Chiropractic Treatment for Fibromyalgia

Chiropractic care involves manual therapy that uses spinal manipulation and realignment to relieve pain, improve physical functioning and encourage natural healing. Since people with Fibromyalgia often suffer from widespread pain, experience fatigue and struggle with sleeping disorders, many of these symptoms may be helped by chiropractic care.  Chiropractic treatment may help with back and neck pain, leg cramps, and other pains due to imbalances in the skeletal structure.  This can reduce the widespread pain and in some cases provide relief from fatigue and insomnia for people with Fibromyalgia.  

While there is anecdotal support for the effectiveness of chiropractic care for Fibromyalgia, the research studies generally do not tend to show much impact.  Whether this is due to how the studies were designed or to how effective chiropractic care actually is for Fibromyalgia is unclear.  Some studies did show positive results but those tended to be short lived.

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Frequently Asked Question about Chiropractic

What is a chiropractic session usually like?

This first visit includes obtaining your medical history and a physical exam with special emphasis on the spine (x-rays may also be taken).  Treatment consists of a series of adjustments by the chiropractor, also known as manual therapy.  The adjustments usually apply controlled force to the joint and are meant to increase the range and quality of motion to the area being treated.  Chiropractic care is a way to treat problems that affect the nerves, muscles, bones and joints.

Similar to other complementary treatment sessions, the typical first session of chiropractic treatment is longer because the chiropractor will take your health history.  This often includes a full case history of the illness, the symptoms as well as other treatments that you may have tried.

Youl then undergo a physical exam/assessment with emphasis on the spine. Other tests may be performed such as x-rays if needed. After the evaluation and diagnosis, the chiropractor will determine the appropriate plan for your condition.

During the therapy, the chiropractor may do one or more adjustments of the vertebrae. The adjustment or the manipulation treatment is done with the use of the hands and arms. Given mainly to the spine, chiropractic adjustments usually apply controlled force to a joint to relieve pain and pressure. Aside from adjustment, chiropractors may also use mobilization (moving a joint through range of motion), massage and non manual treatments such as ultrasound or electrical stimulation.

How long does a chiropractic session usually last?

Most sessions last 30 minutes to an hour depending on the treatment needed.

What are price ranges for a chiropractic treatment (US / Canada)?

The average cost is $65; there may be additional fees depending on whether x-rays or other examinations are needed. (Most extended health insurance plans in Canada and the United States cover some or all of the cost depending on the type of plan.  Ask your employer or contact your provider for details on how the coverage works.)

The first session of chiropractic treatment costs more than the succeeding sessions for the therapy because it is more extensive and longer (with the medical history discussion and analysis). The length and the frequency of the sessions depend on the condition being treated (so does the cost) as well as your response to treatment.

In cases where additional procedures or tests need to be done (i.e the use of x-ray, massage sessions, ultra sound) the cost or charges vary for each additional service needed. 

How to Select a Good Chiropractor

How are chiropractors trained?

Chiropractors graduate from a 4 year program at a chiropractic school. At least 3 years of college prep work is needed before being admitted to these schools.  Their training is both classroom and clinical.  Students who graduate receive the degree of chiropractic (D.C) and then they are eligible to take a licensing exam that they must pass in order to practice.

Chiropractors are required to be licensed in the US to be able to perform and practice chiropractic care/treatment. This generally requires having graduated from a 4-year program at a chiropractic school which should be accredited by the Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE). The training includes both classroom and clinical instruction. At least 3 years of college preparatory work are required for admission to chiropractic schools. Students who will graduate receive the degree of doctor of chiropractic (D.C.) and are then eligible to take the state licensing exam, which they should pass in order to practice.

Doctors of Chiropractic (D.C) are licensed in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia and many U.S. territories.

How would you select a chiropractor?

It is important to talk to your doctor if considering chiropractic therapy.  Certain conditions can put the patient at risk of stroke or possible bone breaks.  Talk to family and friends who have received treatment and get their opinion.  If your doctor approves chiropractic treatments ask for referrals.   Look online and check out reviews about the chiropractor and articles they may have written.

If you want to know more about a chiropractor you are considering seeing (for example, the status of their license, any history of disciplines or suspensions) the Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards (FCLB) maintains an on-line, international databank, known as CIN-BAD. The databank has information about public actions by chiropractic regulatory agencies related to licenses of individual practitioners. It also lists doctors with federal sanctions imposed by U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

Chiropractors follow a standard routine to secure the information they need for diagnosis and treatment. They take your medical history, conduct physical, neurological, and orthopedic examinations, and may order laboratory tests.  X-Rays and other diagnostic images are important tools because of the Chiropractor’s emphasis on the spine and its proper function. Chiropractors also employ a postural and spinal analysis common to Chiropractic diagnosis.

Some Chiropractors use water, light, massage, ultrasound, electric, and heat therapy. They also may apply supports such as straps, tapes, and braces. Chiropractors may counsel fibromyalgia patients about wellness concepts such as nutrition, exercise, changes in lifestyle, and stress management, but do not prescribe drugs or perform surgery.

You may want to consider asking a Chiropractor about their particular expertise with Fibromyalgia and what other treatments (such as those in the list above) they have used in the past to help people with Fibromyalgia.  You may also want to ask them what results you can expect from the treatment.

History of Chiropractic

Daniel David Palmer who is a practitioner of magnetic healing) is seen as the founder of Chiropractic Manipulation. It was in 1895 that he first discovered and practiced Chiropractic on Harvey Lillard, a janitor whose hearing was partially impaired. It was reported that with the manipulation of the spine, Lillard’s hearing improved. Palmer soon discovered that adjustments on the spine could relieve pain and other symptoms of illnesses and this led him to open the school of chiropractic. At that time, the medical community did not immediately embrace the chiropractic theories and techniques of Palmer and at times he was criticized and even put in jail because of his practice of chiropractic.

B.J. Palmer, son and student of D.D. Palmer, took over and assumed control of the school. He encouraged professionalism and formal training in the therapy. He also started to accept the use of X-rays to overcome the initial resistance to chiropractic care as an element of medical technology.

Chiropractic care theories and techniques evolved over the years. At present, chiropractors are required to be licensed to practice in the US states, some provinces in Canada and most countries in Europe.

Chiropractic care is most often used to treat neuromusculoskeletal complaints which include but are not limited to back and neck pain, pain in the joints of the arms or legs, and headaches. Osteopathy is another complementary treatment used to treat similar conditions and in similar ways. Both treatments aim to relieve aches and pain but chiropractic focuses on the spine while osteopathy also considers the joints and the muscular system. 

Research of Fibromyalgia Treatment using Chiropractic

While there is anecdotal support for the effectiveness of chiropractic care for Fibromyalgia, the research studies generally do not tend to show much impact.  Whether this is due to how the studies were designed or to how effective chiropractic care actually is for Fibromyalgia is unclear.  Some older studies did show positive results.

Chiropractic treatment for fibromyalgia: a systematic review (2009)

Summary: this study involved a search for and analysis of other studies related to Chiropractic care for Fibromyalgia.  Only three studies met the inclusion criteria.  The reviewers concluded that of those three studies:  "Their methodological quality was poor. They generated no evidence to suggest that chiropractic care is effective for fibromyalgia."


Other similar related resources:

Effects of resistance training and chiropractic treatment in women with fibromyalgia (2009)

Summary: The goal of this study was to evaluate resistance training (RES) and RES combined with chiropractic treatment (RES-C) on fibromyalgia impact and functionality in women with fibromyalgia.  Both groups improved in the strength domains; however, only those receiving the combination of resistance training and chiropractic care significantly improved in the pre- to postfunctional domains of flexibility, balance and coordination, and endurance.  This study concludes that "In women with FM [Fibromyalgia], resistance training improves strength, FM [Fibromyalgia] impact, and strength domains of functionality. The addition of chiropractic treatment improved adherence and dropout rates to the resistance training and facilitated greater improvements in the domains of functionality."


A combined ischemic compression and spinal manipulation in the treatment of fibromyalgia: a preliminary estimate of dose and efficacy (2000)

Summary:  The goal of this study was to "provide preliminary information on whether a regimen of 30 chiropractic treatments that combines ischemic compression and spinal manipulation effectively reduces the intensity of pain, sleep disturbance, and fatigue associated with fibromyalgia".  The measurements were a questionaire filled out by participants and the study was conducted in a private chiropractic practice.  9 out of the 15 people who completed the trial filled out the questionnaire.  The people who filled out the questionnaire reported improvements in lessening of pain, improved quality of sleep and decreased pain levels.  The author of the study notes that "A trend, determined as not statistically significant, suggests that older subjects with severe and more chronic pain and a greater number of tender points respond more poorly to treatment."


Note: if you would like to submit other studies, please send them via the suggestion boxes - we are happy to include more data as it becomes available!

Stories of Fibromyalgia Treatment using Chiropractic

One of the well known spokespersons for the benefits of chiropractic care for fibromyalgia is Retired Brig. Gen. Becky Halstead, the first woman General in the U.S. Army to command in Iraq, who has Fibromyalgia herself and in now a high profile spokesperson for The Foundation for Chiropractic Progress.  "Chiropractic treatment helped improve my whole outlook on dealing with this chronic ailment," she says. "The spinal adjustments along with the postural and nutritional advice I received helped to treat the fibromyalgia and allowed me to have many days with minimal pain -- and most days without any medications. The care of a doctor of chiropractic was life changing for me."

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