As a Chiropractor, many patients present to my office with specific complaints of low back pain, neck pain, headaches, and everything in between. However, some individuals are unable to pinpoint the specific location of their pain, and often experience diffuse aches and soreness across their entire body. While there are numerous causes for such diffuse symptoms, including inflammatory conditions (such as rheumatoid arthritis), sickness, overlapping injuries, and medication side-effects, one possible diagnosis to consider is fibromyalgia.
According to the Mayo Clinic, fibromyalgia is defined as “a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory, and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals.” Other symptoms include morning stiffness, headaches, difficulty thinking (referred to as “fibro fog”), irritable bowel/abdominal cramping, jaw pain, numbness and tingling, and depression. While nearly everyone is susceptible to developing fibromyalgia, it is much more prevalent in women, with a woman to man ratio of 7:1. It is also estimated that adults with fibromyalgia miss nearly 17 days of work per year (as opposed to 6 days per year for those without fibromyalgia), and are far less productive while at work.
While the true cause of fibromyalgia is currently unknown, there are various factors that may play a role in its development. These factors include a history of rheumatic disease (such as RA or lupus), excessive stress, obesity, repetitive injuries to the body, thyroid dysfunction, and poor diet/lifestyle choices.
One lifestyle choice, in particular, that may play a significant role in fibromyalgia is smoking. While most people are aware of the risks, and hazards, of smoking, very few people know that tobacco use actually slows the body’s ability to heal/recover from injury. As nicotine enters the bloodstream it causes our blood vessels to constrict, thereby decreasing the amount of oxygen that reaches our tissues. Without proper oxygenation, our muscles are unable to function correctly, and our cells are unable to produce sufficient amounts of ATP (an energy molecule used for every activity in the body – think gasoline in an engine). This idea also ties in with various research studies that show aerobic exercise is effective at reducing the overall number of fibromyalgia tender points.
Another major risk factor that can be avoided, on your own, is a diet high in processed and refined foods. In fact, one study found that out of 17 fibromyalgia patients, 76% of them experienced less headaches, fatigue, bloating, heartburn, and breathing difficulties after eliminating corn, wheat, dairy, and sugar from their diets for just two weeks. Nearly 50% of these patients also reported a significant reduction in pain overall. These foods are commonly inflammatory to the cells of the body, not only inflicting damage, but also detracting resources from other vital processes that may be going on (if your body is busy fighting off dietary related injuries, it is less capable of repairing musculoskeletal injuries). Excessive sugar is also linked to insulin resistance, excessive weight gain, and diabetes, all of which inhibit the body’s ability to heal.
Along with the above mentioned suggestions, there are various other factors and recommendations to consider. For more information on Fibromyalgia, or to schedule your Free Consultation, call Full Function Chiropractic today.