Fibromyalgia Research Reveals New Theories About Condition’s Cause
Though researchers don’t know exactly what causes fibromyalgia to occur, fibromyalgia research has provided several theories that can help those who suffer from the condition control their symptoms.
What is Fibromyalgia?
A generic fibromyalgia definition is that it’s a chronic disorder characterized by widespread pain and tenderness. Other symptoms are often present, which include:
- Cognitive difficulties, which include impaired ability to focus on tasks and limited concentration
- Cramps in the lower abdomen
In order for a fibromyalgia diagnosis to be given, the pain must be widespread and last longer than three months and must be coupled with fatigue and cognitive difficulties. Fibromyalgia trigger points are a common symptom of the condition. The trigger points are normally the size of a penny and are commonly found on the chest, neck, back, elbows, buttocks, hips and knees. When pressed, the trigger point will cause excruciating pain.
Fibromyalgia is often considered to be a condition that is related to arthritis. Much like arthritis, it affects the entire body and can disrupt a person’s ability to carry on with their regular life activities. Unlike arthritis, it does not cause inflammation or damage to the joints of the bones. Both are considered rheumatic conditions.
What Causes Fibromyalgia?
Though scientists are unsure of the exact cause, research has provided several theories. Researchers do know that it is caused by not one single event but from a combination of both emotional and physical stressors. Some theories about fibromyalgia triggers include serotonin levels, stress, lack of sleep and genetics.
- Serotonin Levels – Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is associated with feelings of calm and decreased sensitivity to pain. Serotonin can block pain receptors, which can lead to less stress and anxiety. People with fibromyalgia have been found in some studies to have lower levels of serotonin, which can cause those with the condition to have heightened pain levels.
- Stress – Chronic stress and poor physical conditioning are theorized to lead to fibromyalgia. These conditions can cause microtrauma of the muscles, which can lead to a cycle of fatigue and pain.
- Lack of Sleep – People who suffer from fibromyalgia typically have difficulty falling and staying asleep. Lack of sleep can decrease serotonin production in the brain, causing a lower threshold for pain. Some studies have shown that people who get less sleep are more likely to feel pain than those who get enough rest at night.
- Genetics – A person who has a close relative with fibromyalgia has a greater chance of being diagnosed with the condition. Some researchers believe that certain genes can change the way the body feels pain. This can make people with fibromyalgia react more intensely to certain stimuli. Studies show that people with fibromyalgia share some of the same common genes, making it possible that genetics play a role in the condition.
What Triggers Can Make Fibromyalgia Pain Worse?
Fibromyalgia pain can worsen with the following conditions:
- Weather changes
- Hormonal changes
- Sedentary lifestyle
More studies need to be done to determine the exact cause of fibromyalgia, which may help people avoid the condition or find new ways to lessen the chronic pain.