Post-Traumatic Fibromyalgia From Car Accidents


Post-Traumatic Fibromyalgia can be caused from car accidents and other traumatic events. MidCity Injury Clinic chiropractors in Columbus, Ohio explain that “Fibromyalgia is a common condition causing painful muscles. The pain is severe and involves many muscles as well as tendons, ligaments, and other soft tissue areas. Distinct areas of tenderness in specific locations called ‘tender points’ are characteristic findings especially after a car accident.”

Many people living with fibromyalgia can trace their symptoms back to a traumatic event, such as a car accident. Understanding the link with trauma may help bring some relief.

I have examined hundreds of patients after a car accident and many of these patients trace their fibromyalgia symptoms back to often times years ago when they had a collision in their automobiles. Often times, it can take weeks to years to understand the link between that traumatic event and their fibromyalgia pain. I this is you, you are not alone – many people suffering from fibromyalgia date their condition back to a traumatic event.

“The contemporary thinking is that if you are a genetically predisposed individual, then a head and neck trauma may precipitate the onset of fibromyalgia,” explains Kim Jones, PhD, an associate professor at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. She adds that people whose fibromyalgia symptoms begin with trauma might have developed the condition later anyway – many have a family history of chronic pain.

Even though many experts link fibromyalgia symptoms to injury that affects the head and neck, traumatic triggers of fibromyalgia can be much more widespread. “Any type of trauma or stressful event, such as major surgical procedures, being deployed to war, certain types of infections, all trigger fibromyalgia, and most of those are not associated with any trauma to the spine,” clarifies rheumatologist Daniel Clauw, MD, a professor of medicine and director of the Chronic Pain & Fatigue Research Center in the anesthesiology department at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Traumatic experiences that are correlated with fibromyalgia include: Emotional trauma. Certain viruses, such as hepatitis C and HIV, perhaps a childhood separation from your mother that lasted longer than six months, or even living through a war.

Linking Trauma to Relief: For some people, understanding the traumatic trigger can lead to hope of relief. “We just didn’t see the other car and didn’t hear it, and we collided,” 8 months later the bruises and fractures may be gone, realize that the ongoing, pervasive quality of her pain was unusual.

I remember one particular patient stating “I had pain that seemed like it was coming out of my forearms and femurs,” she says. “I kept telling the doctor that this is pain radiating out of my bones.” But neither she nor her doctor could rationally explain how the car wreck contributed to her pain. A year and a half after the accident, she finally received her fibromyalgia diagnosis. Always a self-described type A personality and naturally active, this patient says she just powered through many of the fibromyalgia symptoms when they hit. Nonetheless, she was seeking relief through fibromyalgia treatment.

In a whiplash event, like a car wreck, this causes the head to accelerate faster than the cervical spine and then snap back. Although people’s perception is that their posture is more or less normal, the event locks the head and neck in a forward position, resetting the body’s trauma response in some people so that their central nervous system continues to react on a daily basis, as though it’s under threat. The trauma also affects the cervical spine, creating ongoing stress on the body.

Unfortunately, not everyone whose fibromyalgia is triggered by trauma will find relief in the same way as so many people do with meds, chiropractic care, or other remedies. Doctors advise all people with fibromyalgia to be cautious about believing claims of quick and easy relief from trauma-related chronic pain. He also advises asking for some evidence, such as the results of clinical studies or before-and-after X-rays, that support any practitioner’s or clinic’s claims.

Many doctors note that even though experts are increasingly aware of the correlation between trauma and fibromyalgia, many doctors are not aware of this link. But if you believe that a traumatic event could be the trigger for your pain, it’s worth further investigation.