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I’m a married 31 year-old who has been diagnosed with fibromylagia for 12 years. I am on a quest to raise awareness and help others by sharing information and staying positive. Read more
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Spinal Cord Issues Overlapping Fibromyalgia

You may remember me being excited to have met Dr. Andrew Holman at the beginning of last year. His main area of research has been into how cervical spinal cord compression appears in and effects fibromyalgia. In the most recent issue of Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain LIFE magazine from the NFMCPA there is an article about Dr. Holman and a handful of other doctors’ research in this area.

Just like it always is with fibromyalgia and overlapping conditions, not everyone with fibromyalgia will have these problems and not everyone with these problems has fibromyalgia. However, some of us may have these types of overlapping conditions and treating them can alleviate some of our frustrating symptoms. The neurological conditions discussed in the article are cervical spinal cord compression, cervical stenosis and Arnold-Chiari malformation. The magazine article, Cervical Spinal Cord Abnormalities and Fibromyalgia by Rae Marie Gleason, goes into more detail about what these conditions are.

The research left doctors suggesting that fibromyalgia patients should be evaluated for neurological conditions that may be treatable and could possibly be occurring in most of the patients. There was a test some of the neurosurgeons suggested for identifying which fibromyalgia patients may have a neurological condition that needed to be further evaluated. This was simply having them tilt their heads back to look at the ceiling for 20 seconds and seeing if any symptoms appeared/strengthened. When I met Dr. Holman he asked me if it hurt to tilt my head back when having my hair shampooed at a salon which is a similar idea. Some patients were treated with surgery and others with targeted physical therapy, but almost all those treated reported symptom improvement in areas they had previously attributed to their fibromyalgia.

You may be wondering why this isn’t something we hear more about. Unfortunately, like many overlapping conditions to fibromyalgia, the symptoms of these neurological conditions mirror many fibromyalgia symptoms. This means doctors don’t suspect this is separately going on and thus don’t check for it. Just a few of the shared symptoms include neck/back/chest/extremity/facial pain, fatigue, stiffness, headaches, dry eyes and neurological pain. This research, although replicated, is fairly new, with most of it having been done in the last 5-10 years. I’m always anxious to hear more on this subject as it seems like it could help so many of us.

Have you ever been evaluated for a neurological conditions?

spine model

I’ve always found medical models interesting*

*Image Credit: from by planetc1.


Comment from MB
Time November 29, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Thank you for sharing this. I can’t believe neither my spine doctor nor my rheumatologist ever mentioned this. Now I can go back to them better informed. I feel relieved!


Felicia Fibro Reply:

Good luck – let us know what they say when you bring it up.


Comment from Susan H. McIntyre
Time November 29, 2012 at 4:14 pm

My spinal injuries definitely play a part in my fibromyalgia. I am blessed with a rheumatologist who knows the connection. I told him how many times a day I had to lie down and simulate a traction effect, and he had good info to work with. I also call this strategy “taking a break from gravity”.


Felicia Fibro Reply:

hehe, I love that strategy name! =)


Comment from Terry Springer
Time November 30, 2012 at 7:17 am

YES – my wife has definitely struggled with neck and neurological issues. In fact – she had disc fusion surgery 6 weeks ago due to collapsing disc and protruding bone spurs there were placing pressure on primary nerves. The C5 – C6 vertebrae were fused. Doctors suggested and wanted disc replacement instead of fusion – but insurance refused to pay for that. For the first 4 weeks after the surgery we were pretty bummed out, no real symptom relief and in some ways she seemed worse. But – then as the healing progressed we recognized improvements. The horrid headaches and neck pain that radiated up her head and down her arm – these are all much better. We hope for even more improvement as the healing continues.


Susan H. McIntyre Reply:

I’m so happy to hear that she is improving. I have some similar situations. Do you feel the surgery is worth doing, then? My doctor has doubled my gabapentin. If that doesn’t work, he says the next level is surgery.
Susan H. McIntyre recently posted: Living in the Theater of the Absurd: Chronic Illness 5-Stars!


Terry Springer Reply:

Susan – It has been 7 weeks since the surgery and Michele is still healing. The specific neck pain and terrible headaches ARE much better, and we expect further improvement as she continues to heal. She has had some discomfort in her throat and neck from the surgical incision and that bothered her, but it has gotten better. Right now, evaluating the surgery is tough because she has since had a basal cell carcinoma removed from the end of her nose and the wound got a staff infection. The anti-biotics are wrecking havoc on her bladder and digestive organs – her entire pelvic area is a mass of pain.

We had been pushing to have everything she may need done by end of the year because we are over our $10K insurance deductible so its “free”. After January 1 – it all costs $$$$ again.


Comment from Beverly
Time February 20, 2013 at 5:29 am

My best friend and I both have Fibro & CFS. WE HAVE BOTH recently been dx with “straight neck” cervical abnormality. Both our drs said it was caused by muscle tension holding neck incorrectly. I’m goin in for MRI. we’ve both been on muscle relaxers for yrs so I think their Dx is wrong. Great article. Taking to my Dr. Thanks!


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