The Science Behind Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia tends to be a condition where people think it's all in the sufferer's head. They believe that the person experiencing the widespread pain, sleep deprivation and other problems associated with fibromyalgia are creating their own discomfort simply because they think they're sick.

Dr. Robert M. Bennett, a Professor of Medicine at the Oregon Health Sciences University says that even today the condition is sometimes dismissively treated with cynical overtones. This is even though it's become what the doctor calls a "semi-respectable diagnosis" within the last decade in the United States.

Why the Cynicism?

According to Dr. Bennett, who has treated more than 5,000 fibromyalgia patients in 20 years, most diagnoses in the medical field is based on distinctive symptoms and the symptom's relationship to specific tissue pathology.

Fibromyalgia isn't a condition that's easily understood according to the traditional medical model of diagnosis and treatment. For some doctors, this is enough for them to consider it a fake disease or a psychological or psychological condition.

In reality, fibromyalgia isn't a psychological or psychological condition. But those who become disabled by fibro can get a psychological or psychological condition like depression and anxiety problems.

Fibromyalgia Basics

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain state according to the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA). The nerves causing the pain or typically in the muscle which is why pain is aggravated when the muscles are used a lot.

While it's necessary for general human health to feel pain - pain can reduce the chance of more injury - pain sensation in fibro sufferers can be excruciating and debilitating.

The Science Behind Pain

Medical researchers are beginning to study what is seen as the enigma of chronic pain. Chronic pain is experienced by many diseases and conditions including fibromyalgia. This continued research will ultimately aid in the discovery of new treatment options and an increased recognition of fibromyalgia as a very real illness.

Biomedical Abnormality

Some studies suggest that fibromyalgia is caused by low levels of the chemical serotonin. This chemical is found in everyone's body regardless of their health. It plays an important role in regulating pain and controlling sleep. Blood tests confirm that those who suffer from fibromyalgia have low serotonin levels.

Scientists aren't completely sure why this is the case. Serotonin levels are connected to the production of 5-hydroxyindole acetic acid and tryptophan (an amino acid crucial to the production of serotonin) in the spinal fluid. Research hasn't come far enough to determine precisely why the production of these acids seems to not properly function in the person with fibro.

Other studies show that fibro sufferers have two to three times the substance P. This is a neuropeptide in the spinal fluid. Increased levels of substance P heighten a person's awareness to pain and increases a person's overall sensitivity to pain.

Researchers believe that the production of substance P might be the reason why fibromyalgia development is triggered by injury or trauma to the spin. Since substance P is produced in the spine, an injury to this area of the body could cause overproduction of the neuropeptide which could trigger fibromyalgia.

Lack of Sleep a Cause?

There is also some scientific research that suggests that fibromyalgia might be caused by lack of deep sleep. There are different stages to sleep and each stage has a purpose. During stage four REM sleep the muscles in the body heal themselves to a certain extent. Sleep studies in people with fibromyalgia show that they tend to not enter this stage of sleep or not enter it completely.

In medical studies researchers were able to recreate symptoms of fibromyalgia in healthy volunteers by not allowing them to enter into stage four sleep.

Sleep problems appear to cause a vicious circle with fibromyalgia. They could possibly be the cause of the syndrome, but they're also a symptom since those with widespread pain tend to be too uncomfortable to sleep.


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Neither my PCP nor my Rheumatologist have diagnosed me with fibromyalgia. My sleep doctor put me on CPAP but I still feel so sleepy I fall asleep over my keyboard in the early afternoon. The sleep doctor prescribed Nuvigil, which keeps me awake. My pain moves from knee to elbow and from left side to right side. Last week it was in the middle of my chest, moved as the weekend started to my elbows, and now is in my right elbow. I agree the sleep/pain cycle is what leads me to believe I have fibromyalgia.