Recently I saw someone in my office who related the following story:
“…I was told by my doctor that I have fibromyalgia and I don’t know what to do. I’ve noticed that over the last couple of years that I’ve been having a progressively harder time doing simple tasks that I used to take for granted like folding laundry, ironing, cooking, cutting up vegetables, sewing, driving a car, holding a book, and even sleeping has become very challenging. I have to take many breaks while I’m doing these tasks and even take a nap in the middle of the day. I never used to have to do that! My family doctor initially seemed interested in helping me. He listened to me, took some blood, took some x-rays, and then said ‘….everything looks fine.’ His conclusion was that I must have fibromyalgia – I’ve never even heard of that! He prescribed many different drugs. One was to help me sleep but all it did was knock me out to the point where I couldn’t get up in the morning and felt so groggy that I couldn’t function. Then, he tried this other one and I felt like I wanted to crawl out of my skin! I’ve tried 3 or 4 different drugs and the side effects were all worse than what I’m dealing with, without the drugs. He finally concluded, ‘…you’ll just have to learn how to live with it.’ Well, thank you very much, doctor! Tell me HOW to do that?”
That feeling of helplessness and not knowing what to do next is a common complaint among fibromyalgia (FM) sufferers and the fact is, many patients with FM simply CAN’T just “…learn to live with it,” and need guidance.
One such patient recently presented in such situation. After a detailed history, I checked her vital signs, performed a physical exam that included observation, palpation, range of motion, physical performance testing, orthopedic and neurological tests and then sat down to discuss the findings and what specific things I could offer her. I laid out a treatment plan that consisted of the following:
- Leg length correction: she had a 12mm short right leg, a tipped pelvis with a compensatory curve in the low back. Heel lifts were recommended.
- Foot orthotics: she had flat feet and rolled in ankles that were altering her gait pattern.
- Exercises: she was quite deconditioned (out of shape) and needed help with flexibility, strength and endurance, balance/coordination, and aerobic function.
- Spinal manipulation: She had areas in her spine that were not properly moving and she had to compensate and use other parts too much, setting up faulty movement habits.
- Nutritional counseling: She was consuming too many glutens (wheat, oats, barley, rice) which can make you feel tire/fatigued/”wiped out” all the time. She was placed on a strict gluten-free diet and encouraged to use of several nutrients.
- We discussed “realistic goals.” This was probably the MOST important part for her. She was told NOT to expect a “cure” but rather, a means of “controlling” FM. It was emphasized that expecting “too much” will set her up for disappointment and treatment failure. We discussed ways she could control or minimize the symptoms of FM and what the role of chiropractic played in that management process. We also discussed finding a family doctor who was willing to work with her chiropractor.
Her doctor reports she is doing very well, independent of regular doctor visits, and is for the first time in a long time, happy with her ability to control her FM condition.