Every year, millions of people are affected by a syndrome that causes severe and long-term pain: Fibromyalgia. The name of the disease says a lot about it, as it is a compound of three words: the Greek “myos” and “algia” (meaning “muscle” and “pain”, respectively) and the Latin “fibra” (meaning “fiber”).
The symptoms of this syndrome go beyond chronic pain though and they can affect every single area of one’s life. Sleeping disorders (such as Insomnia or the Restless Leg Syndrome), bowel-related medical conditions (Irritable Bowel Disorder), Arthritis, bladder-related medical conditions (such as a very irritable bladder), depression and anxiety are commonly associated with Fibromyalgia.
Furthermore, its symptoms include low level of energy, stiffness, migraines, sensitivity to things such as strong odors or light, and many other symptoms that are common in other chronic pain medical conditions as well.
Although it is widely spread and it has been a long time since this syndrome was acknowledged to be a real medical condition and not just Hypochondria or “imagination”, there are still many mysteries surrounding it. Researchers are constantly trying to find answers, but up to the moment none have actually managed to find out something that is widely accepted by a large number of specialists in the field.
The first mystery related to Fibromyalgia is what causes it. There have been many speculations, but none of them have proven to stand the test of time and the test of further researching the issue. One of these assumptions is that Fibromyalgia starts in the brain, when chemical unbalances occur and lead to the incorrect processing of the pain sensations.
What made this theory not very reliable is precisely the fact that nobody has yet found out what is it that causes the brain abnormalities to start with. Of course, regarding this issue, there were several opinions, out of which some claimed that stress and powerful emotions, as well as certain injuries can cause the neuro-chemical unbalances.
Other theories claim that genetics are important when it comes to the development of the Fibromyalgia syndrome. However, this has not been 100% proven and although it may be at least partially true, it is definitely not true for all the patients developing this syndrome.
More recent study in the field of Fibromyalgia claims that what causes the development of this syndrome is not at all related to the brain or to the brain chemicals, but that it is actually related to the high number of blood vessels in the hand, which in their turn may have a very important role in the way the human body perceives certain sensations (including pain).
Another theory mentions the fact that Fibromyalgia may be caused by the fact that the patients show an increased amount of the so-called substance “P” in their spinal cord. This substance is responsible with the pain sensation and a high amount of it may also cause the patients to feel pain much stronger than the normal.
Another mystery related to this syndrome is related to certain affections that very often overlap it: Depressive Disorder and Anxiety, Arthritis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, cognitive dysfunctions, the Myofascial Pain Syndrome and many, many other medical conditions. The problem with these affections is the fact that specialists have not managed yet to tell if they are causes/risk factors or if their symptoms are effects of Fibromyalgia.
For instance, depression is sometimes considered to be the trigger of the brain abnormalities mentioned before, but sometimes it is considered to be an effect of the prolonged pain and general poor condition of the patient. Another example would be that of the high levels of insulin, which are caused by the lack of sleep the patients usually suffer from. In its own turn, a sleeping disorder can be both a cause/risk factor and an effect of Fibromyalgia.
Diagnosing Fibromyalgia can be a mystery itself, since the large number of symptoms that are very common with other diseases, disorders and syndromes make it difficult to tell the difference among them. Very often, patients with Fibromyalgia are misdiagnosed to have Arthritis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Irritable Bowel Syndrome or other medical conditions associated with it. Furthermore, many patients are thought to be Hypochondriacs, precisely because the large number of symptoms they show can be hard to believe as real.
Fibromyalgia’s mysteries make it impossible to be cured at the moment, precisely because nobody appears to know its exact causes or even its exact symptoms (since the symptoms shown by one patient can differ drastically from the symptoms shown by another one). Of course, each of the symptoms can be treated separately, but this does not eventually lead to the entire curing of the patient.
For instance, pain can be treated with pain killers, inflammations with anti-inflammatory drugs, depression can be treated with anti-depressants and therapy and the bad sleeping patterns can be treated with benzodiazepines. Furthermore, a series of alternative therapies can be recommended: low-impact work outs, acupuncture, Yoga, Tai-Chi, as well as a series of other relaxation techniques.
Until new discoveries are made to elucidate the mystery (or, rather said, the mysteries) behind the Fibromyalgia syndrome, all patients can do is to combine both medical treatment (which may include drugs and therapy) and alternative techniques (such as those mentioned above). Furthermore, a healthy diet will ameliorate the symptoms, especially since certain foods are particularly bad for patients suffering from this syndrome.
For instance, it has been proven that foods containing additives can worsen the irritability of the bowel, sugary foods can actually decrease the actual level of energy, and coffee can affected the sleep patterns even more than they are already affected in these cases. On the other hand, fatty fish, certain vegetables and fruits, nuts and other generally healthy foods can make the general condition of the Fibromyalgia patients improve.
If you show any of the symptoms of Fibromyalgia, if you feel prolonged pain (which lasts for more than 3 months and affects all the 4 quadrants of the body), you should definitely go to see a doctor and have him/her analyze your situation thoroughly to determine whether you may be suffering from Fibromyalgia or other chronic pain syndromes.