Intro to Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is the most common musculoskeletal condition afterosteoarthritis. Still, it is often misdiagnosed and misunderstood. Its characteristics include widespread muscle and joint pain and fatigue, as well as other symptoms. Fibromyalgia can lead to depression and social isolation.

 

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What are the symptoms of Fibromyalgia?

Common symptoms of fibromyalgia may include:

  • Pain
  • Anxiety
  • Concentration and memory problems -- known as "fibro fog"
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Morning stiffness
  • Painful menstrual cramps
  • Sleep problems
  • Numbness, and tingling in hands, arms, feet, and legs
  • Tender points
  • Urinary symptoms, such as pain or frequency

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What causes Fibromyalgia?

There are several theories about the causes of fibromyalgia, from hormonal disturbances to stress to genetics. While there is no clear consensus about what causes fibromyalgia, most researchers believefibromyalgia results not from a single event but from a combination of many physical and emotional stressors.

Other Theories About Causes of Fibromyalgia

Some have speculated that lower levels of a brain neurotransmitter called serotonin leads to lowered pain thresholds or an increased sensitivity to pain. Serotonin is associated with a calming, anxiety-reducing reaction. The lowered pain thresholds in fibromyalgia patients may be caused by the reduced effectiveness of the body's natural endorphin painkillers and the increased presence of a chemical called "substance P." Substance P amplifies pain signals.

There have been some studies that link fibromyalgia to sudden trauma to the brain and spinal cord. Keep in mind, though, theories about what causes fibromyalgia are merely speculative.

Who Gets Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is far more common in women than in men. Some interesting studies show that women have approximately seven times less serotonin in the brain. That may explain why fibromyalgia syndrome, or FMS, is more common in women.

Another theory states that fibromyalgia is caused by biochemical changes in the body and may be related to hormonal changes or menopause. In addition, some (but not all) people with fibromyalgia have low levels of human growth hormone, which may contribute to the muscle pain.