If you or your loved ones have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, you may be wondering what the disorder means for you. Fibromyalgia affects 10 million people in the United States and is more likely to occur in women, with a ratio of about 8 to 2, women over men. But diagnosing the condition can be very complex.
Fibromyalgia is typically diagnosed in patients with:
  • Widespread pain index (WPI) greater than or equal to 7 and symptom severity (SS) scale score greater than or equal to 5 or WPI 3-6 and SS scale score greater than or equal to 9;
  • Symptoms lasting at least three months at a similar level; and
  • No other health problem that would explain the pain and other symptoms.
Aside from widespread pain, patients may suffer with several other common symptoms, including:
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disorders
  • Chronic headaches
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Cognitive or memory impairment
  • Malaise and muscle pain after exertion
  • Jaw pain
  • Morning stiffness
  • Menstrual cramping
  • Irritable bowels
  • Numbness and tingling sensations
  • Skin and chemical sensitivities
Correct Diagnosis Is Key
Correct diagnosis of fibromyalgia is very elusive, so if you are diagnosed with the disorder—or suspect that you have it—seek the opinion of more than one health care provider. Other conditions may create fibromyalgia—like pain, fatigue and other symptoms. Ruling other conditions out first is very important.
In addition to clinical evaluation that will assess possible causes of your pain, your doctor may need to order blood work to determine if you have:
  • Anemia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Lyme disease
  • Other rheumatic diseases
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Allergies and nutritional deficiencies
  • Disorders that cause pain, fatigue, and other fibromyalgia-like symptoms.
If the tests show that you have one of these conditions, treatment will focus on addressing that problem first. If your pain is caused by a muscle or joint condition, chiropractic care may help relieve it more effectively than other therapies.
Treatment Alternatives
If no underlying cause for your symptoms can be identified, you may have classic fibromyalgia. The traditional allopathic approach includes a prescription of prednisone, anti-inflammatory agents, antidepressants, sleep medications, and muscle relaxants. These temporarily relieve the symptoms, but they do produce side effects. If you prefer a natural approach, the following suggestions may be helpful:
  • Studies have shown that a combination of 300 to 600 mg of magnesium per day, along with malic acid, may significantly reduce may significantly reduce the number of tender points and the pain felt at those that remain. B vitamins may also be helpful.
  •  Improving the quality of sleep can help reduce fatigue. Watch your caffeine intake, especially before going to bed. Reduce TV and computer time. If you watch TV in the evening, choose relaxing, funny programs instead of programs with violent or disturbing content. Ask your doctor of chiropractic for other natural ways to help you sleep better.
  • Stress-managing strategies can also help address anxiety or depression issues. Cognitive therapy has been shown helpful in relieving fibromyalgia patients’ negative emotions and depression by changing their perception of themselves and attitudes toward others.
  • A 2011 study found that a long-term combination of aerobic exercise, strengthening and flexibility improves psychological health status and health-related quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia (e.g. Yoga, Pilates, or tai chi)
  • Studies have shown that acupuncture is another effective, conservative approach to treating fibromyalgia symptoms and many doctors of chiropractic offer this service right in their offices.
Your doctor of chiropractic has the knowledge, training, and expertise to help you understand your problem and, in many cases, to manage it successfully. Remember, however, that the treatment program can be successful only with your active participation. If your doctor of chiropractic feels that he or she cannot help you, you will be directed to another health care provider.