Fibromyalgia and Your Upper Neck

How can a spinal problem possibly contribute to fibromyalgia symptoms such as chronic musculoskeletal  pain? In many disorders involving musculoskeletal pain, the nervous system is involved in some degree and the nervous system itself can get affected by structural changes in the spinal column.

When viewing the neck from the side, there should be a forward curve with your head above your shoulders, not in front of them. When forward head carriage is present or when there is a reduction in this forward arch, this may cause additional strain to the upper cervical spine or spinal cord, potentially compromising the function of those delicate nerves.

The upper neck can also be influenced by a spinal joint dysfunction of the upper vertebrae, such as the atlas. This small bone supports the weight of the skull and is necessary for the great rotational range of motion of the neck. The atlas surrounds the spinal cord and as it displaces, it can also pull or tether the spinal cord, which may irritate the nervous system.

During neck trauma, the head and neck can be put through a violent range of motion that causes the soft tissues (muscles and ligaments) to tear. Blows to the head, injuries sustained during childhood or while playing sports, and even poor sleeping posture can cause the upper neck vertebrae to displace, injuring the soft tissues of the joint. Scar tissue can develop after trauma, which may affect the precise movements of the upper neck. Swelling and inflammation in the tissues near the spine can also affect the nervous system.

The disorders caused by poor posture and displaced vertebrae can be assessed through x-rays. Range of motion tests are necessary to see how your function may be affected. In some patients, fibromyalgia symptoms can improve substantially following treatments to address these sorts of issues. However, most fibromyalgia patients will need a comprehensive approach that also incorporates an exercise program and nutritional or weight loss support. Chiropractic care is a natural alternative for those who wish a drug-free and non-invasive approach. It carries few risks of side effects and is balanced by the potential to help patients who also have spinal disorders contributing to their poor health.