Survey shows fibromyalgia responds well to CAM

Results released from a national survey of US women with fibromyalgia, showed that 43% of respondents enjoyed some relief from their symptoms by using alternative therapies such as chiropractic, massage, meditation, and acupuncture.

The survey, known as WE FEEL (Women Expressing Fibromyalgia’s Effects on their Everyday Lives), was designed to gather data and better understand perspectives on diagnosis and treatment, the relationship between fibromyalgia patients and their physicians, the impact of the condition on patients’ daily activities, and the types of support patients need and receive.

Research for WE FEEL was conducted by Edelman StrategyOne, using the field services of Harris Interactive Service Bureau. The 20-minute survey was fielded between May 5 and May 11, 2010. The findings are nationally representative of diagnosed, female fibromyalgia sufferers in the US. The total sample of 508 yields a margin of error of ±4.4% at the 95% confidence level.

The report provides evidence to patients with fibromyalgia that chiropractic may be useful in helping relieve the severity or frequency of their symptoms, while addressing their total wellness levels. The medical profession still has little understanding of the condition or its causes. The typical medical response is to prescribe ever-more potent drug “cocktails” consisting of pain pills, anti-depressants, sleep aids, and other medications.

Since conventional prescription drugs have been relatively ineffective and carry a host of risks and side-effects, the drug industry has geared up to produce numerous new drugs specifically aimed at fibromyalgia patients.

Patients, however, are increasingly looking for non-drug solutions and chiropractic has become a popular option.

According to one online fibromyalgia support site: “Recently, fibromyalgia patients have been seeking chiropractic care increasingly often. Because fibromyalgia causes numerous tender points all over the body, many fibromyalgia patients suffer from back pain, neck pain, and leg cramps. In an attempt to solve these problems, many sufferers have looked to chiropractors. Because simple adjustments to the neck and spine can restore the carriage of the whole body, a lot of fibromyalgia sufferers find that alignments of the spine can significantly reduce pain all over their bodies.” (online)

Sited in evidence is a 1985 study of 81 fibromyalgia patients in which, after 15 chiropractic sessions, patients reported less pain and fatigue, and enjoyed better sleep quality.

There’s additional evidence, though, that points to the neurological component of chiropractic as the true reason for chiropractic’s effectiveness in addressing fibromyalgia.

As noted on “Current research suggests that fibromyalgia is a disorder of the central nervous system. People with fibromyalgia appear to have abnormalities in the chemical compounds (neurotransmitters) that transmit nerve impulses. They also have, on average, four times as much nerve growth factor as people without the disorder. This suggests that fibromyalgia is a problem of central nervous system hypersensitivity. Because chiropractic medicine is based on the theory that an individual’s health is controlled by the state of his or her central nervous system, chiropractors, who are experts in this area, are especially well suited to help patients reduce their fibromyalgia symptoms.’’

Fibromyalgia is a condition marked by chronic, widespread pain and tenderness, and decreased physical function. It affects six to 12 million Americans, mostly women, three-quarters of whom are estimated to be undiagnosed.

“Fibromyalgia is a common medical condition affecting women,” said Elizabeth Battaglino Cahill, Executive Director of and a registered nurse. “It is estimated that there could be as many American women living with fibromyalgia as there are living with diabetes. And while increased awareness has dramatically improved care for patients with this condition, we still have a lot of work to do to ensure patients have the support they need to live their lives fully.”

The study also points out the need for all chiropractors to incorporate a reliable outcome measurement protocol in their practices, one that can scientifically quantify the changes in subjective criteria such as pain, emotional well-being, stress, and even life enjoyment.  Chiropractors wishing to help with these problems need to be able to track the progress their patients are making, and to determine the best course of chiropractic care for each.

SOURCES: “Delay in Diagnosis Significantly Impacts Lives of Patients with Fibromyalgia, New Survey Reports,” November 22, 2010, Healthy Women. Online

Chiropractic and Fibromyalgia

Chiropractic Care,

Women Expressing Fibromyalgia’s Effects on their Everyday Lives (WE FEEL)

A National Survey, Online pdf file