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What is Fibromyalgia?

Extreme tiredness. Pain all over the body. Shattered sleep. If you’re one of the millions of Americans who have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, you will be all too familiar with its debilitating effect on your life.

Fibromyalgia is a common illness, thought to affect between two and five percent of the adult population. This chronic, long-term condition causes a range of distressing symptoms. In addition to exhaustion and joint and muscle pain, people suffering from fibromyalgia may feel depressed and anxious, have trouble with memory and concentration, or suffer migraines. Other symptoms may include allergies and hypersensitivity to various odors. Fibromyalgia may also be causing digestive problems, including bowel problems such as constipation and bloating.

The condition may at times lead to extreme sensitivity to pain, meaning something that doesn’t hurt somebody else may feel severely painful to the patient.  They may experience good days where they cope well, and other days where it feels impossible to function.

Struggling with Credibility

Despite its sometimes debilitating effects, many people with fibromyalgia face the additional burden of being misunderstood and doubted. Many patients reported that family members, employers, co-workers, friends, and even some doctors do not understand or take their illness seriously.

As an official clinic of the Fibromyalgia Centers of America (FCA), we understand fibromyalgia and its impact on your life. While some members of the medical profession were still catching up to the fact that fibromyalgia is a real and potentially debilitating condition, the FCA built a network of health professionals dedicated to using the latest technology to treat people with fibromyalgia syndrome.

People who have fibromyalgia may “look fine.” Mainstream medicine has no single test that will give a diagnosis. Doctors approach a diagnosis by ruling out other causes of the symptoms, such as irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, or depression. Because fibromyalgia’s symptoms resemble so many other conditions, it may take a while for a medical doctor to reach a conclusion. In addition, it’s entirely possible to have fibromyalgia in addition to another condition, which may make it even harder to identify.

Although it was first identified and described in the 19thcentury, people with this condition have faced a long struggle to be believed. Thankfully, evidence and knowledge about this condition is growing among the medical community. This means that, with time, more and more of the general public will recognize it as a genuine condition.

Scientists have recently come to understand that fibromyalgia affects the way the body’s central nervous system processes pain. The patient’s body is constantly hyper-reactive to pain, touch, and other sensory input.

What Causes Fibromyalgia?

The cause of fibromyalgia remains unknown, although there are several theories. Some medical professionals believe that people develop the condition after an episode of severe emotional or physical stress. Events such as a relationship breakdown, injury, childbirth, an operation, bereavement or a viral infection may trigger fibromyalgia. However, many people develop the illness without experiencing a traumatic event.

Scientists believe that some people may be genetically predisposed to getting fibromyalgia. The theory is that, when faced with a triggering event, a person with an inherited predisposition may then go on to develop the illness while a person who does not have those genes would not get fibromyalgia.

Recent studies have shown chemical imbalances in the brain may be a factor in fibromyalgia. People with the condition have been found to have lower than normal levels of several important hormones, including noradrenaline (or norepinephrine), dopamine and serotonin.

Noradrenaline plays an important role in the body’s “fight or flight” response, and has an impact on pain perception, mood, and blood pressure. Dopamine is an important mood regulator and serotonin, called the “happiness molecule,” has a big effect on feelings of cheerfulness, emotional resilience, and sleep regulation.

For reasons yet unknown, fibromyalgia affects significantly more women than men. According to some estimates, up to seven times as many women have fibromyalgia than men. The condition most commonly develops in people aged between 30 and 50, although there are cases of children and elderly people developing it.

What Treatments are Available for Fibromyalgia?

At the moment, there is no known cure for fibromyalgia. Current medical approaches focus on managing specific symptoms of the condition, such as reducing pain, treating depression and anxiety, or helping improve sleep.

Many physicians recommend treating fibromyalgia with medication. Because the condition presents with so many diverse symptoms, no one medicine can manage them all, and a number of different drugs may be prescribed for fibromyalgia treatment.

Rather than masking the symptoms with drugs, we believe instead in dealing with the source of the problem through a range of approaches, including chiropractic manipulation.

Some people have found help through psychotherapy, counselling, and cognitive behavioral therapy. A number of alternative treatments for fibromyalgia have also brought relief, including relaxation techniques and hydrotherapy.

The Problem with Drug-Based Fibromyalgia Therapies

Fibromyalgia, by definition, causes a huge range of symptoms. Some medical professionals offer drugs as the first line of treatment. Because no single medicine can treat the wide range of fibromyalgia symptoms, patients often end up on several different drugs. All drugs, even over-the-counter medicines, will simply hide the symptoms and do little to address what is causing them.

In contrast, we target the source of the symptoms instead of using medicines to cover them.

When doctors try to manage fibromyalgia with drugs, some of the medicines they recommend may include:

  • Painkillers
  • Anti-seizure medication
  • Antidepressants
  • Sleep medication

Some of these pills can have significant side effects.

Painkillers

To manage the pain that fibromyalgia often causes, doctors may recommend a wide range of pain medication, from common over-the-counter drugs to powerful prescription-only medicines. If over the counter medicines are not working, doctors will usually prescribe more powerful drugs such as tramadol or codeine. While these may be more effective in covering the pain of fibromyalgia, they present significant risks.

Strong painkillers can be addictive: an estimated 20 percent of the US population has abused prescription drugs. The effectiveness of these medications weakens, the longer you use them. Since fibromyalgia is a chronic condition, this may mean that your doctor will need to prescribe higher doses, which may lead to withdrawal problems if you want to wean yourself off them.

In addition to the addiction risk, strong painkillers may have other side effects, such as fatigue or diarrhea.

Anti-Seizure Medication

Also known as anticonvulsants, anti-seizure medicines are sometimes prescribed to treat fibromyalgia. These medicines, such as pregabalin and gabapentin, are also used to manage epilepsy. Some people have found that these drugs can help reduce pain, since they act by blocking nerves from passing pain signals.

Although they may help with fibromyalgia pain, these anti-seizure medicines may also have side effects, most commonly dizziness, drowsiness, weight gain, and swelling hands and feet (edema). Some people also experience dryness in the mouth, blurry vision and difficulty concentrating.

Antidepressants

A number of different classes of antidepressants are sometimes prescribed to treat fibromyalgia. Tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline, increase the level of serotonin in the brain, which has a positive effect on sleep and mood. Amitriptyline can also be effective against nerve pain and irritable bowel syndrome. However, among its side effects are weight gain, dryness of the mouth, and drowsiness.

Serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are another class of antidepressants sometimes used to treat fibromyalgia. Duloxetine, venlafaxine and milnacipran are the most commonly-used medicines of this type. These work by addressing the balance of serotonin and norepinephrine in the body, thus having an effect on sleep, mood, and pain transmission.

These medicines may have severe side effects, however, including suicidal thinking, nausea, constipation, drowsiness and hypertension.

Sleep Medication

Some doctors may prescribe sleep medication to help people with fibromyalgia sleep better. While these may be helpful in the short term, they come with significant drawbacks. Side effects include drowsiness, which can impair driving ability. These medicines may also affect the patient’s memory and ability to concentrate.

Some sleep medications may be addictive. Others have been associated with so-called parasomnias: carrying out complex activities in your sleep, such as sleep driving, sleep eating, making phone calls, Internet shopping, or engaging in sexual activity, and on waking up, having no memory of having done these actions.

As with any medications, when using drugs to treat fibromyalgia, it’s important to consider the possible side effects. In addition, since fibromyalgia is a chronic, long term condition, a patient would need to weigh in the fact that if they depend on medicines, they would need to take them for years.

Instead of blocking nerves and pain receptors, our techniques seek to improve the function of the nervous system. Through our approach, patients experience natural pain relief, reduction in fatigue, and improved sleep.

Our Approach to Treating Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a difficult, complex condition that can affect people’s whole life and lifestyle. Mainstream medical treatment offers the choice between taking strong, potentially addictive drugs with disturbing side effects, or facing years of pain and debilitation.

If you are suffering from fibromyalgia, you may have been offered a medical solution that will only hide your symptoms by wallpapering over the cracks instead of trying to fix them.

We offer another way. Our approach to managing fibromyalgia can bring you relief and improve your quality of life without resorting to powerful medicines that may cause further harm.

Drug-based fibromyalgia treatments work by blocking your body from feeling pain: like taking the batteries out of the fire alarm. We believe it’s better to put out the fire by helping your body to function better, feel better, and be better. Our mission is to give our clients safe, conservative and effective care, with a non-invasive and drug-free way of treating fibromyalgia.

Our clinic is founded on three generations of chiropractic practice. We have a long and successful history of helping people get better without surgery or drugs. Our expertise includes advanced training in handling fibromyalgia.

We are not anti-medicine, but believe that introducing powerful and potentially toxic elements into your body ought not to be the first resort. Why not try a non-invasive, nature-based way of allowing your body to heal itself?

Many of our patients come to us after having sought other methods of managing their fibromyalgia. It is gratifying to see them get results that have changed their lives for the better.

It’s time for you to try an effective and non-invasive treatment that works with your body’s natural healing process. Instead of flooding your system with multiple drugs that dull your symptoms but give you no long-term hope, come to us to explore how we can work with you. When you schedule an appointment us, we will take the time to give you a comprehensive examination and get a thorough understanding of your unique situation in order to determine whether we can help.

Contact us now to schedule a risk-free consultation, and take your first steps towards an improved quality of life based on safe, conservative and effective care.

- Cornerstone Family Chiropractic
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