Fibromyalgia and Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care

Fibromyalgia and Upper Cervical Chiropractic

For those suffering with fibromyalgia it can be particularly difficult living with the pain, fatigue and other related symptoms.  You may have tried medical care, alternative approaches and even traditional chiropractic care, but found it did not provide lasting results. Upper cervical chiropractic may be able to help. This niche chiropractic approach focuses on the craniocervical junction, which is the area where the skull and spine meet. If this area becomes misaligned, it can cause problems with nerve and brain function and lead to a variety of health issues. Upper cervical chiropractors have completed extra post graduate education in the specific niche of the craniocervical junction structure, function, analysis and adjustment techniques.  They are trained and have the necessary tools to identify and correct misalignments in the craniocervical junction.



What is Fibromyalgia?


Fibromyalgia is characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and tenderness in localized areas. It is often accompanied by other symptoms such as sleep disturbances, cognitive difficulties, and emotional distress. The exact cause of fibromyalgia is not known, but it is thought to be related to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.  Research has also shown alterations in the functioning of the central nervous system and immune system.  It is most commonly diagnosed in individuals between the ages of 20 and 50, and is more common in women than men.



Current theories:


Recent research has begun to shed light on the connection between the central nervous system and the immune system in the development of Fibromyalgia. It is now believed that chronic inflammation plays a role in the pain, fatigue, and cognitive changes seen in people with Fibromyalgia. Inflammation which may be seen on advanced imaging such as MRI is thought to be caused by an overactive immune system in response to stressors like infection, injury, toxic exposure or psychological trauma.  Central nervous system sensitivity is thought to be caused or aggravated by inflammation. Specific upper cervical adjustment may help to reduce this inflammation and improve symptoms in Fibromyalgia patients.



The Central Nervous System and Inflammation connection:


The connection between the central nervous system and the immune system is clear from research exploring the underlying causes of chronic pain, fatigue, and cognitive changes. The central nervous system plays a role in regulating the immune system, and when this regulatory process is disrupted, it can lead to inflammation and pain. A growing body of evidence suggests that Fibromyalgia may be caused by an overactive immune system and that in cases where improvements are noticed, the mechanism may be that upper cervical adjustments help to reduce inflammation and pain by restoring proper communication between the central nervous system and the immune system.



How Upper Cervical Adjustments Can Help Fibromyalgia Patients


Many case studies have been published documenting improvement in symptoms of fibromyalgia following upper cervical chiropractic care.  Upper cervical chiropractors use a gentle method of care to address the alignment and function of the upper cervical spine.  The upper cervical spine plays a crucial role in protecting the upper spinal cord and brainstem where the control centres are situated controlling many vital functions in the body including inflammation.  Upper cervical adjustments can help improve the quality of life for fibromyalgia patients in several ways:



Brainstem Function:


Blair upper cervical chiropractic

Blair upper cervical chiropractic


The C1 and C2 vertebrae protect the brainstem where it meets the spinal cord. This is the freeway for communication throughout the body. Misalignment in this area can cause pressure and central sensitization may occur.  Restoration of normal alignment and function removes mechanical pressure and may reduce brainstem and CNS central sensitisation.



Blood Flow to the brain:


The cervical vertebrae play a key role in facilitating blood flow. Blood flowing in vessels of the neck supply the brain with blood and oxygen and allow blood drainage from the brain. A misalignment can inhibit this proper blood flow. Reduced blood flow to the part of the brain that provides a response to pain has been noted in fibromyalgia patients.  It has been demonstrated on MRI blood flow studies that restoring normal alignment with upper cervical adjustment can restore blood flow to the brain.



Cerebrospinal Fluid Drainage:


Researchers have noted that upper cervical misalignments can reduce the opening in and out of the skull called the foramen magnum and lead to reduced cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) drainage. The result can be pooling of CSF and increased intracranial pressure. The same research revealed that correcting the misalignment can reduce the pooling and the pressure that it causes.  The newly recognised glymphatic system involves clearance of waste products produced in the brain via the CSF drainage.  Impairment in CSF drainage will lead to a build up of waste products in the brain potentially causing “brain fog”, fatigue and poor cognition.



Upper cervical chiropractic care is different:


Most people do not realise that there are many techniques and approaches to chiropractic.  Upper Cervical chiropractic refers to a specific niche where the focus is on the alignment of the head and upper 2 vertebrae exclusively.  How are upper cervical techniques different:



Gentle adjustments:


Adjustments are very gentle.  There is no manipulation, twisting, popping, moving a joint to its end range or cracking noises.  Adjustments are done in a neutral head position with gentle deliberate pressure in the direction of realignment determined off imaging studies.



Precision analysis:


With the entire focus on only 1 or 2 vertebrae, the analysis of the position of these vertebrae is very precise usually involving specific measurements of xrays or cone-beam CT scans of the cranio-cervical junction.  The precise analysis is what enables a precise corrective adjustment to be given.  There is a lot more analysis than feeling for a sore, stuck spot.



Adjustments less often:


If a joint is in position no adjustment is required.  It is the goal of an upper cervical chiropractor for their patients to hold their adjustments and not need repeated endless adjusting.




Case study:


-         45 year old female with fibromyalgia for 11 years.

-         History of multiple neck traumas including car accidents

-         The only intervention in this case was upper cervical chiropractic adjustments.

-         Resolution of fibromyalgia was reported





-        Fibromyalgia can be a debilitating condition of pain, fatigue and a host of other symptoms.

-        Conventional medicine offers very little hope of recovery but rather focuses on bandaid pain and symptom management.

-        Current research points to the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) being sensitized, triggering an immune inflammatory response.  There may be many triggers for this to occur such as infections, injuries and emotional stress.

-        Preliminary research shows promise that upper cervical chiropractic may be able to help by restoring function to the upper neck and desensitize the nervous system it protects.


If you or someone you know suffers from this fibromyalgia, consider upper cervical specific chiropractor.





About the author:


Dr Luke Smith is one of the few Australian chiropractors proficient in the Blair Upper Cervical technique.  He has completed the primary, intermediate and advanced Blair Upper Cervical chiropractic technique post graduate training.  He is also proficient in Gonstead technique, a full spine approach also using precision analysis to determine when and how to adjust the spine.   Dr Luke is also an experienced functional medicine practitioner and may recommend testing and advise on gut and hormone health as part of your individualised health management.  He uses a tytron thermography infrared scanner and has onsite facilities for spinal x-rays including software for detailed craniocervical xray analysis.





1.   Alibhoy, N. Resolution of Fibromyalgia Following Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care: A Case Study: Journal of Upper Cervical Chiropractic Research, Volume 2011 pp39-45