What is fibromyalgia?
17 years later comes the first prescription medicine to treat fibromyalgia and 13 years after that (today), it is still a question as to what even causes fibromyalgia.
This conversation has been going on for over 200 years, yet the knowledge that we have of it is still relatively minimal. Why is that? What is it about this disorder that is so elusive that we can’t figure out what it is or how to cure it?
Thankfully, even if it has been a 200-year process, there are people out there who are doing great things to help answer many of the questions regarding fibromyalgia. What they’ve discovered may just explain what fibromyalgia is and what we can do to treat it, Here is the current professional standard regarding fibromyalgia:
- Fibromyalgia is a disorder that includes widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, memory loss, mood swings, and sleeping issues.
- The standard for diagnosis as of 2019 is if the patient has pain for 3 months in 6 to 9 general areas, sleep trouble, and fatigue.
- Many experts believe that fibromyalgia is caused by a miscommunication happening between your brain, spinal cord, and nerves, specifically within the pain pathways.
- Sometimes symptoms can begin after a physical trauma but in many cases, the symptoms progress gradually over time.
- 90% of people suffering from fibromyalgia are women.
- There is not one true test to diagnose fibromyalgia. It usually consists of ruling out other diagnoses and using a scoring system to see how widespread and chronic a person’s pain is and how much it is affecting their daily life. This can many times be a two-year-long process or more.
Reading the above list, there is one thing that seems to be a recurring theme: Time.
Three months of pain and suffering progresses over time and can take two years of ruling out other diagnoses to reach a final diagnosis. And after all that time of suffering, the only treatment options available are about lessening the symptoms rather than fixing the issue. That does not sound very appealing.
Enough time has passed. There has got to be another explanation and a better treatment option.
What is Fibromyalgia?
If we look at that same list above again, we can consolidate it into 3 key points:
Fibromyalgia is a disorder 1. that is caused by a miscommunication happening between your brain, spinal cord, and nerves, specifically within the pain pathways.; 2. that includes widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, memory loss, mood swings, and sleeping issues; and 3. that typically begins after physical trauma.
If we focus on these three points, we can actually start to paint a clearer picture of what is going on.
Let’s start with Point #1: Caused by a miscommunication happening between your brain, spinal cord, and nerves, specifically within the pain pathways.
If fibromyalgia is caused by miscommunication of the pain pathways, then let’s look at the pain pathways and see where the issue can be.
The suboccipital muscles (right at the base of the skull) are tiny little muscles that attach onto the C1 vertebrae, also known as the atlas bone. These muscles have 2 main functions:
- Proprioception: knowing where your body is in space, and
- Nociception: how your body responds to something painful.
These muscles gather this very important information and relay it to the brain through the myodural bridge.
Ok, that’s simple enough.
But what happens if these muscles aren’t functioning properly? It’s safe to say that the information that they are sending the brain may not be accurate and lead to this miscommunication.
The likelihood of this is actually higher than you’d think! These muscles can tighten from stress, trauma, poor posture, etc. and since they are attached to the atlas bone, this bone being misaligned can add extra pressure to these muscles! So now we have a logical mechanical issue that can explain the miscommunication of the pain pathway. Great!
Now let’s look at Point #2: Includes widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, memory loss,
mood swings, and sleeping issues.
Let’s look a little closer at the C1 vertebrae, or atlas bone, that we mentioned before. This tiny bone actually has a huge function. The C1 vertebrae sits right atop the C2 vertebrae and rotates around it. This is what allows you to turn your head in all directions.
This C1 to C2 connection is actually considered a joint and is the most used joint in your body! So what happens if this massively important bone is misaligned? We’ve already learned that it can put pressure on your suboccipital muscles and cause them to not function properly, but it also does something else.
Running along your spine are two arteries called your vertebral arteries. These arteries go up to your back and through the atlas bone into the brain. They provide blood flow, oxygen, and other essentials that your brain needs to function properly.
If your atlas bone is misaligned, it can put pressure directly onto these arteries! The result of this can be headaches, fatigue, memory issues, sleep disorders, and mood swings, the same symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. This is getting interesting!
So now let’s look at Point #3: Typically begins after physical trauma.
This is probably the easiest of the three points. It’s common sense that a physical trauma can
leave temporary or lasting damage depending on the severity.
What if the trauma is to the head or neck? Something like whiplash or a hard hit to the head can easily cause the suboccipital muscles to tighten and/or the atlas bone to become misaligned.
It makes perfect sense!
Trauma = suboccipital muscle tightness and/or misaligned atlas = miscommunication of the pain pathways = fibromyalgia.
This can be an oversimplification, or maybe the fact that it’s this simple is why it’s taken so long
to figure it out. We’ve spent so long looking elsewhere, we didn’t see what was right under our skulls!
How to treat fibromyalgia
There are currently three prescription medications that are available to treat the pain that fibromyalgia causes, but the pain only. The only other treatment plans that are generally practiced are regular massages, chiropractic adjustments, exercise, sleep, hydration, stretching.. Basically an entire lifestyle change to manage your symptoms.
This is not ideal for the 400 to 900 million people suffering from fibromyalgia worldwide. There is one treatment that seems to have a great success rate with fibromyalgia and is becoming more and more popular; and that is called AtlasPROfilax.
Atlasprofilax is a focused neuromuscular massage applied directly to the suboccipital muscles.
AtlasPROfilax releases the tension in these suboccipital muscles and restores them to their optimal state, removing the tension on the myodural bridge, and restoring the communication of accurate information to the brain.
A study performed in 2017 looked at the management of 63 patients with fibromyalgia with the Atlasprofilax method. 100% of the patients had a significant reduction of pain (a VAS rating of 8 dropping to 3 or 4) and 46% of patients had a reduction of widespread pain as well as reduction of fatigue, non-restorative sleep, and cognitive disorders typically associated with fibromyalgia. (Link to study here.)
AtlasPROfilax is simple, non-invasive, and takes only a few minutes to conduct. The effects are long-lasting (think years) and clearly effective.
It may not be the answer to every question out there regarding fibromyalgia, but it certainly seems to check a majority of the boxes and is one of the only treatments out there that is made specifically for the suboccipital muscles.
The fact is that AtlasPROfilax may so far be the best available option for people suffering from fibromyalgia. After 200 years of searching, we may finally have hope.