What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is widespread muscle and skeletal pain. Widespread is defined as pain occurring on the right and left sides of the body, above and below the waist, and alone the spine. Localized pain also must occur in a majority of identified “tender points” all over the surface of the body.
The best place to start is at the beginning. So just read the stats below and get a feel for how many people are suffering with FM.
American College of Rheumatology, 2004:
- Fibromyalgia affects 3 to 6 million– or as many as one in 50 Americans
- It occurs seven times more frequently in women than in men.
- Between 80 to 90 percent of those diagnosed with Fibromyalgia are women.
- Women who have a family member with Fibromyalgia are more likely to have Fibromyalgia themselves.
- Fibromyalgia is the second more common rheumatic ailment after osteoarthritis.
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, 1999:
- Fibromyalgia primarily occurs in women of childbearing age, but children, the elderly, and men can also be affected.
Fibromyalgia Network, 1999:
- 90% of Fibromyalgia patients have jaw and facial tenderness that could produce symptoms of TMJD.
- 50% of all Fibromyalgia patients suffer from sensitivities to odors, noise, bright lights, medications, and various foods.
What Causes Fibromyalgia (FMS)?
Doctors don’t know what causes fibromyalgia. Current thinking centers around a theory called central sensitization. This theory states that people with fibromyalgia have a lower threshold for pain because of increased sensitivity in the brain to pain signals.
Researchers believe repeated nerve stimulation causes the brains of people with fibromyalgia to change. This change involves an abnormal increase in levels of certain chemicals in the brain that signal pain (neurotransmitters). In addition, the brain’s pain receptors seem to develop a sort of memory of the pain and become more sensitive, meaning they can overreact to pain signals. In this way, pressure on a spot on the body that wouldn’t hurt someone with out fibromyalgia can be very painful to someone who has the condition. But what initiates this process of sensitization isn’t known. It’s likely that a number of factors contribute to the development of fibromyalgia. Other theories are to the cause of fibromyalgia include:
Medical researchers theorize that fibromyalgia may be caused by genetics, food additives (such as excitotoxins), mercury poisoning from dental fillings, neurochemical imbalances caused by diet or stress, viral infections, sleep disorders, toxicity, accidents, hormone imbalances, vaccinations, hypothalamus malfunction, surgery, severe emotional or physical trauma, yeast overgrowth (candidiasis) anemia or nutritional deficiencies. Below are brief explanations:
Psychological and Social Effects
According to studies, people with FMS are more likely than others to have experienced severe emotional and physical abuse. This suggests that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or chronic stress could play a strong role in the development of FMS in some people. Evidence shows that PTSD actually leads to changes in the brain and central nervous system that process pain.
Are areas of tenderness in a muscle. Trigger points maybe be associated with myofascial pain syndromes or Fibromyalgia. If you suffer with 11 of the 18 points shown above, you may be suffering with Fibromyalgia. Discuss these points while consulting your Doctor.
Injury an injury or trauma, particularly in the upper spinal region, may trigger the development of fibromyalgia in some people. An injury may affect your central nervous system, which may trigger fibromyalgia
Abnormalities of the autonomic (sympathetic) nervous system. Part of your autonomic nervous system—- the sympathetic, or involuntary, system— controls bodily functions that you don’t consciously control, such as heart rate, blood vessel contraction, sweating, salivary flow and intestinal movements. It’s thought that sympathetic nervous system dysfunction occurs in people with fibromyalgia, particularly at night, which leads to fatigue, stiffness, dizziness and other signs and symptoms with the condition.
Changes in the muscle metabolism. For example, de-conditioning and decreased blood flow to muscles may contribute to decreased strength and fatigue. Differences in metabolism and abnormalities in the hormonal substance that influence the activity of nerves may play a role.
Yeast (candida albicans) overgrowth can cause symptoms suspiciously similar to fibromyalgia. These include muscle and joint pain, difficulty concentrating, chronic fatigue, neurological disorders, insomnia, bowel dysfunction, a weakened immune system, etc. If you crave sugar or carbohydrates, or have been taking antibiotics, you may have a yeast problem.
Mycoplasma are extremely small bacteria that are as tiny as viruses but that have some features of bacterial germs. When a genetically predisposed person goes through severe stress or trauma–physical, mental or emotional–this alters their immune response and allows mycoplasma to do their dirty work in many parts of the body, including vital areas of the brain, such as the hypothalamus, the gland that controls various body functions such as sleep, temperature regulation, endocrine (hormonal) system, etc.
Some people find relief by eliminating all excitotoxins from their diet–monosodium glutamate (MSG or Accent), aspartame (NutraSweet or Equal), hydrolyzed protein, etc. Symptoms may worsen initially as the body begins detoxifying, but some people become pain free with this method. Excitotoxins are used in nearly all processed foods. These substances are called “excitotoxins” because they excite the neurons in the brain, causing them to fire so rapidly that they can die. Once these cells are gone, they cannot be regrown (it’s like poking your eye out!).
Dr. Paul St. Amand, who pioneered the use of guaifenesin for fibromyalgia, theorizes that people with FMS/CFS have a genetic defect that prevents their kidneys from excreting phosphates. As phosphates build up, the body stores them in the bones, and then eventually the muscles, tendons and ligaments. The excess phosphates hinder the cells’ ability to produce energy (ATP) and causes the muscles to go into spasm. Eventually, lumps and bumps form in the muscles. Guaifenesin, an expectorant, works by helping the kidneys to excrete phosphates, thereby restoring normal cell functioning in the brain, muscles, tendons, etc.
Many researchers have noticed that fibromyalgia sufferers have a low level of serotonin. They suggest that the central cause of pain of fibromyalgia is due to this low level of serotonin. Chronic low levels of serotonin cause the sensation of pain to be greatly exaggerated. The low levels of serotonin also may be the culprit of the insomnia and sleep disturbances found in fibromyalgia patients.
Computers and Electromagnetic Fields
Flickering light of my computer screen used to bring on a rapid worsening of my fibromyalgia! I have bright lighting in the room to offset this effect. Perhaps certain spectrums of light are harmful to people who are more light sensitive than others. Full spectrum lighting could be a good investment. Research is being done on the effect of light on the pineal gland–the gland which produces melatonin necessary for sleep. Flickering light has been proven to cause changes in the EEG patterns in the brain. Researchers are experimenting with flickering light therapy to help fibromyalgia patients by restructuring EEG patterns!
Some researchers believe that the root of the fibromyalgia problem lies in the immune system. A few years ago, I received shocking information about the role of mycoplasmas (mutated viruses and bacteria) and biological warfare as a possible cause of the worldwide epidemic of fibromyalgia. This intrigued me, because I have heard from thousands of people all over the world who have fibromyalgia. The symptoms are identical despite varying ethnic backgrounds, cultures, diets, and lifestyles.
Lack of Exercise
It has always irked me when doctors said I needed to exercise more, because in the early days of my FMS, exercise of any kind worsened my pain and caused severe flares that would last for weeks or even months. People who don’t have FMS can’t understand this, because exercise makes them feel good!
Damage to Red Blood Cells
Several clinical studies have revealed damage and irregularities in the shape of the red blood cells in people with fibromyalgia. This causes blockages in the blood flow through the capillaries, resulting in insufficient oxygen getting to the muscles and tissues, hence the pain and fatigue.
Fibromyalgia research is beginning to focus on the role of the hypothalamus. The problem is called ‘hypothalamitis’ – over-activation of the hypothalamus area in the central nervous system. The hypothalamus is situated in the mid-brain, from which it controls practically every organ in the body, mainly through the endocrine system. It influences the sympathetic nervous system and the immune system. The hypothalamus controls energy levels, sleep cycle, muscular function, circulation, temperature, the gut, and defense against infection.
Some researchers say that people with FMS need twice the amount of nutrients that others do, because of excess mucous that builds up in the body, interfering with absorption. Cholesterol levels & plaqueing.
Sugar is disguised in our foods as sucrose, corn syrup, etc. Even fruits and fruit juices contain a lot of sugar and especially sugar substitutes such as Nutra Sweet (Phenylalanine).
Hormone imbalances are frequently found in women with fibromyalgia, PMS, endometriosis, mood swings, etc. Pre, post menopausal, hysterectomies, and thyroid disorders.
IGF-1 Growth Hormone: Low Levels
This hormone promotes bone and muscle growth. Low levels are related to problems with thinking, low energy, and muscle weakness intolerance to cold. This level may be a marker of FMS rather than a cause.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder of unknown cause. Common symptoms include abdominal cramping or pain, bloating and gassiness, and altered bowel habits.