STRESS AND FYBROMYALGIA
Life can be pretty stressful at times. Everyone goes through it once and a while. However, those who suffer from fybromyalgia will probably pay more dearly than most. Research has supported the fact that people with fybromyalgia frequently report having a greater level of stress and that the stress makes and pain and other symptoms flare up or become worse. It is also believed that a very stressful event could actually cause fybromyalgia in some individuals. There is evidence to support this theory.
THE STRESS FACTOR
In a 2004 study, researchers reviewed existing medical research to see if there were any abnormalities in the neuroendocrine function that could help explain the link between stress and fybromyalgia. Normally, these two systems must work together to provide endocrine and various chemicals and hormones to the body. This study reviewed the abnormalities of some of these chemicals and hormones in fybromyalgia patients by looking at previous medical records. The authors noted that chronic stress may cause changes in chemicals and hormones of fybromyalgic patients. There are two chemicals, estrogen and serotonin that if changed by stress, may enhance the pain and fatigue that often is associated with fybromyalgia. However, the authors of this study were careful to admit that the reverse situation may also be true. In other words, the pain and fatigue caused by the fybromyalgia may cause psychological stress which would cause the chemicals to change. Also, each one may act upon the other in sort of a recurring loop in which one causes the other and, as a result, the first one of caused again and so on.
In another study, the association of the body’s central nervous system and the regulation and perception of pain was researched. What was interesting is that they described a scenario in which stress may cause the pain of fybromyalgia. In this scenario, individuals with fybromyalgia suffered from the condition as a result of a combination of genetic predetermination, defective enzymes in the body and chronic stress. When all three were combined, they caused the body to stay in a state of “hyperactivity”. Then when there was a trigger such as major life upset or stressor, the nervous system went through an actual change in structure and function that resulted in the pain and tenderness associated with fybromyalgia.
STRESS – THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM
Another study in Spain suggested that stress may be the root of the problem for fybromyalgia patients. The researchers studied a new theory that suggested that an individual’s stress level is a result of two things:
- The person’s perception of stressful event or trigger, and
- Individual characteristics such as self-esteem and self-efficacy (the ability to cope with difficult demands of life)
In this study, researchers contacted people with fybromyalgia and only used those who were officially diagnosed with the condition. They gave them questionnaires to fill out that covered topics such as self-esteem, self-efficacy, social support, perceived stress, physical health, and the impact of fybromyalgia on daily life. The data gathered from these questionnaires were then analyzed. Researchers discovered that for many individuals, certain personal and social resources life self-esteem, social support, and self-efficacy, predicted the individual’s level of perceived stress. Perceived stress seems to be related to the impact of fybromyalgia. This information can be very useful to researchers because it will influence on what the best approach is to the psychological aspect of treatment for patients with fybromyalgia.
FIVE WAYS TO REDUCE STRESS FOR FYBROMYALGIA PATIENTS
There are five ways that persons can do to help reduce the amount of stress in their lives and thus reduce the fybromyalgia.
- Biofeedback therapy – the use of a machine to measure how a body responds to stress and use that knowledge to learn how to control the stress.
- Exercise – promotes good mental health and helps to reduce stress and anxiety
- Make sleep a priority
- Relaxation therapy – whatever technique that puts you in a relaxed state of mind
- Take a warm bath – reduces the amount of stress hormones and increases the amount of endorphins.
- Take time for you – create a balance between the things you like to do and the things you have to do
As research continues, it is apparent that stress may be a root to the problem of fybromyalgia and also a symptom of the condition as the syndrome worsens. Since stress plays such an important role in the impact of fybromyalgia, treatments involving reduction of stress must be a part of the treatment plan for persons suffering from fybromyalgia.