500 N. Carroll Ave. Ste. 110, Southlake, TX 76092

Fibromyalgia and the Central Nervous System: How Are They Connected?

fibromyalgia-and-the-central-nervous-system-how-are-they-connectedFibromyalgia is a chronic pain disorder. As many as 4% of people in the United States are affected by it. Previously called fibrosis, it is mainly characterized by widespread pain that impacts the muscles and ligaments. Women are mostly affected.

Signs and Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

Though everyone feels body pain from time to time, it’s a different scenario for people with fibromyalgia. Their whole body aches persistently, leading to disrupted day-to-day activities. There are many symptoms attributed to fibromyalgia, including:

  • Chronic pain all over the body mainly in the muscles, bones, or joints
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Tenderness throughout the body
  • “Fibro fog” or difficulties concentrating and remembering
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Chest wall pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Pelvic pain
  • Dry eyes and mouth
  • Heart palpitations
  • Bladder symptoms
  • Weight gain
  • Allergies and chemical sensitivities

Possible Causes of Fibromyalgia

Researchers recognize that fibromyalgia is genetic and that experiencing stressful events often prompts its onset.

  • Physical stress – a car or sports accident
  • Emotional stress – a traumatic life event
  • Medical stress – certain infections, illnesses, or surgery

Sometimes other health conditions can bring about fibromyalgia, including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune diseases.

Fibromyalgia sufferers have a lower tolerance for pain than those without fibromyalgia. Why is it so? It has something to do with the way their spinal cord and brain process pain. People living with fibromyalgia feel pain more intensely as the irregularity occurring in their central nervous system amplifies the pain.

Even ordinarily non-painful things could be very painful for those with fibromyalgia. For example, healthy people would find a massage to be comforting and enjoyable. Fibromyalgia patients may find massages to be rather painful.

People Who Are at High Risk of Fibromyalgia

Studies suggest a strong link between genetics and fibromyalgia.  Parents, children, and siblings of people with fibromyalgia are eight times more likely to get the condition than those with no family history of the disorder. Some genes are also suspected to play a part in fibromyalgia.

Researches have studied twins that have the disorder, and they have agreed that both genetic and environmental factors contribute to fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia can also be a secondary effect of an autoimmune disease.  

But most of all, having experienced any emotional trauma or physical injury (particularly involving the spine and upper body) can be another reason fibromyalgia occurs.

The Tender Points of Fibromyalgia

Tender points are multiple areas of the body where pain and tenderness can be felt immediately beneath the skin when pressed. They are around the joints, tendons, and muscles, and scattered over the back, chest, neck, elbows, hips, buttocks, and knees.

To be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, your pain should be chronic or present for more than three months. It is common for fibromyalgia sufferers to say they feel like they have the flu and hurt all over. Some days the pain gets more intense, and many patients report having flare-ups for a couple of days in a row.

How Fibromyalgia Is Linked to the Central Nervous System

The origin of fibromyalgia happens to be in the central nervous system, according to a recent study. Researchers conducted an in-depth investigation on the role of the central nervous system in the onset of fibromyalgia, and they found that pain processing is definitely distorted in those with fibromyalgia.

They also revealed a clear difference between fibromyalgia and depression, although the two conditions can exist at the same time. The study included other findings:

  • Fibromyalgia sufferers have higher pain intensities and lower pressure pain level
  • When they begin to stimulate pain, cerebral activation happened to fibromyalgia patients that do not usually occur in those without the condition
  • Patients’ brains registered pain on both sides of the brain, even if it the pain was experienced on one side of the body
  • Those with lower cortical activation did better in the assessment than those with high cortical activation
  • There was no difference in cognitive performance for controlled subjects, while prefrontal activation was dissimilar between those with fibromyalgia and depression.

The study helps doctors and patients better understand the science behind fibromyalgia. But what exactly is causing the central nervous system to overreact to pain?

Correcting Issues in the Central Nervous System Through Upper Cervical Chiropractic

The central nervous system, which controls many functions of the body, consists of the brain, brainstem, and spinal cord. Located at the top of the spine are the C1 and C2 vertebrae which protect the brainstem from damage. Once a misalignment in these bones occurs, the brainstem can get strained and cause the faulty sending of signals to the brain. For instance, it may relay wrong messages about the intensity of pain the body is experiencing, leading to symptoms of fibromyalgia. Anyone can get a misalignment in the upper cervical vertebrae from things such as car accidents, head trauma, sports collisions, or tripping and falling.

This is what upper cervical chiropractic care is trying to address. By adjusting the bones that have misaligned, the brainstem can go back to its correct function, and the symptoms of fibromyalgia will decrease, if not disappear entirely.

Here at Hope Chiropractic Center in Southlake, Texas, we examine our patients thoroughly for any kind of vertebral misalignment. We will resolve even a misalignment as small as ¼ of a millimeter as we know that even small misalignments may cause serious health problems. The method we use is gentle and does not involve cracking or popping of the spine. We are a reputable upper cervical chiropractic clinic in Texas, and our patients have happily reported feeling better after being adjusted by us. Give us a call if you want relief of your symptoms related to fibromyalgia.