Fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and the Brainstem

Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue, Tired

Fibromyalgia and Irritable Bowel Syndrome fibromyalgia-300x203

Fibromyalgia  is a little understood illness that still has the stigma of not being a real disease to many ignorant people and doctors.  However, people who do have fibromyalgia  would argue that the reality of  their life with fibromyalgia includes pain, stiffness, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping.

Perhaps studies of brain changes and chronic pain  may help researchers and doctors better understand illnesses like fibromyalgia.   The latest research is suggesting that fibromyalgia  has a connection with the central nervous system and is the result of a malfunction, or dysfunction, of the central nervous system.   A. Kuchinad  and colleagues studied 10 women who had fibromyalgia  and compared them with 10 women who did not have the illness. Among the women with fibromyalgia, Kuchinad’s  team found a reduction in brain tissue that wasn’t found in the controls. This finding was backed  up by yet another study not long after.   Other research has shown awake like brain activity in patients with Fibromyalgia when sleeping.   No  REM sleep leads to  the unrefreshed  sleep common with  the condition.

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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is another syndrome that has its skeptics.   There is no test for IBS  (nor for fibromyalgia). Diseases that have no tests are diagnosed through exclusion. This means that doctors must do tests to rule out all other possibilities and IBS  is only diagnosed when all other illnesses are ruled  out.   People with IBS  experience pain and cramping, and diarrhea or constipation, or both. As with fibromyalgia, brain imaging of patients with IBS has found a loss in brain tissue and the patterns are very similar to fibromyalgia and other chronic pain issues.

So what is wrong with the central nervous system with people who are suffering with these mysterious conditions?

A Common Underlying Cause?

Frequently,  an undetected head or neck injury that is  affecting the brain is related to both of these conditions.   An upper neck misalignment causes pressure on the central nervous system at the level of the atlas (top bone in the neck).   When accidents and injuries tear loose the connective tissue that holds the spine together it will create a weakness and allow the spine to break down and lock into a stressed position.   The most vulnerable area of the body to trauma is the upper neck because it is the most movable area of the entire body.   If that top bone is misaligned  it disrupts the function of the central nervous system.

We have seen hundreds of patients with upper neck misalignments in our practice and frequently  it is an underlying cause of conditions like Fibromyalgia and Irritable Bowel Syndrome.   A common scenario is a person will have a  head or neck trauma  earlier on in life , leading to the head and neck being significantly  misaligned and that misalignment causing pressure into the brain stem.   As the pressure is removed the body begins the healing process.   The longer that nervous system has been dysfunctional the longer it takes to heal.   Eventually you will see a decrease in pain and  stiffness, sleep improves and energy increases.

Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome have similar results.   As the nervous system begins sending the proper messages to the digestive system again…digestion frequently becomes normal.

So does this type of care help everyone with Fibromyalgia  and Irritable Bowel Syndrome?   Of course not!   Nothing is 100%.   But if you have had a head or neck trauma prior to the onset of the symptoms then . Upper cervical chiropractic could be the answer.

Here is a quick way to see if you may be  a candidate.   Postural problems are common with Upper Neck Misalignments.   So stand in front of a mirror and close your eyes.   Bring your head down and back up and then open your eyes.   Do you notice that your head is tilting to one side?   Are your shoulders level?   It is not definitive…but if you have a history of any type of head or neck trauma then the chances  that you are a good candidate go up dramatically.   Sometimes it is difficult to remember head or neck traumas especially if they have been years or even decades earlier.   So here are some questions to ask yourself.   Have you  had a concussion?   Been knocked unconscious?   Had stitches to your head?

Don’t give up hope…there is a cause behind every effect in the body.



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Dr. Craig Lapenski and Dr. Martha Schenk of Advanced Spinal Care, in Graham, Washington are your Graham NUCCA Specialists trained by the National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association (NUCCA). Their upper cervical clinic also serves Puyallup, Tacoma, Olympia, and Sumner. They are uniquely trained to correct problems in the upper cervical spine (upper neck). This vital area is intimately connected to the central nervous system and problems in this area have been shown to be an underlying cause of a variety of different health problems, including migraines and other headaches, fibromyalgia, vertigo, neck and back pain, and more. More information can be found on our website at