People living with chronic pain and fatigue often think that they have fibromyalgia. Whether or not they have fibromyalgia, this article will provide some insight into an over diagnosed condition that may not be as disabling as you might think.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic, non-inflammatory, diffuse musculoskeletal pain disorder, characterized by fatigue and tenderness at specific multiple locations. It is a neurochemical imbalance causing hypersensitivity in the nervous system that amplifies pain. The exact cause of fibromyalgia is still unknown. However, based on my clinical experience in treating patients with fibromyalgia, there is a strong correlation between the combination of a sedentary lifestyle, obesity and unresolved soft tissue injuries.
The typical patient, who was misdiagnosed with fibromyalgia, has been living with soft tissue pain either in the neck, back, pelvic area or hips. After years of chronic pain, this patient became withdrawn and detached from normal living. And the only way to ease the pain is to spend most of the time sitting or lying down.
What are the criteria for fibromyalgia? Many symptoms of fibromyalgia overlap with various rheumatologic, auto-immune and neuromuscular conditions including myofascial pain syndrome. These symptoms include widespread body aches and pains, morning stiffness and chronic headaches. Rheumatoid arthritis, anklosing spondylitis, multiple sclerosis and severe degenerative spinal arthritis can replicate symptoms of fibromyalgia during the exacerbation period. Stress, anxiety and the weather can influence these conditions and their associated symptoms of aches, pains, stiffness, joint swelling, low energy and fatigue.
To be certain of fibromyalgia, all blood work and muscle enzyme levels must be normal. All gastro-intestinal and rheumatologic disorders must be ruled out. Subjective aching and stiffness associated with fibromyalgia normally last more than three months. Finally, fibromyalgia has specific multiple tender points that are distributed above and below the waist on both sides of the body.
It is beyond the scope of this article for me to explain the complex neurological interactions between nociceptive pain, somatic sensory and the limbic system. With fibromyalgia there is hypersensitivity among the neural receptors in these systems that increase pain.
Nociception deals with pain. Think of it as an electrical circuit primary for pain sensation. A mechanical, thermal or chemical stimulus with the right intensity is required to produce pain. Burning from fire or sulphuric acid or pricking with a sharp object normally causes pain. Somatic sensory is a system that mainly deals with tactile, movement and mobility. It is a circuit that senses movement, mobility, touch, pressure and vibration in the skins, muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints. Somatic sensory also deals with pain but to a lesser degree. The limbic system is a circuit for sexual arousal, pleasure and various other psychological emotions.
In fibromyalgia there is a short circuit among nociceptive pain, somatic sensory and the limbic system. The threshold for the pain stimuli is lowered due to cross-wiring within these three neurological systems. The pain threshold floodgate is now opened for new businesses and everyone is welcome. Stimuli within the somatic sensory and limbic systems are welcomed to produce and amplify pain. Gentle pressure or even a light touch on the soft tissues can produce pain while mental stress and anxiety can also cause physical pain.
If you are correctly diagnosed with fibromyalgia, it is not as disabling as you might think. Normalizing the pain, somatic sensory and emotional hypersensitivity is the key in treating fibromyalgia and other chronic pain syndrome.
Time has changed. People are taking more control of their health. No one should become withdrawn and inactive from normal living as a result of fibromyalgia. If the form of treatments that you're getting is not helping you, then try something different. It's never too late to regain your life from fibromyalgia.