WHAT CAUSES FIBROMYALGIA
The condition known to some of us as fibromyalgia turns out to be still unknown or questionable by a few medical professionals. They think “it’s all in your head” and perceive it as just a form of discomfort when in reality it is a real disorder. Classified as a musculoskeletal ailment, fibromyalgia is best described as a very painful condition affecting the soft connective tissues and the muscles.
The pain itself is the most predominant symptom and could be mild to very severe. Some people have difficulty doing mundane activities that a normal person would take for granted such as riding in a car.
Other symptoms worthy of being mentioned include stiffness, sleeplessness, and cognitive problems in thinking, heightened sensitivity of the skin to touch, depression and irritable bowel syndrome as well as urinary frequency. Of course these are just a few of the many symptoms either produced directly or indirectly from fibromyalgia.
Believe it or not, sleep is important for good health. Sleep disorders such as not being able to sleep or staying asleep or even going back to sleep when waken up can lead up to all kinds of other conditions. In fact, some researchers consider sleep disorders precede the onset of fibromyalgia. It is also interesting to note that fibromyalgia sufferers have a higher rate of restless leg syndrome and sleep-related breathing disorders.
Studies show that the symptoms of fibromyalgia get worse with the increased rate of cyclic alternating sleep pattern (CAP), which is a phenomenon of brain activity occurring in sleep and producing sleep instability. Fibromyalgia patients have higher levels of CAP which could also lead to other serious sleep disorders.
It is a known fact that people with fibromyalgia have abnormalities in their brain chemical, metabolic and hormonal action. It isn’t determined yet if these abnormalities are directly causing fibromyalgia or are simply a by-product of stress and pain on the central nervous system. Let us look at some of the chemical imbalances experienced by people with fibromyalgia.
We all have stress at one time or another. It could be the result of physical or mental activity or an infection of some sort. Whatever the case may be, stress releases hormones such as cortisol and norepinephrine, from the adrenal glands situated just above the kidneys. These two stress hormones play different biochemical roles. Cortisol increases the glucose levels in the blood making it readily available for the muscles to use, while norepinephrine increases heart rate, respiration and the force used when muscles contract. The “flight or fight response” is ready to use. In a person with fibromyalgia, lower levels of these two hormones causes the body to lose the ability to cope with stress either from a medical or physical origin.
Serotonin is another chemical in the body that when found in lower levels have an adverse effect on sleep patterns, pain and the overall feeling of well-being. Lower amounts of serotonin have been linked to the symptoms of irritable bowel, depression and migraine headaches in fibromyalgia sufferers. Generally serotonin increases in the morning to wake you up and decreases at nighttime when the body converts it to melatonin which helps you sleep. That’s why a lot of fibromyalgia patients have the additional symptom of insomnia.
IGF-1 growth hormone is thought to be one of the markers of fibromyalgia instead of one of the possible causes because it has been related to cognitive problems, cold intolerance, depleted energy and weakness in the muscles.
Substance P is a neurotransmitter for pain perception and found in the central nervous system also. Too much of this chemical courier overloads the brain with pain signals. In the case for fibromyalgia patients the nerve endings located in the skin become hypersensitive to pain. Studies on fibromyalgia sufferers show that when substance P is lowered the pain eases up. Scientists are still trying to figure out how all these chemicals affect fibromyalgia and what they could mean in finding a cure.
Fibromyalgia is a very complicated condition and although there aren’t any quick fixes there are ways to cope and manage it so the quality of life can be comfortable. Most people with fibromyalgia will tell you that to keep moving is one of the most important ways to avoid being stiff and achy. Mild exercise like cycling or light walking would be very beneficial.
Another way to manage fibromyalgia are talks with your doctor or a support group. You would be surprised at what is experienced with other sufferers and the information as well as the encouragement obtained at the group therapy could offer new avenues available for treatment. It’s well worth investigating. Most of all keep a positive attitude because when you are happy you can’t help but feel better