What is it?
Fibromyalgia is a condition that leads to chronic pain around the body and an increased pain response when exposed to pressure. Other symptoms include feeling overly tired and having problems with sleep and memory.
Fibromyalgia affects 2-8% of the population, and women suffer from it more often than men.
What causes it?
Fibromyalgia runs in families, and many different genes are thought to increase the risk of developing it. Stress might also be an important factor.
What happens during it?
Our nervous system can be divided into two main parts called the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. The central nervous system means our brain and our spinal cord, while the peripheral nervous system means basically everything else. When, say, a needle sticks our finger, the peripheral nervous system sends a signal to the spinal cord. The spinal cord then transmits the signal to the brain where it is interpreted and the sensation of pain is born.
Our central nervous system contains both excitatory and inhibitory pathways. It is thought that fibromyalgia essentially happens when the excitatory pathways become stronger while the inhibitory pathways become weaker. This means that the brain isn’t able to correctly interpret the “volume” of a sensation. The excitatory pathways may amplify a light touch into pain, and the inhibitory pathways aren’t able to tone this amplification down as they should.
The levels of a neurotransmitter called substance P are elevated in fibromyalgia. Neurotransmitters are molecules that help or prevent signal transmission between neurons. If the levels of a certain neurotransmitter are altered, signals might get transferred way too often or too rarely. These elevated substance P levels have been suggested to cause heightened sensitivity to and awareness of pain.
Fibromyalgia is associated with abnormally low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin happens to be supposed to prevent the production of too much substance P. It is thought that low serotonin levels might lead to the symptoms of fibromyalgia through letting the body produce way too much of substance P.
How can it be treated?
There is no widely accepted treatment or cure for fibromyalgia, but the symptoms can be managed in different ways. Combining different approaches such as medication, therapy, and education about the importance of exercise and sleep, has been shown to be effective in alleviating the pain.
Sources: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fibromyalgia, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3503476/, http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/329838-overview?pa=TNpSr3QVNAgdV3%2BS8rZ6KuVMo%2BdqVvnv697mIC28o4io7KVH5HbSGPen%2Flo5O37G43mU9jD%2B1DtnxY47OmyybA%3D%3D#a2, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nervous_system, http://fibromyalgia.newlifeoutlook.com/help-pain/