What is Fibromyalgia?

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Fibromyalgia is a complex and often misunderstood condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Characterized by chronic pain, fatigue, and a range of other symptoms, it is currently understood to be a sensory processing disorder. In this article, we will delve into the world of fibromyalgia, exploring its symptoms, potential causes, and the impact it has on those who live with it.

Defining Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a condition primarily characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, brain fog and sleep disturbances. While the exact cause of fibromyalgia remains elusive, it is believed to involve an abnormal response to pain signals in the brain and central nervous system. This abnormal response is what classifies it as a sensory processing disorder.

Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

The hallmark symptom of fibromyalgia is widespread pain, which typically manifests as a constant dull ache that affects various parts of the body. This pain can be debilitating, making even everyday tasks a challenge. In addition to pain, fibromyalgia is associated with a range of other symptoms, including:

  1. Fatigue: Many individuals with fibromyalgia experience profound fatigue, often described as “fibro-fog.” This cognitive impairment can make it difficult to concentrate and remember things.
  2. Sleep Disturbances: Sleep problems are common in fibromyalgia, with individuals often reporting difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. This contributes to the fatigue and cognitive difficulties associated with the condition.
  3. Brain Fog: A feeling of “fogginess” in the brain is extremely common in Fibromyalgia, and can lead to problems with memory, planning and the processing of information.
  4. Tender Points: Fibromyalgia is often diagnosed by the presence of tender points – specific areas of the body that are highly sensitive to pressure. These points are part of the sensory processing aspect of the condition, as they respond abnormally to stimuli.
  5. Mood Disorders: Depression and anxiety are frequently co-occurring conditions in those with fibromyalgia. The chronic pain and fatigue can take a toll on a person’s mental well-being.
  6. Gastrointestinal Symptoms: Some individuals with fibromyalgia may experience digestive issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome.

Sensory Processing in Fibromyalgia

The sensory processing aspect of fibromyalgia is at the heart of understanding this condition. Normally, the nervous system processes and interprets pain signals in a way that allows us to respond appropriately to injuries or threats. In fibromyalgia, this processing goes awry. The brain amplifies and misinterprets pain signals, causing widespread pain and discomfort.

The tender points mentioned earlier are a key feature of this sensory processing disorder. These points are areas on the body that, when pressed, elicit pain and discomfort far out of proportion to the pressure applied. It’s as if the nervous system is hypersensitive and overreacting to stimuli.

In addition to this, people with fibromyalgia often have heightened sensitivity to other sensory inputs, such as bright lights, loud noises, and strong odors. This further highlights the sensory processing aspect of the condition and can make daily life challenging.

Causes and Triggers

The exact causes of fibromyalgia are not fully understood, but several factors may contribute to its development. These can include genetics, infections, physical trauma, and stress. Furthermore, certain triggers, such as emotional or physical stress, can exacerbate symptoms and lead to flare-ups of the condition. A growing body of evidence is showing that trauma is a significant factor in the condition, and treating this can be a key component of recovery.

Living with Fibromyalgia

Living with fibromyalgia can be a daily challenge. The chronic pain, fatigue, and cognitive difficulties can disrupt one’s personal and professional life. Treatment options are extremely limited, but often include a combination of medications, physical therapy, and lifestyle adjustments. This is why we are so excited to be the first Rheumatology clinic in the U.K to offer RTMS as a treatment for fibromyalgia, as it is effective, safe and completely non-invasive.

Support from healthcare professionals, family, and friends is invaluable for those dealing with fibromyalgia. Additionally, staying informed about the condition and learning effective coping strategies can make a significant difference in a person’s quality of life.

In conclusion, fibromyalgia is a sensory processing disorder that affects millions of people, causing chronic pain and a range of other symptoms. While its exact cause remains elusive, advances in understanding the condition are continually being made. Research and awareness are crucial in improving the lives of those living with fibromyalgia, helping them manage their symptoms and find relief from the often overwhelming sensory experiences associated with this condition.