Fibromyalgia is many things to many people. I’ve always found it to be really interesting when a new patient comes to me with their history and tells me that one of their Drs. (or maybe all of them) have told them that they “must have fibromyalgia”.
They will describe to me how they were tested and have all of the pressure points that go into the diagnosis of fibromyalgia and also how their pain is varied and randomized.
They will then describe all of the medications that they have tried.
They will tell me about the dosages that their doctors did, how their doctors increased and decreased the amount they have taken. They will explain how when the first and second medications didn’t work, they switched them to another medication.
Sometimes, they tell me that their doctors have given up on them and told them that it must be psychological and that they need to see a psychologist.
I actually consulted with a woman this week who tearfully told me that her doctors are now telling her that she needs to see a “behavioral therapist”. She told me how she knew that was not the answer for her but she was still very emotional about the situation.
Understandably so! I’ve had patients tell me that they knew that their pain wasn’t in their head and that it was real. Of course, they are telling me about it after I’ve helped them and they know for sure.
The relief is so obvious. It’s one thing to have a physical problem, but it’s my experience that people don’t enjoy the notion that they may have some type of psychological issue that is turning their life upside down.
It’s the same story over and over again. Wash, rinse, repeat…. It’s really sad! I don’t want to sound like I’m minimizing what people go through who have fibromyalgia because I’m not.
My heart goes out to all people who suffer from fibromyalgia.
What I’m saying is that I’ve helped so many fibromyalgia sufferers get relief of their debilitating pain and symptoms and that for many people, there is a natural way of getting help.
A way that is admittedly complex, but beautifully simplistic at the same time. Find out what is going on with the body, give it what it needs, and see what happens.
It’s a way that doesn’t involve all of the terrible side effects that many of the other treatment methods have. A medication may give some relief for a short period of time but often doesn’t give indefinite relief and can cause other health problems worse than fibromyalgia.
How is Neck Pain related to Fibromyalgia?
Okay, I had my soapbox moment. Let’s get down to why I wrote this article: Almost every fibromyalgia patient I have ever met and treated had chronic neck pain and muscle tightness in their upper back as one of their main symptoms.
Of course, there are also the symptoms of random aches and pains, fatigue, headaches, depression, anxiety, gastrointestinal upset, etc… but one of the main incoming complaints expressed to me is the unrelenting neck and upper back pain and tightness.
Neck pain will agitate what is called the fight or flight response in the body and can cause muscle spasms, trigger points, and even referred pain into the upper back or upper extremities (shoulders, arms and hands).
After a while, the chronic stress response (as a result of neck pain) can change hormone levels by creating adrenal gland fatigue or exhaustion. Adrenal fatigue can affect blood pressure, blood sugar, water retention, and other physiological processes in a negative way.
Why does Fibromyalgia cause Fatigue?
Fibromyalgia is strongly associated with fatigue and low energy levels. The medical term for fatigue is “malaise”. I’ve never met a fibro patient who told me that they didn’t suffer from a lot of fatigue.
I have a couple of theories about why fatigue is associated with fibromyalgia. Really, it doesn’t matter which of my theories is correct or if they are all wrong.
Why do I make such a bold statement? Because most of my patients get a lot of relief. In the end, we don’t care what I do that works as long as it works and we get results. Right?
I know why my treatments help, but I have learned through many years of trying to explain my unique methods to my patients that many of them don’t really care about the methods. They just want results.
They just tell me how happy they are to be feeling better and leave all of the science and nerdy stuff up to me. I’m okay with that but for some reason I still work really hard to educate my patients.
Can Neck Pain cause Fatigue?
I work with many of my patients with functional medicine and fully realize that many fibromyalgia sufferers will have some type of underlying chronic infection that is a component of their condition.
That is a whole different topic though and this article is about neck pain and fibromyalgia. You can read my article about Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue to learn more about the possible link between a chronic infection and fibromyalgia.
The biggest reason (from an anatomic standpoint) I believe that fibromyalgia causes fatigue is because of pressure on the brainstem (in the neck). This would explain the random pains throughout the body.
Nerves and Fibromyalgia
All nerve signals go through the neck. All! This is really important because fibromyalgia causes a lot of nerve pain. Or, does nerve pain cause many of the symptoms of fibromyalgia?
I believe that the two are connected. You see, there are motor nerve signals that go from the brain to the body and there are sensory nerve signals that go from the body back to the brain.
The neck (the cervical spine that houses the brainstem) is what the two signaling pathways have in common. The brainstem is an extension of the brain into the neck.
Therefore, it makes sense that if there is pressure on the brainstem that it could cause random pains throughout the body and affect both nerve signaling pathways. Right?
Fibromyalgia and Poor Sleep
Often when I treat patients, they talk about how much better they sleep and how good it feels to get deep restful sleep again. That’s because one of my focuses for fibromyalgia patients is to take pressure off of their brainstem.
The brainstem has a direct effect on Rapid Eye Movement Sleep (REM Sleep). When pressure is relieved from the brainstem, people can get better sleep and therefore possibly have less fatigue.
Patients have actually come into my office and hugged me for helping them sleep again. It’s a lot of fun for me and it’s exciting for them.
Of course, most of my new patients are grossly inflamed and very unhealthy. Inflammation causes pain and is also associated with every disease process known.
I work with most of my patients to help them get healthier while at the same time relieving the pressure off of their central nervous system.
Fibromyalgia – the Liver and Gut Connection
One of the key emphases that is the foundation of my protocols with my Functional Medicine patients is working with them to improve their liver and digestive health. The liver has an overwhelming effect on inflammation and the gut is called the “Second Brain”.
It is estimated that over 80-90% of serotonin which is the “feel good” anti-anxiety and anti-depressant hormone is produced in the digestive tract. So, the health of the “Second Brain”, is way more important when it comes to feeling vibrant and alive than many realize.
There is also the possible link between a chronic infection that can be a factor with fibromyalgia. All possible causes of fibromyalgia need to be rooted in order to formulate well rounded treatment approach.
Working with the brainstem, liver, and digestive system usually delivers amazing results for so many of my patients. Sometimes people just need some guidance from an educated doctor on what is the best path.
Health is Happiness,
Dr. Keith Currie