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When dealing with chronic pain, chiropractors are often the first recommendation from friends and family to help make you feel better. Could these manipulations and stretches help treat chronic pain that comes with your fibromyalgia or is it a big scam?

Patients should first suspect that they may have fibromyalgia when they have unrelenting fatigue and chronic pain. As this disease progresses, more mood disturbances set in and patients develop depression and have an overall low quality of life [1]. A number of supplements for fibromyalgia exist on the market that can assist in helping patients manage their symptoms instead of the cocktail of antidepressants and antipsychotics that can leave patients in a much worse state [2]. I have already covered how we can utilize 5-HTP and melatonin to find fibromyalgia pain relief, how herbs like St. John's wort and Chlorella can help improve energy levels and how even using a bacteria like Lactobacillus can improve the gastrointestinal symptoms that are sure to follow. Even if these supplements for fibromyalgia have some obvious benefits, they also come with side effects and risks themselves [3]. Pain is a chronic process, and even medications that suppress the underlying mechanism can become ineffective after a long-term use [4].  Some patients turn to another type of alternative therapy to find permanent relief — their neighborhood chiropractor. The question is could chiropractor care treat your fibromyalgia? 

Why You Should Not Consider Going to a Chiropractor 

When it comes to chiropractor care, I, like most of my colleagues, am skeptical of the merits of these types of visits. Patients are often meeting with the chiropractor multiple times a week and pay a large sum of money for specific manipulations and massage. I'm sure many of you readers could say the same thing of your physician as well so let's refocus on the scientific findings for now. 

Chiropractors serve a purpose in the medical management of patients and are a valuable asset when it comes to long-term management of chronic illnesses. There are over 5,000 active chiropractors right now in North America, and studies show that between 9 to 69 percent of Americans have gone to a chiropractor [5, 6]. As we travel East to Europe, chiropractors have also become entangled in the medical sector, and nearly 30 percents of British residents confirm that they have frequent visits for chronic pain cases [7]. When testing to see if these chiropractor manipulations were more effective than control maneuvers, it was determined that chiropractor manipulation was no more effective than a control technique to relieve chronic pain [8]. They may have some minor benefits in improving balance or relieving pain sensation for a brief period but many studies say the placebo effect could explain this: the fact that someone is treating you naturally makes you feel that you are getting healthier [9]. In a non-medical metaphor for this, just think of the last time someone complimented you and how good you felt for the rest of the day until you come home and a family member contradicts the nice message. I would be that family member in this metaphor after saying chiropractors do not work. 

Why You Should Go to a Chiropractor

The reason that chiropractors would be recommended to help manage fibromyalgia along with some of the supplements for fibromyalgia we have discussed is because of this placebo effect. A key factor that is at the root of many of the symptoms of fibromyalgia is that there is a somatization base. Before I lose you, this means that your body creates physical symptoms to correspond with neurological and emotional distresses that you may be dealing with [10]. Dismissing these symptoms as saying "it is all in your head," is the wrong course of action, yet a number of my colleagues unfortunately recommend this when patients present with these types of symptoms. 

Even if a chiropractor may not be using medications and consultations to treat a patient, they offer patients something that many physicians do not; a sympathetic ear and letting a patient feel that their symptoms are justifiably real. Having routine visits to a medical professional that is consistently asking about how their pain is, what techniques are helping and aggravating pain and what the next steps they should try together are very important to help patients progress. This is the standard of care that is expected from physicians with all patients but with time constraints, full schedules, and medical meetings, it can be hard to pencil in patients for 1-hour blocks when patients with more life-threatening issues must be seen. 

These chiropractors can bring fibromyalgia pain relief because of this fact. Stretching, manipulations and other chiropractic techniques can improve flexibility and make a patient more active. Pain levels will be reduced, and more importantly, patients will feel that their concerns are heard, and efforts are being taken to relieve these symptoms. [11] Even if countless studies refute the effectiveness of chiropractic care, these routine visits will first treat the mind, followed by the physical relief of symptoms [12]. When we reevaluate our first question: "could chiropractic care treat your fibromyalgia pain?", we can conclude that from a medical standpoint, the answer would be "no." But from an alternative medicine perspective where the making sure patients feel heard, and symptoms gradually resolve, then "yes," chiropractic care does have a place in the treatment of fibromyalgia. 

 

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