What May Cause Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia sufferers deal with myriad symptoms, not the least of which is pain. It is a chronic disorder that is characterized by ongoing widespread muscle pain and tenderness, and is usually accompanied by fatigue, insomnia, depression and anxiety. Affecting more women than men, fibromyalgia hits between three and six million Americans, some of whom are young children.
Although fibromyalgia has been a mystery to the medical world for ages, there have been some breakthroughs that are exposing what is happening in the brains of people with the syndrome. One thing that has been consistent is that when a person has fibromyalgia, their neurotransmitters are out of whack. Research suggests it is related to a problem with the central nervous system’s processing of pain yet there is no evidence of inflammation or central nervous system damage. They experience a heightened response to pain stimuli, experiencing it far in excess of what other people do.
The Role of Neurotransmitters
Neurotransmitters are the chemicals in the brain that enable the neurons to communicate with one another, creating and controlling signals. If you feel itchy, it is because neurotransmitters communicated with the brain that there’s an itch. They tell your heart to beat, your lungs to breathe and your other organs to do their jobs. Each and every function and emotion in your body is linked to neurotransmitters. Fibromyalgia is associated with irregular levels of several neurotransmitters, one of them being GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) which is the neurotransmitter that helps to regulate the calming of the mind, sleep, relaxation, anxiety and muscle function.
Gabapentin is an antiepileptic drug that is generally used for treating neuropathic pain – that is pain that is due to damage to nerves. There are several health situations that generate neuropathic pain: post-herpetic neuralgia (the pain that is left over from shingles), diabetes complication, nerve injury pain, phantom limb pain, trigeminal neuralgia and fibromyalgia. This type of pain can be severe and last a long time, and is associated with lack of sleep, fatigue, depression and a reduced quality of life. The pain of fibromyalgia is caused by insufficient levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter. Gabapentin analogue can be used to address the erratic levels of GABA in someone with FMS and has been shown to be effective in helping to reduce pain in some people.
While gabapentin has not shown any effectiveness when it comes to acute pain, it has been effective in addressing pain that results from heightened response to pain stimuli related to nerve injury, inflammation and chronic pain syndromes. Researchers thought it might have the same kind of effect on people who suffer with FMS and according to the research published in April of 2007 in Arthritis & Rheumatism, they were correct.
At the time of the research it was not clear exactly how gabapentin helped to reduce pain. The researchers felt one possible answer was the binding of gabapentin to the flow of calcium to the nerve cell that reduces the release of signaling molecules involved in processing pain. It is also not clear how gabapentin improves sleep and even less clear how it affects other symptoms. What is known is that it does help with sleep, it reduces pain and for a fibromyalgia sufferer, it gives hope of relief.
The Good, and the Bad
Although it has great benefits, this drug, originally designed as an antiepileptic medicine, has some serious contraindications as well. If you are going to take gabapentin for fibromyalgia, it is imperative the doctor is made aware of the following information:
· If you are pregnant, trying to conceive, or breastfeeding
· If you have kidney problems
· If you have diabetes
· If you are taking other medications, including OTCs, herbs or other complimentary meds
· If you have ever had a drug-related reaction
It is also important that you take the drug exactly as it is prescribed, following the directions to the letter. Do not go off this drug suddenly – it has serious side effects if you do.
Find out more about the various treatments available for fibromyalgia and learn more about how to deal with the syndrome by checking out the many articles on this site.