Fibromyalgia (FM) is now considered a central nervous system (CNS) disorder rather than a musculoskeletal condition. Successful management of FM is best accomplished using a variety of different approaches including chiropractic adjustments, soft tissue therapies, exercise, diet, supplementation, stress management, cognitive behavioral therapy, and more. Common symptoms of FM include chronic fatigue and mental fog. The focus of this discussion will be on exercise and chiropractic.
Low intensity movement is recommended to decrease FM pain. A sedentary lifestyle reduces cerebrospinal fluid flow and can lead to increased oxidative stress in the brain. Throughout the day, add in plenty of low-intensity movement such as walking and light cycling. Regular movement will help reduce inflammation and boost the development of new neurons in the brain.
A slow but steady pace is recommended when starting a program, making sure that pain and fatigue are under control prior to introducing aerobic exercise. Get an initial assessment of current fitness level and then start one to two levels below that level, gradually building up stamina to a goal of 20-30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity 5-6 days per week. Exercises that emphasize low-impact, high-aerobic output are the best, with water-based exercises at the top of the list. Walking or simply swinging the arms and legs against the resistance of water is extremely effective. A study published in Arthritis Research & Therapy reported improved health-related quality of life in women with FM for those participating in water aerobics. The soothing benefits of warm water are helpful, and group classes add social benefits.
Since FM is a CNS not a muscle condition disorder another brain stimulating exercise is balancing. Depending on the age, agility, and comfort of the person, adding balance-challenging exercises can be beneficial. Chiropractic adjustments can be extremely beneficial. Those with FM, chronic pain and fatigue are highly likely to have neurological dysfunction in their upper neck. Subluxation, or neurological interference, in the upper cervical region of the neck alters endorphin release into the body. This leads to increased states of pain, fatigue, anxiety and accelerated stress as well as mal-coordinated immunity.
Well trained chiropractors can analyze these regions of the spine and give specific corrective adjustments to restore balance and optimal neurological expression in these regions. This reduces the stress response and improves endorphin release, and ultimately, improves the individual’s pain tolerance and overall well-being.
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