Fibromyalgia: Doctors Agree… It’s Not All in Your Head Anymore

What causes fibromyalgia?


Fibro can attack at any moment. Symptoms usually appear after a traumatic physical event, such as a car accident, surgery, even disease. Flu viruses, herpes simplex, the Epstein-Barr virus and hepatitis B and C may lead to the outbreak of fibromyalgia.

Psychological or emotional stress such as abuse, the loss of a parent or going to war can also set off the illness. A recent investigation in Finland found that being exposed to family trauma such as alcohol and economic obstacles, persistent illness and depression or divorce while growing up was associated with a diagnosis of fibromyalgia later in time.

There’s even a relationship between sleep disorders and fibromyalgia. An investigation in Norway found that women older than 45 with persistent sleep issues had five times the risk of developing fibromyalgia than sound sleepers.


If you have other arthritis-linked conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis or lupus, your risk of having fibromyalgia is greater. There’s also a familial link, so if your mom has fibromyalgia, you’re more prone to contract the illness.

Other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, painful bladder syndrome, anxiety, depression and temporomandibular joint disorder (or TMJ) usually work hand in hand with fibromyalgia, as do several sleep complications such as restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea.

Now, scientists conclude that the attack of nerve pain that exists in fibromyalgia may indeed change the brain. Some suggest that transformation could be linked to unusual levels of specific chemicals in the brain (like serotonin), or perhaps how blood circulates through the brain.

A research conducted last year discovered that spinal fluid and plasma from individuals with fibromyalgia contained considerably higher levels of inflammatory chemicals, which could produce swelling and pain.

Pain receptors in the body become hypersensitive with fibromyalgia

Experts are likewise looking into the relationship between damaged peripheral nerves — the small nerves of the body outside the brain and spinal cord — and the chronic pain of fibromyalgia.

One investigation identified “withered or sparse nerve endings” in individuals with fibromyalgia, and two others found “small-fiber” nerve damage in those with the condition.

Regardless of the origin, the result is that the central nervous system changes the way it processes pain messages throughout the body. Then, the idea goes, the pain receptors in the body produce a type of “pain memory,” making them oversensitive and over-reactive to any amount of pain.

“As time moved on, I also described the pain as a sort of toxin or acid passing through my veins,” Matallana said. “It is almost like you are gradually being depleted of anything in you that would give you the courage to get better and help the pain go away.”

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