Fibromyalgia syndrome is a multifaceted disorder characterised by chronic widespread pain, tenderness to pressure, stiffness, sleep disturbances and emotional distress. It is 1O to 20 times more common in females than males. Typically, the patient feels “sore all over”. It is considered to be the most common cause of chronic widespread musculoskeletal pain and is commonly seen in chiropractic practice.

The main objective of this study is to compare the efficacy of chiropractic treatment with ultrasound therapy, on the symptoms of fibromyalgia syndrome, and with the natural history of the syndrome.

A group of people suffering with fibromyalgia syndrome will be recruited and randomly assigned to a treatment group, a control treatment group and a control group that will receive no treatment. The treatment group will receive chiropractic treatment that patients would be to likely receive in clinical practice. The control treatment group will receive ultrasound therapy to the muscles around the spine. The purpose of the untreated control group is to monitor the natural history of the syndrome. Informed consent regarding the trial will be obtained. To assess the presence and severity of fibromyalgia syndrome, instruments will be used that have been validated in the peer-reviewed literature. A chiropractic examination will be performed to determine whether chiropractic treatment is indicated and if so, whether it is safe and appropriate to treat the subject with chiropractic.

An X-ray examination will be performed when clinically indicated to determine if there are any disease processes that would contra-indicate chiropractic treatment and for biomechanical assessment.

The treatment and control treatment will be provided for a period of ten weeks by an experienced, registered, fully qualified chiropractor in private practice.

The subjects’ condition will be measured at O weeks, 5 weeks, 1O weeks and followed up at six months.

Currently the mainstream approach to treatment of fibromyalgia syndrome is a multidisciplinary approach utilising psychotherapy, patient education, low-doses of tricyclic antidepressants, exercise and manual therapies. Current treatments have been shown to have limited effectiveness with limited response to therapy in many cases and side-effects can be a problem with tricyclic antidepressant medication.

If chiropractic is demonstrated to be an effective treatment approach it has been shown to be safe and cost effective and has existing benefits of being available to a wide spectrum of the population in urban and country areas. It would also strengthen the claim that chiropractic has a role to play in the management of chronic pain.

Grant Value: $15,000
Chief Investigator: Dr Paul Wise – RMIT
Status: Complete


  • European Journal Chiropractor, Volume 49, Number 1, 2002. Pages 198-199
    Wise P, Walsh M, Littlejohn G. Efficacy of chiropractic treatment on fibromyalgia syndrome: a randomised controlled trial.