This section was compiled by Frank M. Painter, D.C. Send all comments or additions to:Frankp@chiro.org
If there are terms in these articles you don't understand, you can get a definition from the Merriam Webster Medical Dictionary. If you want information about a specific disease, you can access the Merck Manual. You can also search Pub Med for more abstracts on this, or any other health topic.
Chiropractic Management of Fibromyalgia Syndrome:
A Systematic Review of the Literature
J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2009 (Jan); 32 (1): 25-40 ~ FULL TEXT
Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is an elusive condition of unknown etiology, in which patients report chronic widespread pain as their predominant symptom, along with a variety of other complaints including fatigue, sleep disorders, cognitive deficit, irritable bowel and bladder syndrome, headache, Raynaud syndrome, bruxism, atypical patterns of sensory dysesthesia, and other symptoms.  In conclusion, we found that there is an emerging literature regarding a number of CAM therapies for the conservative treatment of FMS syndrome, including spinal manipulation. There is a dearth of experimental chiropractic literature on the management of soft tissue conditions and FMS. It is recommended that the chiropractic research community take notice of this information gap and take steps to design high-quality experimental research studies to help close this information gap.
Short and Long-Term Results of Connective Tissue Manipulation
and Combined Ultrasound Therapy in Patients with Fibromyalgia
J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2006 (Sep); 29 (7): 524-528 ~ FULL TEXT
This is an observational prospective cohort study of 20 female patients with Fibromyalgia (FM). Intensity of pain, complaint of nonrestorative sleep, and impact of FM on functional activities were evaluated by visual analogue scales. All evaluations were performed before and after 20 sessions of treatment, which included connective tissue manipulation of the back daily, for a total of 20 sessions, and combined US therapy of the upper back region every other session. One-year follow-up evaluations were performed on 14 subjects. Statistical analyses revealed that pain intensity, impact of FM on functional activities, and complaints of nonrestorative sleep improved after the treatment program. CONCLUSION: The methods used in this study seemed to be helpful in improving the pain intensity, complaints of nonrestorative sleep, and impact on functional activities in patients with FM.
A Combined Ischemic Compression and Spinal Manipulation in the Treatment
of Fibromyalgia: A Preliminary Estimate of Dose and Efficacy
J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2000 (May); 23 (4): 225-230 ~ FULL TEXT
Fifteen women (mean age 51.1 years) completed the trial. A total of 9 (60) patients were classified as respondents. A statistically significant lessening of pain intensity and corresponding improvement in quality of sleep and fatigue level were observed after 15 and 30 treatments. After 30 treatments, the respondents showed an average lessening of 77.2 (standard deviation = 12.3) in pain intensity and an improvement of 63.5 (standard deviation = 31.6) in sleep quality and 74.8 (standard deviation = 23. 1) in fatigue level. The improvement in the 3 outcome measures was maintained after 1 month without treatment.
The Effectiveness of Chiropractic Management of Fibromyalgia Patients: A Pilot Study
J Manipulative Physiol Ther 1997 (Jul); 20 (6): 389-399
Chiropractic management improved patients' cervical and lumbar ranges of motion, straight leg raise and reported pain levels. These changes were judged to be clinically important within the confines of our sample only. Further study with a sample size of 81 (for 80% power at alpha < or = .05) is recommended to determine if these findings are generalizable to the target population of fibromyalgia suffers.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic syndrome that occurs predominantly in women and is marked by generalized pain, multiple defined tender points, fatigue, disturbed and nonrestorative sleep, and numerous other somatic complaints. Fibromyalgia is not a discrete disease; rather, it lies at the far end of a continuum of psychological distress and chronic pain in the general population. Fibromyalgia largely overlaps with other syndromes, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, temporomandibular joint pain, and multiple other regional pain syndromes, all of which feature symptoms that remain unexplained after usual clinical and laboratory assessment and all of which are related to, but not fully dependent on, depression and anxiety. Fibromyalgia frequently coexists with diseases of structurally defined pathology, such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) or rheumatoid arthritis.
Otherwise unexplained widespread pain occurs in about 10% of the general adult population in Western countries, with approximately half of those affected—mostly women—meeting American College of Rheumatology (ACR) classification criteria for fibromyalgia. It becomes more common after 60 years of age but occurs not infrequently in children. On a typical day, primary care physicians should expect to interact with several patients with fibromyalgia, many of whom will be seeking care for illness other than fibromyalgia. For example, more than 25% of patients with SLE exhibit painful tender points and other clinical and psychological features of fibromyalgia.
The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown. Despite extensive research, no structural pathology has been identified in muscles or other tissues. Although psychological factors associated with chronic distress appear to be important for the development of fibromyalgia in many patients, abundant evidence now indicates that pain in fibromyalgia reflects abnormal pain processing in the central nervous system (i.e., central sensitivity). Clinically, fibromyalgia syndrome is best viewed from a biopsychosocial perspective encompassing multiple variables that contribute to chronic pain and fatigue.
Fibromyalgia has been classified as one of a group of disorders that are variously termed symptom-based conditions, functional somatic syndromes, and affective spectrum disorders. Common somatic symptoms in these illnesses are chronic musculoskeletal or abdominal pain, persistent fatigue, disturbed sleep, and cognitive difficulty. Advances in the understanding of the psychophysiologic and neurophysiologic dysregulation in such illnesses is impelling researchers to develop a unifying reclassification of these illnesses as central sensitivity syndromes.
Clinical Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Pain is the hallmark of fibromyalgia. The pain radiates diffusely from the axial skeleton and is localized to muscles and muscle-tendon junctions of the neck, shoulders, hips, and extremities. Fibromyalgia patients describe the pain with such terms as exhausting, miserable, or unbearable. Generalized hyperalgesia is a cardinal feature. Patients frequently complain that even gentle touch is unpleasant, a manifestation of allodynia.
Fibromyalgia patients also experience severe fatigue, insomnia, and low mood or depression. In fibromyalgia, fatigue occurring most times of the day on most days, together with subjective weakness and nonrestorative sleep, is almost universal. Cognitive complaints, such as difficulties with concentration and memory, may be prominent. Depression, anxiety disorders, and personality disorders contribute to ongoing psychological distress. Other complaints result from somatization, which can be defined as translating psychological distress into somatic symptoms (which are considered more socially acceptable) and seeking care for those symptoms.
Functional impairment is usually present, at least in patients with fibromyalgia who seek care. Patients report difficulty doing usual activities of daily living and lack of exercise—indeed, they actually fear and avoid exercise.
Regional pain syndromes, such as headache, temporomandibular joint disorder, or irritable bowel syndrome, are often present in fibromyalgia patients. It is essential that the physician not automatically attribute all such symptoms to fibromyalgia, however, because fibromyalgia frequently coexists with other disorders of defined structural pathology, such as SLE and rheumatoid arthritis. Optimum therapy requires recognition of both fibromyalgia and comorbid disease.
To meet the fibromyalgia criteria for medical diagnosis, patients must experience:
Widespread pain in all four quadrants of their body, for a minimum of three months, and
At least 11 of the 18 specified tender points (see the sketches)
The 18 sites used for the fibromyalgia diagnosis cluster around the neck, shoulder, chest, hip, knee, and elbow regions. The finger pressure that must be applied to these areas during a "palpation" exam is roughly equivalent to the amount that causes the finger nail bed to blanch or start to become white. Over 75 other tender points have been found to exist, but are not used for diagnostic purposes.
While many chronic pain syndromes display symptoms that overlap with fibromyalgia, the 1990 American College of Rheumatology (ACR) multi-center criteria study (published in the February 1990 issue of Arthritis and Rheumatism) evaluated a total of 558 patients, of which 265 were classified as controls. These control individuals weren't your typical healthy "normals." They were age and sex matched patients with neck pain syndrome, low back pain, local tendonitis, trauma-related pain syndromes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, osteoarthritis of the knee or hand, and other painful disorders. These patients all had some symptoms that mimic fibromyalgia, but the trained examiners were not foiled—they hand-picked the fibromyalgia patients out of the "chronically ill" melting pot with an accuracy of 88%. Fibromyalgia is not a wastebasket diagnosis!
Although the above diagnosis focuses on tender point count, a consensus of 35 fibromyalgia experts published a report in 1996 saying that a person does not need to have the required 11 tender points to be diagnosed and treated for fibromyalgia (Wolfe F, et al.
J Rheumatol 1996 (Mar); 23 (3): 534–539). This criteria was created for research purposes and many people may still have fibromyalgia with less than 11 of the required tender points as long as they have widespread pain and many of the commonly associated symptoms below.