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The term “Fibromyalgia” was put into use in 1976 and is used to describe a variety of symptoms from chronic pain in muscles, tendons, and ligaments, as well as severe fatigue, sleep disorders, irritable bowel, depression, anxiety, chronic headaches, dizziness, confusion, severe menstrual cramps, sensitive skin, muscle twitches, dry eyes and mouth, and numbness in hands and feet. The diagnosis of fibromyalgia is typically given to someone who has definite health problems for which medical doctors can give no definitive diagnosis. Some of the most recent theories on fibromyalgia state that it may be due to an under-responsive autonomic nervous system. This system is the manner in which the brain controls such automatic bodily functions as breathing and heart rate. Studies have found that fibromyalgia sufferers have abnormally high amounts of substance P in the spinal fluid, and therefore feel more pain than the average person at similar levels of stimulation. Other chemical hallmarks of this disorder include low serotonin, too much cortisol, not enough growth hormone, and beta-endorphin levels about half of normal. All of these hormone levels are controlled by glands which are controlled by the autonomic nervous system.

Chiropractic and Fibromyalgia

A chiropractors’ primary goal is to normalize the function of the nervous system by removing interference. Proper communication between the brain and body ensures increased body function. Dr. Fredrick Wolfe, a respected rheumatologist and well-known investigator of fibromyalgia, found patients received more benefit from lifestyle modifications than from medical interventions. In his study chiropractic scored among the most effective treatments with 45.9% reporting great improvement and only 16.2% reporting no improvement. Another study compared chiropractic, medicine and placebo. The study did show some symptomatic benefit from medication, but reported “manipulation also improved the patients’ overall sense of well-being”. Yet another preliminary study reports a lessening of pain intensity, and improvement in sleep quality and fatigue levels in women with fibromyalgia who underwent chiropractic care. 

  • Wolfe F. The clinical syndrome of fibrositis. Am J Medicine, 81(suppl 3A): 7-14, 1986.
  • Backstrom G, Rubin BR, When muscle pain won’t go away, Dallas, Taylor Publishing Company, 1992.
  • Hains, G, et al., JMPT- May 2000;23:225-30.
  • Cohen H, et al. Autonomic dysfunction in patients with fibromyalgia: application of power spectral analysis of heart rate variability. Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2000 Feb:29(4):197-9.
  • Pavia ES, et al., Impaired growth hormone secretion in fibromyalgia patients: evidence for augmented hypothalamic somatostatin tone. Arthritis Rheum. 2003 Jan:48(1):277-8.
  • Parker AJ, Wessely S, Cleare AJ, The neuroendocrinology of chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. Psychol Med. 2001 Nov;31(8):1331-45..