On March 13, 2017, the Annals of Vertebral Subluxation Research published a case study documenting the improvement from chiropractic of a woman who had been suffering with fibromyalgia, widespread pain, fatigue, depression, and headaches.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic, widespread pain syndrome with an unknown medical cause. The word itself is actually a descriptive term that can be broken down into three words. “Fibro” is a Latin word meaning fibrous tissues such as tendons and ligaments. The middle part “my” is short for “myo” which is Latin for muscles. And the word “algia” is Latin meaning pain. The study authors note how common this problem is by stating that, “It is estimated to affect 2-3% of the American population and is the second most common diagnosis made in rheumatology clinics in the United States.”
Fibromyalgia is about ten times more common in women than men, and commonly starts between the ages of 60 to 79 years. Due to many patients with fibromyalgia also suffering from depression, common medical treatment is low-dose antidepressants as well as pain medication.
In this case, a 40-year-old woman went to the chiropractor with an 8-year history of medically diagnosed fibromyalgia. Her symptoms included widespread pain, including neck pain, mid and upper-back pain, and arm and shoulder pain. She was also suffering from headaches, high blood pressure, and depression. The medical care she had been receiving for her condition included three non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) per day, seizure medication, and a series of three cortisone injections.
A chiropractic examination was performed to access the woman’s spine and nervous system. This consisted of postural evaluation, x-rays of the spine, paraspinal surface electromyography (sEMG), paraspinal thermography, range of motion (ROM), and motion and static palpation. Additionally, a 36-question short-form (SF-36) questionnaire was given. This questionnaire is a standard and verifiable measurement of quality of life as stated by the patient. It is often used to gauge the overall improvement of a patient in their abilities to have a normal and function life. The scores that the patient can give themselves in each of the areas range from 0 for the worst possible, to 100 representing the highest level of functioning possible.
The woman received a total of 44 chiropractic visits over a 5 month period after which a re-examination was performed and all tests were compared to the original findings. The study records that all objective findings showed improvement including the patient’s range of motion, the sEMG tests, as well as x-ray findings.
The SF-36 patient questionnaire showed considerable improvement in most all the areas as reported by the woman. Her emotional well-being improved 10 points from 39.6 to 49.6. Her reported energy/fatigue improved 37.5 points from a 16.6 to 54.1. She reported that her general health improved 35.0 points from a 3.0 to 38.0. As for pain, her original rating was a complete 0, which improved 36.7 points. Likewise she rated her physical functioning at 0 before her care which improved to 39.4 after chiropractic. Her limitations due to emotional problems improved 8.3 points from 50.9 to 59.2. The woman reported that her social functioning improved 37.5 points from an original 21.2 to 58.7 after chiropractic.
In their conclusion the authors wrote, “Reduction in radiographic vertebral subluxations and improvements in spinal alignment and posture, ranges of motion, musculoskeletal pain, headaches, and health-related quality of life were achieved using [chiropractic] on a patient diagnosed with fibromyalgia.”