The list of symptoms associated with fibromyalgia can be exhausting just to think about. Experiencing them is much more draining. Part of what makes diagnosing fibromyalgia so difficult is that everyone’s experience is different. However, did you know that 100% of fibro patients have one particular symptom in common? That’s right: muscle pain. Muscle pain and fibromyalgia go together like cereal and milk. That means that if you are even questioning whether or not you have fibromyalgia, then you must be experiencing some sort of deep muscle pain. And what’s worse is that it has no boundaries, which makes diagnosing it even more difficult. Even though researchers still are not sure what actually causes fibromyalgia, they are learning reasons why we suffer the muscle pain.
It’s true that there are plenty of people who don’t care about the “why’s” in life. But others of us simply cannot sleep at night until we have the answer to that question. Ultimately, though, our hope is that a better understanding will help all of us figure out more effective ways to treat our fibro pain.
For some fibromyalgia patients, the muscle pain is a deep ache or throbbing. For others it is a shooting or stabbing feeling, perhaps even a burning sensation deep in the muscle and sometimes on the skin too. And still for others it is a combination of any or all of those manifestations. Of course, for nearly all fibro patients, the muscle pain is worse during the morning hours, as is the stiffness. Perhaps a good analogy for those without fibromyalgia is what many patients describe as feeling like a pulled muscle that is also prone to twitching or cramping. Or even better, healthy folks might understand the pain better if you liken it to a regularly occurring Charley horse. Now take that thought and spread it all over your body and that’s a lot like what muscle pain and fibromyalgia feels like.
Why Does the Muscle Pain Happen Anyway?
The American Fibromyalgia Syndrome Association, Inc. is a private company dedicated solely to funding fibro research in order to improve treatment options. They explain that while “muscles hurt everywhere, they are not the only cause of the pain. Instead, the diffuse, body-wide symptoms are greatly magnified by malfunctions in the way the nervous system processes pain. Regional muscle pain not related to arthritis or the nervous system also occurs in the majority of people with fibromyalgia. Patients describe this as firm knots in the belly of the muscles, often causing restricted movement and radiating pain.” (Emphasis added)
Basically, what all of this means is that while you’re in the middle of intense muscular pain due to a funky nervous system, you often simultaneously experience more painful symptoms throughout the body. Because always feeling like you have the worst flu in the world just wasn’t enough, right?
Theories on Muscle Pain and fibromyalgia
The University of Maryland Medical Center published an in-depth report of fibromyalgia, including findings of abnormalities found in fibromyalgia patients. They found that fibro patients may have lower levels of phosphocreatine and adenosine triphosphate (ATP.) These are chemicals that regulate the levels of calcium in muscle cells. “Calcium is an important component in the muscles’ ability to contract and relax. If ATP levels are low, calcium in not “pushed back” into the cells, and the muscle remains contracted” (emphasis added). Sure explains that muscle pain and fibromyalgia Charley horse feeling, doesn’t it?
They also speculate harm to muscle function of fibromyalgia patients due to the pain and stress that accompanies it. This is really starting to sound like a self-perpetuating system, don’t you think? They add, “Some researchers have seen overly thickened capillaries (tiny blood vessels) in the muscles of fibromyalgia patients. The abnormal capillaries could produce lower levels of compounds essential for muscle function, as well as reduce the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the muscles.”
What the Pain Is NOT….
Widespread muscle pain with fibromyalgia should not be confused with myositis (muscle inflammation) or muscle disease which is due to metabolic abnormalities, also called metabolic myopathy. A further distinction here is that patients with myositis usually have abnormal levels of muscle enzymes. So please note, inflamed muscles and metabolic abnormalities are not what is happening with fibromyalgia patients dealing with muscle pain.
Whatever the case may be, it hurts like hell. Have you found a way to treat the muscle pain and fibromyalgia? Or just muscle pain specifically? Tell us what works and what doesn’t work, please!