Chronic pain is always difficult to live with. And conditions like fibromyalgia, which cause chronic pain, are absolutely debilitating. But we also know that chronic pain isn’t well understood.We’ve yet to really develop an effective way to treat it. And we don’t know why conditions like fibromyalgia cause chronic pain. One thing we do know is that fibromyalgia is a form of idiopathic pain.
You see, there are many different kinds of chronic pain. And idiopathic pain remains the most difficult kind to treat. So what exactly makes pain different from other pain? What is idiopathic pain? And what can you do to treat it?
Different Kinds Of Pain
All pain is equally real and one form of pain can be as severe as any other. But when it comes to chronic pain, doctors do try to distinguish one kind from another. This is because it makes it easier to treat. Pain can come from so many different places in the body. That’s why nailing down what specifically is causing your pain is the first step into figuring out how to treat it.
There are a few different kinds of pain that are worth looking at.
The nerves play a central role in transmitting the sensation of pain throughout the body. And as hard as it is to appreciate when you’re in constant pain, it serves an important purpose. When your cells get damaged they send signals to the brain. The brain then interprets this signal and transmits it back through the nervous system. This is the root of all pain. And this system prevents your body from damage.
But when it comes to neuropathic chronic pain, these signals can get mixed up. Someone who suffers from diabetes neuropathy, for example, is actually feeling the damage to the nerves themselves. And as you might imagine, neuropathic pain can be incredibly intense.
But not always, neuropathic pain can sometimes be limited to numbness and tingling. Either way, neuropathic pain is often difficult to treat and treatment depends on fixing the underlying condition.
Somatic pain comes from soft tissue like the muscles or joints. Somatic pain would typically be something like arthritis, which causes swelling of the soft tissue and results in pain.
Usually, this type of pain can be treated by reducing swelling or treating the injury. But for a condition like arthritis, which can’t actually be cured, the pain can be chronic.
Visceral pain originates in the organs like the kidneys or liver. Any condition that causes damage to these organs can lead to chronic pain.
Visceral pain tends to be hard to locate since it’s more a dull, throbbing ache that isn’t localized in one obvious place. Though it can also feel like a stabbing pain. Chronic visceral pain is usually the sign that something is seriously wrong and should be treated as soon as possible.
And of course, there is also idiopathic pain.
Idiopathic pain is a pain that a doctor can’t identify the source of. Fibromyalgia falls into this category since we don’t know what exactly is going on in someone with fibromyalgia.
Some have suggested that the pain lies in the nerves, which would make it neuropathic, but we don’t have hard evidence supporting this.
It could be that fibromyalgia pain originates in the brain. It might be that the brain is sending pain signals along the nerves despite their not being any actual tissue damage. This would explain why the pain is chronic and seems to come from certain points in the body that aren’t swollen or damaged. But at the moment, idiopathic pain like fibromyalgia is very difficult to treat.
That’s why fibromyalgia is often treated with a wide range of medications. It’s almost like a shotgun approach of throwing everything we can find at it until we learn what works.
How Is It Treated?
Idiopathic pain in the case of fibromyalgia is often treated with SSRIs. These drugs, which include things like Savella and Lyrica, are designed to prevent the reuptake of a neurochemical called serotonin. This increases the level of serotonin in the bloodstream. We don’t fully understand why this is effective for some people with fibromyalgia. And, in fact, many people don’t find them effective at all.
In that case, doctors often prescribe opioid painkillers. These work by dulling the receptors in the brain that process pain signals. This is generally effective for treating any type of pain, including fibromyalgia. Unfortunately, they don’t treat the underlying condition. This leave people stuck in a cycle of dependence on opioids.
Unfortunately, until we learn more about fibromyalgia and idiopathic pain in general, these are some of our best options.
Let us know though, do you have idiopathic pain? Did you know there were different kinds of pain? How do you treat yours? Tell us in the comments.