You have a job that’s physically challenging every day, but never notice health problems because of it. But now, you hurt all over, and exhaustion takes up all your free time. What’s going on? You could have early warning signs of fibromyalgia.
What Is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is an illness known for widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and other symptoms. It affects people by potentially amplifying painful feelings by changing the way the central nervous system – your brain and spinal cord – handles painful and nonpainful signals.
Symptoms often start after something like physical trauma, surgery, infection, or immense psychological stress. But pain symptoms are known to slowly accumulate over time without a specific triggering event.
Know the Symptoms
- Body-wide pain and stiffness
- Fatigue and sleepiness
- Low moods and anxiety
- Sleep troubles
- Trouble thinking, remembering, and concentrating
- Headaches and migraines
- Itchy or numbing sensations in hands and feet
- You have discomfort in your face or jaw, which might include a disorder known as temporomandibular joint syndrome
Fibromyalgia is sometimes indicated by digestive problems, including stomach pain, bloating, constipation, and gastrointestinal issues like irritable bowel syndrome.
What You Should Know About Fibromyalgia
- Fibromyalgia affects 2 to 4 percent of the general population.
- It affects women more than men.
- Fibromyalgia isn’t an autoimmune or inflammation-based illness, but the nervous system may be involved.
- Clinical diagnosis is based on all pain symptoms, not just the number of tender points seen during the examination.
- No test can diagnose fibromyalgia, but some, like x-rays, may uncover or rule out other medical problems.
- There isn’t a cure, but certain medications may reduce pain symptoms.
Nerve Stimulation and Other Causes of Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia has many potential causes. One is repeated nerve stimulation, which forces the brain and spinal cord to change. This change is shown by an irregular surge in quantities of certain brain chemicals responsible for pain signals. When these chemical messengers, like glutamate, are disrupted, pain signs fire wildly and cause problems in perception. Ketamine, formerly used solely for anesthesia, is now believed to strengthen and repair faulty neurotransmitters in people with fibromyalgia and help manage pain sensations.
Besides overstimulation, the brain’s pain receptors seem to memorize the pain and become sensitized, leading to an overreaction to discomfort and nonpainful signals. But fibromyalgia’s exact cause is unknown. When people with the disorder are more sensitive to pain, they feel it when others don’t. Clues from brain imaging studies and other research reveal evidence of changed signaling in neural pathways responsible for transmitting and receiving pain, especially in participants with fibromyalgia. This means that people may become fatigued, experience sleep disturbances, and have cognitive problems – all warning signs of fibromyalgia.
Researchers suspect that fibromyalgia has a genetic basis, but there’s not much evidence about the specific genes contributing to the disorder. There also could be nongenetic factors that affect a person’s risk of getting the disorder, like environmental triggers.
Possible causes include:
- Genetics and family history, where certain genetic mutations can increase your chance of developing the disorder.
- Infections. Some illnesses may trigger or aggravate fibromyalgia, like rheumatoid arthritis, or mental health problems, including anxiety or depression.
- Physical or emotional influencers. Fibromyalgia may be triggered by a car accident, for instance, or extended psychological stress.
But it’s not just potential causes that are worrisome. It’s risk factors, too, including things like your gender, your family history, and certain other medical conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. In one study, researchers discovered that fibromyalgia was present in 35.5% of study participants who reported osteoarthritis in their knees.
Diagnosis & Treatment
There isn’t a test that can diagnose fibromyalgia. Instead, confirming that you have the condition is based on your symptoms and the results of a physical examination. Your healthcare provider may recommend blood tests to rule out other causes of tiredness, including anemia or thyroid disease. Diagnosis is based on your personal and family medical history, and symptoms that last three months or longer and affect your overall quality of life. If you have fibromyalgia, you’re probably more deeply sensitive to pain that wouldn’t affect others. Part of the examination will assess the number of areas on your body most sensitive to touch
If you have symptoms of fibromyalgia and pain killers or other therapy hasn’t worked, ask your healthcare provider about ketamine infusion. Ketamine therapy is available through licensed specialty clinics and may help to manage the pain. The exact mechanism of how ketamine may relieve pain symptoms is still being investigated.