There are many areas in which people have made significant improvement over the course of the past few decades. And yet, there are things that seem to want to remain unknown to us no matter how much research is being done. Fibromyalgia is one of those things.
When asked about fibromyalgia, most of the physicians would either deny its existence or they will shrug their shoulders not knowing how to explain it. The truth is that not even the world’s leading medical scientists have been able to find a true answer to the mystery of fibromyalgia.
And yet, there are millions of people in the world affected by this syndrome. For them, life just doesn’t have the same “taste” any longer. Some manage the condition successfully, some have their up and down periods and others are bedridden – simply because the pain is too much to handle.
Why Is Fibromyalgia Still a Riddle?
It has been quite some time since doctors started to acknowledge fibromyalgia as a stand-alone syndrome. Up until then, they either denied its existence (which is still “practiced” today by too many medical professionals, actually) or they classified it under depression (a rather “physical” form of depression).
Fibromyalgia is not a disease, but a syndrome – a collection of symptoms that can vary a lot and that can be very different from one person to another. The most poignant and commonly encountered symptom is widespread pain – but there are many others that make putting a diagnosis quite difficult.
Some of the fibromyalgia symptoms that have been encountered in patients include: anxiety, depression, memory issues, sleeping issues (restless leg syndrome, insomnia), irritable bowel syndrome, problems with the urinary system, fatigue, headaches, painful menstruations, sensitive tender points and so on. Some of the patients also experience numbness, morning stiffness and a variety of other symptoms that can be inter-connected or not.
Diagnosing fibromyalgia is now easier than it used to be, but the truth is that many people will not even get to the tests that could put the right diagnosis because the collection of symptoms they show may fall into the description of another medical condition. It happens quite often that people are misdiagnosed with depression, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome or even with lupus and therefore they receive inadequate treatment for their specific condition.
Analyzing the symptoms and checking the tender points are among the first things a physician would do if he/she suspects a patient to have fibromyalgia. After analyzing the 18 tender points and noticing the patient shows sensitivity in at least 11 of them, the doctor may go on with further examinations that would confirm the fibromyalgia diagnosis. Recently, a blood test has been created (called “fm/a”). This test can quite accurately tell whether a person has fibromyalgia or not, but the main downfall with it is that most of the patients will not have access to it due to its high price (around $750) and due to the fact that most of the insurance companies will not cover it (or at least not yet).
So, leaving aside the fact that it can be terribly difficult to diagnose fibromyalgia, is there any other reason it is still considered one of the great medical enigmas of the world?
In fact, fibromyalgia is so mysterious (and not completely curable – just manageable) because its causes are completely unknown. There are several theories that have been elaborated over the years, but none of them have been able to provide with a full explanation to be admitted unanimously. Some of the theories regarding the causes that lead to the development of fibromyalgia include:
1- Genetics. It has been noticed that fibromyalgia can run in the family and there are several scientists sustaining the idea that polymorphic genes may lie at the very basis of fibromyalgia. However, it is worth noting that the same genes can lie at the core of other similar conditions as well (including chronic fatigue syndrome and depression, two of the medical conditions commonly mistaken and associated with fibromyalgia).
2- Central sensitization. According to this theory, fibromyalgia develops because the cells responsible with transmitting the feeling of pain to the brain are not functioning properly, leading to patients having a lower threshold of pain in general.
3- Sleeping issues. Some scientists say that sleeping issues are not a symptom, but a cause (or at least a major risk factor) for fibromyalgia. According to them, lack of sleeping can cause a patient to feel pain at higher levels and it can be the leading cause for other typical fibromyalgia symptoms.
4- Stress. Lifestyle problems and many other things have been taken into consideration. Patients with fibromyalgia are being studied from multiple points of view too, but up to the moment, there is absolutely no clear answer to the big question mark behind this syndrome.
Fibromyalgia and Why Does It Cause Foot Pain?
As mentioned, fibromyalgia can come with a lot of symptoms that can sometimes be just as mysterious as the syndrome itself. Foot pain is one of these symptoms. Although it is estimated that approximately 50% of the people with fibromyalgia experience foot pain too, there is no answer to why this happens.
Some believe that the foot pain itself comes from fibromyalgia and that it is related to the high sensitivity of the patients suffering from this medical condition. However, there are also a lot of people who believe that the foot pain comes with certain co-morbid conditions (some of which are, as mentioned before misdiagnoses as well). Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, the myofascial pain syndrome – all these thing very commonly come along with fibromyalgia (sometimes hiding it completely) and they can all cause foot pain.
If you have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and you are experiencing foot pain, it is important that you try to alleviate it by whatever means possible. Stretching, gentle massages and investing in quality orthotic shoes can really go a long way so do not hesitate to bring these things into your life!