Reinterpreting the Mystery of Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia has become more prevalent in the past few years. It is characterized as a widespread pain in the body(usually diagnosed by testing 18 specific tender points), accompanied by fatigue, brain fog, memory, and mood issues. Usually you must recognize 11 out of the 18 tender points to be diagnosed by a doctor. Researchers believe sufferers brains interpret pain signals and amplify them compared to non-sufferers. The onset of the condition varies greatly from a specific incident in some and just gradually building in others. Although there is not one cause of fibromyalgia, there are several possible causes researchers believe. These are heredity, accidents and injuries, infections (such as lyme disease, epstein barr syndrome, Hepatitis-C, and parvovirus), autoimmune disorders, and physiological and emotional stress. Most fibromyalgia patients are women. Most fibro patients are type A personalities who tends to always be on the go. This keeps the body in an extended period of "fight or flight" also known as the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system response is a main factor in fibromyalgia and keeps the body in a constant feedback loop. This increases cortisol and increased cortisol is associated with immune suppression, muscle dysfunction, sleep disorders, poor skin regeneration, decreased growth hormone function, and insufficient thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones regulate mood, cognition, and aid in the production of energy cells. A second factor in fibro patients are allergies which can increase pain and patients have been found to have increased histamine in their bodies. This irritates the body. Some research studies have utilized antihistamines in an effort to reduce pain. A third factor is believed to be higher lymphatic congestion in fibro patients and this backup of lymph fluid can add to pain. Along with increased lymph fluid, there is also a shock absorbing, gelatinous substance found in the myofascia called "ground substance". If this becomes hardened, it cannot maintain the distance between collagen fibers causing cross-linking. When collagen is cross-linked fluids can't pass through. Yet another factor is repetitive trauma. Jobs with repetitive motions can tighten and thicken myofascia causing pain. Also having an effect is oxygen supply of FMS patients. When oxygenation is low the muscles are not fueled properly and this may be why sufferers don't usually recover from strenuous activity. There is also an increase in Substance P. Substance P is a neurotransmitter associated with pain perception. If it is continually produced because of chronic pain it will eventually lower the pain threshold which in turn increases patients reports of pain. An over the counter remedy to decreased Substance P is Capzasin-HP. The last major factor in fibromyalgia is sleep. There are 4 stages of sleep and many FMS patients never reach level 4. It is possible that lack of sleep, on-going pain, and high Substance P can cause hypersensitivity to stimulation also causing increased pain. Calcium(magnesium) and/or melatonin gel caps taken at bedtime can help patients reach a deeper sleep.
Needless to say, this condition can be extremely distressing for sufferers. It is hard to find ways to ease the constant aches and pains. Exercise is most commonly recommended, but massage is also another great way to lessen pain. Fibromyalgia massage is light pressured, but some prefer a deeper pressure if they can tolerate it. The major benefit of massage is true relaxation. It forces the body to switch out of the constant feedback loop caused by long durations of "fight or flight" and into the parasympathetic nervous system or "rest and digest". This lets the adrenals take a break from constantly pumping stress hormones(especially cortisol) into the body. Massage also increases circulation. It's very common for sufferers to have a hard time relaxing their muscles. They say it feels as though their muscles are constantly contracted. Massage is able to manually relax the muscles and force the muscle tonicity to decrease. Massage can also improve sleep, improve mental clarity, reduce anxiety and depression symptoms, and reduce headaches caused my muscle tension.