In the United States, approximately one person in every 50 is estimated to have fibromyalgia, or between 3 and 6 million Americans in total. Fibromyalgia is second only to osteoarthritis in conditions affecting the musculoskeletal system. Approximately 50% of people with fibromyalgia are unable to perform routine daily activities, while 30-40% of sufferers have to change jobs or cease working completely.

Typically presenting in 20-40 year old women, fibromyalgia is currently identified as a "neurosensory disorder characterized by disturbances in the way the central nervous system (CNS) interprets and evaluates stimuli." Significant evidence illustrates that fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), regional chronic pain syndromes, and some emotional disorders all involve abnormal regulation of the stress response and are, therefore, closely intertwined with hormone and neurotransmitter imbalances.

Symptoms & Diagnosis

The primary symptom of fibromyalgia is widespread soft tissue pain that persists for at least three months and may be accentuated at tender points. This is often accompanied by chronic fatigue and frequent sleep disturbances. Other common indicators of fibromyalgia include muscular tenderness and stiffness, mood disturbances (depression and anxiety), and cognitive difficulties (trouble concentrating, forgetfulness, and disorganized thinking). Migraine and tension headaches are present in more than 50% of individuals with fibromyalgia.

Because many fibromyalgia patients appear well upon physical and imaging examinations, the diagnosis of fibromyalgia was historically considered controversial and, unfortunately, written off by many conventional physicians as a psychological condition. Separating the symptoms of fibromyalgia from its associated conditions can be fairly confusing. For this reason, fibromyalgia is primarily a diagnosis of exclusion, which means that other diseases and disorders must first be ruled out.

Medical Treatment

Since the experience of fibromyalgia and the reaction to therapy is largely shaped by a complex interaction of physical, psychological, and social factors, most experts suggest a multidisciplinary approach, which involves a team of clinicians from a variety of medical disciplines (family practice, physical therapy, and mental health).

Traditional pharmacotherapy for fibromyalgia includes a nearly endless variety of medications:

  • Pain relievers: opioids, non-opioid analgesics, local anesthetics
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Antidepressants (Cymbalta, Savella)
  • Botulinum toxin (Botox injections)
  • Anticonvulsants (Lyrica)
  • Sleep aids

While all the above medications are commonly used to treat fibromyalgia, the FDA has only approved three specific drugs, and none of these are effective for the entire scope of fibromyalgia symptoms. Physicians generally direct treatment at the most bothersome symptoms and start with drugs that carry the lowest side effect profile. Additionally, many patients either fail to respond or develop significant side effects due to required long-term use.

How We Can Help

Alternative interventions are particularly beneficial for patients that have lived with the syndrome for many years, all the while believing that the symptoms were completely psychological. Rejection by friends, families, and physicians induces significant stress, usually exacerbating an already volatile situation.

Given the known associations between stress, mood, obesity and fibromyalgia, it is not surprising that adherence to a healthy diet can have significant benefits. According to recent evidence, plant-based diets are particularly beneficial because of high antioxidant levels and their ability to neutralize the free radical damage and mitochondrial dysfunction now known to play a major role in the mechanics of the condition.

Through a functional medicine approach, Divine Design uses targeted protocols and chiropractic neurological treatments for impressive results with many patients. Using convenient blood tests to uncover potential hormone or neurotransmitter imbalances and targeting them with scientifically studied natural therapies can drastically improve the quality of life for those with fibromyalgia.