Fibromyalgia and Chiropractic Care


Fibromyalgia means pain in the fibrous tissues of the body. These tissues include the muscles, ligaments and tendons. It is a recently recognized, and widely spread musculoskeletal pain and fatigue disorder of unknown origin. Routine lab tests are typically normal.

Approximately five percent of the general population is thought to have fibromyalgia (about 12 million Americans). Eighty percent of those afflicted are women. Symptoms can begin in early school age children. The progression of fibromyalgia may vary from person to person, and is characterized by remission and reoccurrence of symptoms that often change. Reoccurrence of symptoms are not always attributed to identifiable activities making it difficult to predict what may have caused the flare-up.

Science does not know exactly what causes fibromyalgia. However, research does give us possible explanations for the condition. Our brain and body is receptor driven. Development, or lack thereof, is based on the brain receiving stimulation from our sensory system. Vision, taste, hearing, smell, and touch are the sensory tools we use to communicate with our environment. Joint motion, with it's stimulation of the joint mechanoreceptors, and the sensation of touch, have the greatest impact on the brain. With the joint restrictions that fibromyalgia imposes, coupled with the sensation or perception of pain greatly influence thalamic, hypothalamic, cerebellar, cerebral cortical (brain components), and spinal cord reflex activity. Research demonstrates how damaged tissue from current, and even previous, injuries may contribute to the overall symptomatic picture of fibromyalgia (and other conditions) by a condition called denervation supersensitivity. This occurs when there has been pain sensor (neuronal) development in the healed scar tissue that is extremely easy to stimulate. It has been found that even barometric changes (weather changes) can be enough stimulation to cause the area to hurt. An example would be when a person can tell it's going to storm because an old knee or shoulder injury may begin to ache. This type of extra ordinary nerve activity stimulates a reflex activity at the spinal cord level that will travel up to the thalamus, then on to the cortical area of the brain that is representative of the area concerned, and is where the person "senses" the pain. There is also a nerve sprig in the gray matter of the spinal cord that receives the reflex stimulus, and loops back to the musculoskeletal area at that level, causing another area of involvement, further complicating the case. Another nerve sprig reflexes at the cord level to the autonomic system. The autonomic system is that part of the nervous system that controls your organs and tissues. They are said to be controlled "automatically", and are not in your direct control. This reflex stimulation may then travel up the equivalent of three spinal segments, and/or down three segments of the autonomic nervous system triggering organic responses totally unrelated to the original injury, independent of normal brain control, and having negative influence on your overall health. It becomes extremely complicated at this point due to the one-to-thirty two spinal-to-autonomic nerve stimulation ratio. To fully describe the neural connections that occur with the onset of injury is not the purpose of this article. .

By directly affecting joint function, chiropractic, through the application of the corrective spinal adjustment, has the ability to directly affect brain and body activity through stimulation of inhibitory nerve pathways from the hypothalamus. This is done by stimulation of the high threshold mechanoreceptors, found in spinal joints, during a spinal adjustment, and the resultant spinal reflex. The muscles in the area relax, and spinal cord-hypothalamic reflex activity inhibits firing of the nerves associated with pain sensation, providing relief of the symptomatic complaint, and providing potential long term health benefits.


Patients are diagnosed with fibromyalgia by the following criteria:

1. Multiple focal points of pain in all body quadrants for a minimum of three months.

2. There are at least 11 of 18 tender points found in and around the neck, shoulders, chest, hips, knee, and elbow regions of the body.

3. Other symptoms include stiffness, sleep disturbances, fatigue, and digestive disturbances.


The following recommendations will help those with fibromyalgia type symptoms cope with their condition:

1. Eliminate physically aggravating factors from your home and work place. Practice upright sitting and standing body posture. Get a thorough chiropractic examination, and start a program of spinal adjustment. The doctor may elect to use trigger point therapy or myofacial release techniques to augment the adjustment.

2. Evaluate your sleeping environment and how you sleep. Never sleep on your abdomen. Use a proper supporting pillow for your cervical spine. Sometimes a pillow under your thighs to flex your knees will help while sleeping on your back.

3. Practice biofeedback techniques by listening to a relaxation tape on a daily basis. Perform breathing exercises when doing this activity. Examine your breathing patterns. When you inhale are you raising your chest, or does your abdomen extend? You should extend you abdomen during inhalation. Excessive thoracic cage (chest) movement during breathing over uses the muscles that are designed for spinal movement and assisting with breathing, causing increased pain and tension to the area.

4. Proper rest and sleep is extremely important. Do not over extend yourself. Once the damage is done, it's done. Only time and an extended treatment regime can help then.

5. Dr. Graham practices Active Release Technique which is a highly specific method of releasing fibrotic tissue that is the major cause of pain in fibromyalgia and soft tissue injury, and is highly recommended in all cases of soft tissue injury and fibromyalgia.  Incorporate the proper stretching and spinal biomechanical strengthening exercises that are specific for your body. Dr. Graham is a Fellow of Applied Spinal Biomechanical Engineering, and will assign exercises that are specific for your particular problem. Exercise is beneficial only if done correctly. It is important to emphasize activities that promote the reduction of spasm and the strengthening of your postural back muscles before doing other activities. Re-injury if highly probable if the recommended limitations are not followed. Exercise needs to be performed at a level not to exceed your individual capacity as this will may cause setback. Again, once the damage is done, it's done. Be cautious.

6. Nutritional deficiencies and toxicity is the missing link in the typical approach to treatment, and possibly a key to the preventative practice of chronic disease in general. Nutritional supplementation is a practical and inexpensive method for preventing and/or reversing many health conditions. The solution to this problem is keeping with the recommended schedule, and following the instructions faithfully. Educational material is provided to you so that you may know how your body depends on certain essential nutrients for proper health.

To set up a consult, please call 517 224-8688 or send e-mail. requesting additional information.

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