What you should know about Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a common chronic pain condition that is usually diagnosed after ruling out all other conditions. In fact, over 10 million Americans suffer from fibromyalgia; 90% of them are women, aged 20 to 50 (1). Fibromyalgia was actually the third most common diagnosis made in rheumatology clinics, after rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis (2).

What causes Fibromyalgia?

The truth is we actually don’t know for sure what causes fibromyalgia. There are many theories and hypotheses. However, fibromyalgia is thought to arise from a miscommunication between nerve impulses of the central nervous system (CNS).  Recent studies indicate biochemical changes in CNS including; low level serotonin, 4 times increase in nerve growth factor, and elevated levels of substance P, all of which lead to a whole-body hypersensitivity to pain. This indicates that fibromyalgia may be a condition of abnormal central processing of nociceptive pain input or central sensitization (3).

Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is characterized by diffuse muscle pain, poor sleep, unrelenting fatigue, morning stiffness, and local tenderness. Fibromyalgia sufferers may also experience headaches, anxiety, poor memory, lowered immune function and chemical sensitivities.

Importance of sleep

Studies have revealed that individuals who were unable to go into a deep sleep for a period of a week develop the same symptoms related with fibromyalgia; diffuse pain, fatigue, depression, anxiety and headaches. Sleep deprivation markedly increases inflammatory cytokines (pain producing chemicals) by a mammoth 40% (4). Deep sleep is fundamental and should be the main treatment strategy in the management of fibromyalgia.


Serotonin is an important initiator of sleep. A reduction in serotonin causes an increase in the neurotransmitter; substance P. Substance P enhances the activity of pain receptors, creating even more pain.

Serotonin can also help the body by:

  1. Raising the pain threshold by blocking substance P
  2. Regulating normal gut motility and reverse irritable bowel syndrome.
  3. Regulating moods
  4. Increases a person’s mental abilities

5-HTP and Fibromyalgia

Double blinded, placebo-controlled trials have shown that patients with fibromyalgia were able to see the following benefits from taking 5-HTP, which is converted to serotonin by the decarboxylase enzyme :(5)

  • Decreased pain
  • Improved sleep
  • Less tender points
  • Less anxiety
  • Improved mood
  • Increased energy

Alternative treatment for Fibromyalgia

A number of alternative therapeutic modalities have been utilized in an effort to alleviate the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Even though many fibromyalgia patients may react to one or more of these treatments, few controlled studies have been performed to show their effectiveness.

Some clinical studies have shown patients have actually associated chiropractic treatment with greater pain relief in fibromyalgia, over medications prescribed by doctors. Chiropractic care has constantly scored high in most of these studies. After a few days of treatment, fibromyalgia patients have claimed to experience much less pain and suffering. They have also claimed that they experience less fatigue due to their chiropractic sessions. The quality of sleep also improves, thus improving over all health and well being of the fibromyalgia patient.

It is also widely accepted that the use of electrotherapy, specifically interferential and tens, can trigger increased production of opioid peptides, or pain killers, serotonin being one of those peptides.  Interferential has the ability to immediately isolate pain relief over specific areas and can be expanded for treating the patient’s pain regionally.

Please call your Chiropractor at AHS on 9948 2826 or visit our clinic at 9/470 Sydney Rd in Balgowlah servicing the surrounding suburbs of Allambie, Balgowlah Heights, Seaforth, Fairlight and Manly on the Northern Beaches.


  1. Nutrition reviews 52(7) p249 1994.
  2. Wolfe, Prevalence of Primary and Secondary Fibrositis,
    J Rheum
    10 (6) 1983, 965-968.
  3. Russell IJ. Elevated cerebrospinal fluid levels of substance P in patients with fibromyalgia syndrome. Arthritis Rheum. 1994 Nov; 37(11): 1593-601
  4. Alerti A. Plasma cytokine levels in patients with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome: a preliminary study. Journal of Sleep Research 2003 Dec; 12: 305.
  5. Puttini PS. Primary FS and 5HTP: A 90-day open study. Rheum unit, L Sacco Hospital, Milan, Italy. J Int Res 1992 Apr; 20(2) 182-9