fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia: Symptoms, Causes, Pain Management


Do You Have Fibromyalgia? Learn About Your Pain Management Options Do you have chronic muscle pain, especially abdominal and back pain? What about overwhelming fatigue? Numbness or tingling in your extremities? Stiffness? Insomnia? Headaches? Anxiety? Do these symptoms constantly shift Read more

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Back pain seems like it should be a fairly simple concept—your back hurts, you want it to not hurt, you go to a professional where they fix you up and send you on your way. Except, like with most Read more

Fibromyalgia: Symptoms, Causes, Pain Management

Dr. Leo Potetti Chronic Pain , , , ,

Do You Have Fibromyalgia? Learn About Your Pain Management Options

Do you have chronic muscle pain, especially abdominal and back pain? What about overwhelming fatigue? Numbness or tingling in your extremities? Stiffness? Insomnia? Headaches? Anxiety? Do these symptoms constantly shift and come and go?

As much as all of that might seem unrelated and you may just consider yourself to be always in poor health for some reason or another, it may all be symptomatic of the same one condition: fibromyalgia.

This affliction affects about 5 million Americans aged 18 and older, 80-90% of whom are women. And yet, with its wide range of symptoms, inconsistent intensity, and unknown root causes, fibromyalgia remains poorly understood by patients and medical professionals alike.

So, what do we know? Let’s go through the symptoms and potential causes, as well as the treatment options for pain management.

Symptoms of FibromyalgiaPain Management for Fibromyalgia

One of the things that makes fibromyalgia such a difficult condition to live with is how broad the range of symptoms is.

The symptoms that most define fibromyalgia, though, are chronic widespread pain and fatigue.

By chronic widespread pain, what is meant is a dull, constant, aching pain that affects both sides of the body, as well as both above and below the waist, continuing for longer than three months.

People with fibromyalgia also typically feel a constant fatigue, and report feeling it when they first wake up regardless of how long they’ve slept. Their sleep is also often disrupted by factors including pain, restless leg syndrome, and sleep apnea. As a result, many fibromyalgia patients experience chronic insomnia.

These and other factors can additionally contribute to a set of cognitive difficulties known as “fibro fog”. This involves difficulty with being able to remember things, pay attention, stay focused, concentrate on simple mental tasks, etc.

There’s a long list of other potential symptoms as well though, including:

  • Muscle spasms and/or tightness
  • Stiffness when you first wake up or stay in the same position too long
  • Irritable bowel syndrome—abdominal pain, nausea, bloating, alternating constipation and diarrhea
  • Migraine or tension headaches
  • Tenderness of the jaw or face
  • Numbness or tingling of the face, arms, legs, hands, or feet
  • Sensitivity to noise, bright lights, cold, odors, certain foods, or medication
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Irritable bladder—increased frequency or urgency of urination
  • Reduced ability to tolerate exercise, and muscle pain following exercise
  • Feeling of swelling in hands and feet without actual swelling present

These symptoms can come and go, all together or switching out for one another, from month to month. This is why it’s hard for a patient to realize that these symptoms can all be connected, and why medical professionals have trouble making a confident fibromyalgia diagnosis.

So, what could be the cause of a condition with such a diverse range of symptoms?

Possible Causes of Fibromyalgia

The truth is, we don’t really know. Just like with many other forms of chronic pain, there isn’t an identifiable anatomical cause for the symptoms which together characterize fibromyalgia.

There are theories, though.

Researchers believe that the pain associated with fibromyalgia stems from repeated stimulation of the nerves, which leads to a change in how the brain interprets, experiences, and reacts to pain. An abnormal increase in the neurotransmitters that signal pain, increased sensitivity of pain receptors, and decrease in the brain’s pain management through natural painkilling endorphins are all possible factors.

Lowered serotonin levels in particular are associated with fibromyalgia. Serotonin is a big factor in pain management. It has the effect of calming and reducing anxiety, and a reduction in its levels leads to a lowered pain threshold similar to that of fibromyalgia patients. Men produce serotonin 50% faster than women, so this may explain why women are so much more likely to suffer from fibromyalgia than men.

But how does this happen? Well, some believe that because fibromyalgia appears to run in families, the problem is at least partly genetic. This in itself wouldn’t directly cause the condition, but would make you more sensitive to environmental factors that do.

Those environmental factors include infections and traumatic physical injuries that can damage the spinal cord or other parts of nervous system, like severe car accidents. However, some researchers also believe that factors like sleep disorders, stress, and depression may also lead to lowered serotonin levels, and can similarly trigger fibromyalgia.

None of this is entirely proven, however, and medical professionals continue to research and speculate.

Pain Management for Fibromyalgia Patients

Since fibromyalgia can’t be cured, treatment revolves around minimizing the pain and fatigue that it causes. And since bed rest doesn’t seem to alleviate the fatigue, and the pain is often what keeps sleep from being restful, pain management is the real focus.

In this regard, the treatments of fibromyalgia are similar to those for most other chronic pain conditions.

The first option which many practitioners push is the use of drugs. There are many kinds that are used to try and treat fibromyalgia, but none that stand out as particularly effective at pain management. Some of these drugs include antidepressants like duloxetine (Cymbalta), as well as the anticonvulsant pregabalin (Lyrica).

However, like all drugs, these chemicals have consequences in the form of side effects: nausea, dry mouth, and constipation, insomnia, and dizziness for Cymbalta, and dizziness, sleepiness, swelling, weight gain, and impaired ability to drive for Lyrica.

Many other more natural treatment methods provide pain management for fibromyalgia patients and don’t carry the negative side effects that drugs do.

Exercise for example is a great pain management option. It increases endorphins which reduce pain and boost mood. However, those suffering from fibromyalgia often feel intensified pain after working out, and avoid it. So exercise is something that has to be slowly worked toward, and there are initial barriers that have to be passed before a fibromyalgia patient can enjoy exercise without pain.

As a result, other methods provide better starting points for pain management. These include:

  • Chiropractic, which can reduce pain and increase range of motion
  • Acupuncture, which can stimulate the nerves to alter brain chemistry and improve pain tolerance
  • Biofeedback, which helps people learn to control their stress responses and minimize their pain
  • Deep-tissue massage and neuromuscular massage, which help reduce muscular and soft-tissue pain
  • Physical therapy, which can reduce muscular pain and stiffness and improve posture and confidence of movement
  • Meditation, which can reduce stress and anxiety and produce a calming effect
  • Tai Chi and qi gong, which have evidence of helping with pain in fibromyalgia patients

To figure out which of these might be right for you, you should consult with a professional who can examine your condition and recommend which treatment options might work best. Back in Shape Chiropractic has been helping patients with pain management in Gurnee, IL for decades, and is licensed to provide quality chiropractic, acupuncture, and other health services.

So if you’re suffering from chronic pain and fatigue, give us a call at (847) 249-2225—we’ll do our best to find a solution and get you Back in Shape!
Back in Shape Chiropractic
4673 Old Grand Ave
Gurnee, IL 60031


What Are the Benefits of Acupuncture?

Dr. Leo Potetti Acupuncture , , , ,

The image is probably familiar to you, something you may have seen in any number of comedy bits over the years—an apprehensive person lies down on their stomach and an Asian, usually older, acupuncturist proceeds to stick them with needles, producing comedic yelps in the hapless victim. And yet, while this remains a common trope in popular media, over 14 million Americans have experienced the benefits of acupuncture, having used it to treat some medical ailment.

Acupuncture was first introduced to the U.S. in the 70s, after a reporter accompanying President Nixon on a trip to China received the treatment after an emergency surgery and wrote positively about the experience in the New York Times. Since then, the practice has gained traction among Americans, the FDA classified acupuncture needles as medical devices, and numerous studies have confirmed acupuncture’s effectiveness.

So, what exactly are the benefits of acupuncture? What conditions can it treat? Is it painful or are there side effects? Here’s a rundown of the basics you need to know.

Acupuncture for Acute and Chronic Pain

Probably the most prominent benefit of acupuncture is its ability to provide pain relief.

In particular, research has shown that acupuncture can relieve the symptoms of back, neck, and shoulder pain, as well as chronic headaches and osteoarthritis (commonly referred to as degenerative joint disease or wear-and-tear arthritis). Other studies have found acupuncture to effectively reduce pain in patients with fibromyalgia, post-operative pain, and dental pain.

The studies that proved this compared acupuncture against both non-treatment and simulated acupuncture. When medical treatments are being tested for effectiveness, the clinical trials use control groups that are given a simulated treatment—when a drug is being studied, for example, the control group will receive a sugar pill. This extra measure is taken to make sure the positive effects of the treatment aren’t merely the result of a placebo effect.

So, simulated acupuncture is real acupuncture’s sugar pill—rather than inserting the needles into specific points according to the patient’s illness, the needles are used in random locations and might not pierce the skin. The fact that real acupuncture performed markedly better than this simulation proves that the benefits of acupuncture are real and cannot be explained away by placebo, as some try to do.

But how does acupuncture work? Well the acupuncturist chooses the acupuncture points by examining where the patient is experiencing pain. Long, thin needles are inserted into these locations and then manipulated by the acupuncturist. Sometimes they are heated or used to conduct a small electrical current, but this isn’t always part of the process.

In ancient Chinese tradition, these needles were thought to stimulate energy flow through pathways called meridians, breaking up blockages thought to be the cause of many conditions.

Today, however, academics of western medicine believe the benefits of acupuncture stem from stimulation of the nervous system. Acupuncture points are understood as spots where nerves, muscles, and connective tissue can be stimulated in such a way that blood flow to that area is increased and natural painkillers released within the body.

For patients with chronic pain, especially those with the type of pain where there is no identifiable mechanical cause for the pain and it’s likely an issue with the nervous system, this could be just what they need to provoke their body’s own response against pain.

That’s particularly important considering the epidemic of opioid addictions in the United States and the concerns that have been raised about their excessive prescription to people suffering from pain. Natural treatments like acupuncture may be a viable alternative to replace these unsafe drugs which so often lead to chemical dependence and even serve as a common gateway to heroin addiction.

Benefits of Acupuncture for Other Conditions

Those types of pain aren’t the only thing acupuncture is good for, though.

Some of the other benefits of acupuncture include:

Acupuncture also holds many unique benefits for women. Some of these include:

A more complete list of conditions and symptoms which acupuncture has been proven to be effective against can be found on the website for UC San Diego’s Center for Integrative Medicine, where they have a page for acupuncture. The list includes dysentery, colic, depression, leukopenia, sciatica, sprains, strokes, and tennis elbow.

The page also includes a list of conditions for which there is “limited but probable” evidence for acupuncture’s effectiveness. These include palsy, acne, gastrointestinal problems, asthma, insomnia, diabetes, drug addiction, schizophrenia, urinary tract infections, whooping cough, dementia, sexual dysfunction, prostatitis, and more.

Are There Risks or Drawbacks?

The first question everyone asks about acupuncture is how much it hurts. The truth is that most patients experience either no pain or minimal pain, though depending on the reason for the procedure and the location of the needle placements, pain is possible. The needles are only kept there for 5 to 30 minutes though, so even if there is some pain, it’s likely a small price to pay for long-term relief. Possible bleeding, bruising, or soreness can continue for a bit after the treatment, but the needles are so thin that this is usually negligible.

There are other risks to keep in mind, of course. Patients who are taking blood thinners, or who have a bleeding disorder, should probably avoid acupuncture, as the needles are piercing the skin and this could be dangerous in those cases.

And, of course, whenever needles are used, they must be sterilized. This is particularly important to keep in mind for patients such as those undergoing chemotherapy, whose immune systems are in a weakened state. For those patients, infections can be debilitating and even life-threatening, so great care must be taken to insure the sterilization of needles.

For those reasons, you need to have a licensed professional performing your acupuncture if you do decide it’s a treatment method you’d like to pursue. The benefits of acupuncture are many, but only if the person performing the acupuncture knows what they’re doing.

Here at Back in Shape Chiropractic, we have been studying and observing the benefits of acupuncture in Gurnee, IL for nearly 30 years. Our practitioners are educated and licensed doctors of chiropractic who are qualified not only to administer acupuncture, but to diagnose your condition and decide whether acupuncture is a good treatment route in the first place.

So give us a call at (847) 249-2225. Stick with the professionals, so you don’t get stuck with a bad needle.
Back in Shape Chiropractic
4673 Old Grand Ave
Gurnee, IL 60031