Can Chiropractic Help Fibromyalgia?
"I’ve tried everything for my fibromyalgia, and I don’t know what else to do.”
One of the most challenging and frustrating problems of fibromyalgia is knowing what to do about it.
I have written previously how fibromyalgia is not a true condition with a solitary cause, but a syndrome that occurs as the result of a combination of factors.
Moreover, these combinations of factors for fibromyalgia appear to be different from person to person. In other words, what may help one person with fibromyalgia may not help another. Or, like solving a combination lock, you may not see any change in fibromyalgia symptoms until all the parts of the combination are solved.
If so, you can actually be doing the absolutely right thing to help your fibromyalgia but still not feel any different.
And that is the frustrating part! Knowing what is or is not actually working for you.
Especially when it comes to things like fibromyalgia, there is all types of treatments that offer hope. Some you have already tried. Others you have not.
Then there are other things that you have maybe not heard about: things that are common in America or Europe, but not really in Australia or even New Zealand.
Upper cervical care is one of those things that fall in this category: a unique form of healthcare that has helped many people around the world with fibromyalgia but is still pretty rare in Australia.
So what I’d like to do is share with you a bit of information about upper cervical care and how it may be able to help you if you experience fibromyalgia.
What is the connection between upper cervical care and fibromyalgia?
Upper cervical care focuses on the alignment of the top bones in the neck: the atlas (C1) and the axis (C2). These particular bones are responsible for 50% of the movement of your head and neck and are also responsible for protracting your brainstem, which is the master control system of your body.
The problem may start if these vertebrae are ever injured. Not broken or dislocated, but where their alignment shifts even a few millimeters. If so, these bones have the potential to do many things:
- They can produce mechanical tension on your brainstem, affecting its normal function (called increased mechanical neurosensitivity)
- They can disrupt normal blood flow to-and-from the brain
- They can disrupt normal fluid flow around the brain, leading to inflammation
- They can bombard your brain with abnormal neurological information, causing it to become dysfunctional (like a computer virus)
- They can cause adaptation to the muscles and ligaments in your spine and elsewhere in your body, potentially leading to pain and other problems elsewhere.
So you see, there are many potential effects that can happen from a single misalignment of the atlas or the axis!
So what’s the connection between the atlas and fibromyalgia?
Consider what we already said: that the master control switch for your body is located at the base of your skull at the level of the atlas and axis. Like tracing a faulty wire, we may hypothesize the following:
- abnormal information overwhelms the brain processing circuits, and if a center known as the periaqueductal grey matter (PAG) of the reticular formation is affected, it may negatively influence your brain’s ability to regulate pain and sleep centers of the brain, contributing towards the sensation of a “chronic fatigue syndrome”
- abnormal information affects the executive thinking centers of the brain, namely the prefrontal cortex, which may lead to a number of symptoms including those commonly described as “brain fog”
- abnormal flow of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) within the cranial vault can cause brain swelling, which is linked with a condition very similar to fibromyalgia known as myalgic encephalomyelitis
- abnormal tension on your spine and muscles as your body attempts to compensate for the problem at the base of your skull may lead to the development of trigger points, inflammation and pain in the spine, including symptoms that are believed to be linked to fibromyalgia known as non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis
“Spondyloarthritis” refers to degenerative, inflammatory conditions affecting the spine. Inflammation of body tissues is associated with increased levels of pain and dysfunction.
What makes this lattermost point so interesting is the term “non-radiographic.” In other words, researchers formally recognize that there is a neurological and physiological process occurring that accounts for the symptoms of pain, inflammation, and maybe even fibromyalgia, but they aren’t able to see it clearly on normal scans like an x-ray.
In other words, fibromyalgia isn’t a thing, but instead is likely the end result of an abnormal process occurring in the body.
Atlas treatment and fibromyalgia
The purpose of upper cervical care is to restore the normal alignment and movement of the atlas (C1) and the axis (C2) in order to allow your nervous system to function naturally, the way it is designed.
In this way, it is not a direct treatment for the symptoms of fibromyalgia, but instead, a method to allow your own body to perform the healing work that it is meant to do.
Now, an atlas misalignment may be only one piece of the fibromyalgia puzzle. If so, it may not be the right solution for you. Nevertheless, the proper position of the atlas has been demonstrated to be of paramount importance for the normal function of the upper neck and the jaw, which has been demonstrated to have an exceptionally amazing ability to help people with fibromyalgia.
As one research study demonstrated, over 80% of people diagnosed with fibromyalgia syndrome experienced significant relief with treatment to the jaw. Now, what the study did not look at was the influence of the atlas on the jaw as a potential underlying condition or towards fibromyalgia.
Nevertheless, the point remains that if you have been experiencing the symptoms of fibromyalgia that is important to have a look at this key area of your body to make sure that everything is aligned and functioning correctly.
The process that we use at Atlas Health in North Lakes is called the Blair upper cervical or atlas procedure. Blair is the name of the chiropractor, who researched and developed this method in the USA to correct the alignment of the vertebrae in the upper neck without twisting or cracking.
In this way, upper cervical care is recognized by the International Chiropractor’s Association as a special division of chiropractic that is not the same as general spinal manipulation. Often people who have received general chiropractic care are amazed to discoed how different the approach is.
Foremost, there is no twisting or cracking the neck. In fact, the amount of force used in the corrective procedure is only the amount you would use to feel your pulse.
The key is to be as light and quick as possible. the way that we are able to do this is through a series of diagnostic tests including paraspinal thermography (an indirect measure of your sympathetic nervous system) and 3D x-rays that are customized for your unique bone structure.
Remember that term we used earlier, “non-radiographic?” Well, if we take a series of views that are actually tailed for your unique bone structure, then we actually are able to see the very types of misalignments that may be associated with nervous system dysfunction and potentially also the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
And when we see and when we know what we are working with, it helps us to take a different approach to help people with fibromyalgia … on that, unfortunately, is still very rare in Australia.
Fibromyalgia and atlas chiropractor near me
In Australia, there are approximately 15 chiropractors actively using some form of upper cervical specific care. Approximately 1/3 of these chiropractic doctors provide the Blair method as described in this article.
In Brisbane, we are the premier (and at the time of this writing, still only) upper cervical specific chiropractor, focusing exclusively on the function of the upper neck as it relates to the health of your nervous system, brain, and whole body.
Our practice is located in North Lakes to serve communities across Brisbane and southeast Queensland from the Gold Coast up to the Sunshine Coast and everywhere in between Albany Creek, Aspley, Bridgeman Downs, Brighton, Bulimba, Burpengary, Cashmere, Chandler, Dakabin, Dayboro, Griffin, Hawthorne, Indooroopilly, Kalinga, Mango Hill, Narangba, New Farm, Newport, Newstead, North Harbour, North Lakes, Samford, Scarborough, Shorncliffe, South Brisbane, Spring Hill, Teneriffe, Toowong and West End.
It is common for many of our clients with fibromyalgia to travel 60 minutes for care, and we also see many clients who travel from across Queensland and around Australia.
We fully appreciate how difficult this can be on some days, and so we are happy to work with you on whatever level is actually possible for you.
If we are able to help you with fibromyalgia in any way, we would be honored to help.
On that note - and if you found the information in this article to be valuable and makes sense - then we would like to hear from you. Specifically, our practice offers a 15-minute over-the-phone consolation where you can speak directly with one of our doctors about your individual case, answer any questions you may have, and explain the care process and what is involved.
That way, you can decide if you would like a formal assessment and if care might be the right approach for you in managing fibromyalgia.
You can reach us at our practice at 07 3188 9329, or alternatively you can click the Contact Us link on this page.
We look forward to hearing from you and will do our best to assist in any way that we can.
Atlas Health Australia - “A passion and purpose for helping people improve the quality of their lives.”
Bested AC, Marshall LM. Review of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: an evidence-based approach to diagnosis and management by clinicians. Rev Environ Health. 2015;30(4):223-49. doi: 10.1515/reveh-2015-0026. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26613325
Cifre I, Sitges C, Fraiman D, et al. Disrupted functional connectivity of the pain network in fibromyalgia. Psychosom Med. 2012 Jan;74(1):55-62. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e3182408f04. Epub 2011 Dec 30. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22210242
Cortes Rivera M, Mastronardi C, Silva-Aldana CT, et al. Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Comprehensive Review. Diagnostics (Basel). 2019 Aug 7;9(3). pii: E91. doi: 10.3390/diagnostics9030091. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31394725
Daligadu J, Haavik H., Yielder PC, et al. Alterations in cortical and cerebellar motor processing in subclinical neck pain patients following a spinal manipulation. Manipulative Physiol Therapy. 36(8); 2013:527-537. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24035521
Haavik-Taylor H and Murphy B. The effects of spinal manipulation on central integration of dual somatosensory input observed after motor training: a crossover study. J Manipulative Physiol Therapy. 33(4);2010:261-272. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20534312
Haavik H and Murphy B. The role of spinal manipulation in addressing disordered sensorimotor integration and altered motor control. J Electromyography Kinesiology, 22(5);2012:768-776. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17137836
López-Solà M, Woo CW, Pujol J. Towards a neurophysiological signature for fibromyalgia.
Pain. 2017 Jan;158(1):34-47. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27583567
Losert-Bruggner B, Hülse M, Hülse R. Fibromyalgia in patients with chronic CCD and CMD - a retrospective study of 555 patients. Cranio. 2017 Jun 5:1-9. doi: 10.1080/08869634.2017.1334376. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28580880
Nieto RE, Plasencia Rodriguez C, Peiteado López D, et al. Are we treating women patients with real axial spondyloarthritis? Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2019 Nov 14. pii: S0049-0172(19)30699-7. doi: 10.1016/j.semarthrit.2019.11.011. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31812352
Rencber N, Saglam G, Huner B, Kuru O. Presence of Fibromyalgia Syndrome and Its Relationship with Clinical Parameters in Patients with Axial Spondyloarthritis. Pain Physician. 2019 Nov;22(6): E579-E585. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31775411
Rosa S, Baird JW. The craniocervical junction: observations regarding the relationship between misalignment, obstruction of cerebrospinal fluid flow, cerebellar tonsillar ectopia, and image-guided correction. Smith FW, Dworkin JS (eds): The Craniocervical Syndrome and MRI. Basel, Karger, 2015, pp 48-66 (DOI:10.1159/000365470).
Rosa S, Baird JW, Harshfield D, Chehrenama M. Craniocervical Junction Syndrome: Anatomy of the Craniocervical and Atlantoaxial Junctions and the Effect of Misalignment on Cerebrospinal Fluid Flow, Hydrocephalus Bora Gürer, IntechOpen, DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.72890. A
Sawaddiruk P, Paiboonworachat S, Chattipakorn N, Chattipakorn SC. Alterations of brain activity in fibromyalgia patients. J Clin Neurosci. 2017 Apr;38:13-22. doi: 10.1016/j.jocn.2016.12.014. Epub 2017 Jan 10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28087191
White PD. A perspective on causation of chronic fatigue syndrome by considering its nosology.
J Eval Clin Pract. 2019 Aug 1. doi: 10.1111/jep.13240. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31373106