromyalgia patients is essential when treating these patients. Recommending fibromyalgia patients be seen 3-4 times per month is common so that their muscles can be consistently relaxed. In addition to aiding in pain management, chiropractic treatment will improve the patient’s quality of life. In fibromyalgia patients, it can also be beneficial to take advantage of multiple therapies in the chiropractic toolbox such as trigger point therapy and laser therapy.


Fibromyalgia & Chiropractic

            Unfortunately, 2/3 of cases involving fibromyalgia are misdiagnosed, and 2.7% of the world’s population is diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Chiropractic treatments alone or in conjunction with standard treatment can make major differences in those that suffer from fibromyalgia day to day. Depending on your expertise, it can be a vital treatment option that allows fibromyalgia patients to take control of their help when they have felt otherwise at a loss with standard treatment.