Fibromyalgia: Part 1

In this post, we are going to take a look at some of the symptoms and causes of a debilitating condition known as fibromyalgia.

Symptoms

Fibromyalgia is a syndrome that is characterized by chronic, widespread muscle pain. Other symptoms include:

  • Fatigue;
  • Trouble sleeping;
  • Morning stiffness;
  • Muscle knots, cramping, or weakness;
  • Painful trigger points;
  • Dry eyes;
  • Concentration and memory problems, called “fibro fog”;
  • Irritable bowel syndrome;
  • Anxiety or depression; and
  • Headaches.

Fibromyalgia is difficult to diagnose, because most of the symptoms are relative or subjective.  Notably, certain forms of arthritis may cause similar symptoms.  However, persons with arthritis suffer from pain that is localized in joints.  In contrast, persons with fibromyalgia suffer pain that is primarily felt in muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

Potential Causes

Because fibromyalgia is difficult to diagnose (due to the subjective nature of its symptoms), there is no clear consensus as to the causes of fibromyalgia.  Here are some of the theories that researchers have suggested:

Lower Levels of Serotonin and Endorphins

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is associated with calming and feelings of well-being and happiness.  Endorphins are also associated with happiness and serve as painkillers.  If someone has lower levels of serotonin and endorphins, they may be more susceptible to feeling pain, or may feel pain more intensely than someone with normal serotonin and endorphin levels.

Stress

Some researchers theorize that stress causes muscle “microtraumas,” which in turn leads to a cycle of pain and fatigue caused by an inability to rest due to the pain.

Gender and Biological Changes

Statistically speaking, women seem to be at greater risk for fibromyalgia.   For this reason, some scientists have proposed that fibromyalgia pain may be connected to hormonal changes such as menopause.

Heredity/Genes

Fibromyalgia could be due to a genetic tendency that is passed down and regulates the way one’s body processes pain.  Although, as of yet, no particular “fibromyalgia gene” has been identified, several genes have been found to occur more often in people with fibromyalgia.

Trauma

Accidents, injury, and illness involving the brain or spinal cord may contribute to fibromyalgia pain.  Such trauma may alter the way neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, are produced, or it may lower an individual’s emotional threshold for pain.


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