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Your Must Know Guide to Fibromyalgia

Tuesday, 3rd February 2009

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Fibromyalgia is…

Dr. Martinez-Lavin, a respected fibromyalgia (FM) researcher, has described FM as a “sympathetically maintained neuropathic pain syndrome.” [1]  In other words, FM is chronic pain that has a lot of associated symptoms, like fatigue, depression, insomnia and irritable bowel, that are being directly caused by damage or dysfunction of the nervous system (neuropathy).  This process is maintained or perpetuated due to chronic activation of the sympathetic or “fight or flight” branch of the autonomic nervous system (ANS).

What is the autonomic nervous system?

The ANS regulates our automatic body functions, such as heart rate, digestion, and sleep cycles.  One branch of the ANS acts like the accelerator of a car and the other like a brake.  The accelerator is known as the sympathetic branch (SNS), the brake as the parasympathetic (PNS).  Together these branches interact to deal with changes within the body and in our environment.  When we are awake and active we want the SNS to dominate, while we sleep we want the PNS to dominate.  If, however, the SNS dominates at night then insomnia results.  Studies in which healthy subjects were deprived of sleep have experimentally produced fibromyalgia, which was later reversed when normal sleep was resumed.

What is causing the sympathetic nervous system to stay activated all of the time?

Some researchers are finding a high percentage of FM sufferers with irritation to the spinal cord in the neck due to narrowing of the spinal canal or stenosis.  This irritation caused by stenosis will directly activate the SNS, causing sympathetic dominance, insomnia and as a result, fibromyalgia.  A history of neck trauma makes it more likely for a person to develop stenosis due to instablility of spinal segments and cervical spondylitic myelopathy (CSM).  In CSM the neck tissues form calluses and bone spurs that protrude into the spinal canal and crowd the spinal cord.  This crowding is called cervical myelopathy and is emerging as the best explanation for the myriad of symptoms associated with FM.

Is there anything I can do about CSM?

The good news is that CSM can be addressed through chiropractic, manual and physical therapies and, if conservative measures prove insufficient, surgical care.  Research has shown that directly addressing CSM reduces and, in some cases, completely eliminates the symptoms of FMS.  In my practice in Salt Lake City, we combine therapies such as spinal and extremity adjustments, decompressive traction, trigger point therapy, postural training and rolfing.  Nutrition to support spinal remodeling is also very helpful, this includes becoming well hydrated, taking minerals like calcium and magnesium and taking joint rehabilitation formulas with ingredients like glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM.

Is there anything more I can to do to get out of ‘sympathetic dominance?’

Targeted meditation, conscious breathing, exercise, and reducing or reframing stressful life conditions can have a profoundly positive result.  Additionally, addressing food allergies, general nutrient deficiencies and infections are beneficial.  Energy medicine techniques, like Total Body Modification (TBM), Reiki, Neuro-emotional technique (NET) and others are often a good companion to a holistic approach.

In the end, however, FM sufferers have to remain vigilant about maintaining the wellness of their neck and body.  There isn’t a quick and permanent cure.  Sticking with the things that make a difference, though, can provide lasting relief and a dramatic improvement in quality of life.

Kevin S. Millet, D.C. is clinical director of FibroWellness based in Salt Lake City, Utah.  He can be reached by visiting www.fibrowellness.com.

Martinez-Lavin M. Fibromyalgia is a neuropathic pain syndrome. J Rheumatol 2006; 33:827-829.

Holman AJ.  Positional cervical spinal cord compression and fibromyalgia: a novel comorbidity with important diagnostic and treatment implications.  J Pain. 2008 Jul;9(7):613-22. Epub 2008 May 22.

Heffez DS.  Clinical evidence for cervical myelopathy due to Chiari malformation and spinal stenosis in a non-randomized group of patients with the diagnosis of fibromyalgia.  Eur Spine J. 2004 Oct;13(6):516-23.

©2009

 
 
 

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