What Is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread pain, usually in addition to sleep, mood, and fatigue disorders. Majority of these patients will also describe having tension headaches, IBS, anxiety, and depression. The research agrees that Fibromyalgia amplifies the sensation of pain by how your brain processes pain signals. Cognitive impairments, some may call “Fibro Fog”, can be a common symptom as well.

There is still a lot to be discovered with Fibromyalgia, however some commonalities will be the onset of physical trauma, surgery, infection, psychological stressors, among other catalyst factors. Women are more likely to develop Fibromyalgia over men, as well. Even with this information, the “why” someone would begin to have symptoms is still under debate. Most would agree a combination of genetic factors, traumas, along with infections are the main determinants to triggering this condition.

“Fibromyalgia can be thought of as a centralized pain state. Centralized pain is a lifelong disorder beginning in adolescence or young adulthood manifested by pain experienced in different body regions at different times. Centralized refers to central nervous system origins of/or amplification of pain. This term does not imply that peripheral nociceptive input (i.e. damage or inflammation of body regions) is not contributing to these individuals’ pain but rather that they feel more pain than would normally be expected based on the degree of nociceptive input. Understanding centralized pain is important for surgeons and proceduralists because patients with these disorders may request interventions to eliminate pain (e.g. hysterectomy, back surgery). Not surprisingly, this pain-prone phenotype, best exemplified by a patient with fibromyalgia, predicts failure to respond to opioids or operations performed to reduce pain.”

Dr. Dan Clauw, Director - University of Michigan’s Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center

Is There A Cure?

There is no definitive “cure” for Fibromyalgia, however there are many treatment options, and usually a combination of approaches tends to be the most effective. Here at the Colorado Fibromyalgia Center, we will use as many resources, available in medicine, as needed, to achieve successful results.

Common Symptoms

The hallmark symptoms of fibromyalgia are widespread pain, relentless and unexplained fatigue, and sleep disturbances. However, in addition, many fibromyalgia sufferers also experience one or more of the following.

  • Headaches

  • Muscle Cramps

  • Mood Swings

  • Brain Fog

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome

  • Restless Leg Syndrome

  • Chemical Sensitivities

  • Numbness and Tingling

  • Anxiety

  • Cold Hands and Feet

  • Depression

  • Loss of Balance

What's Underlying?

Fibromyalgia is complex. In recent years, research has uncovered some important discoveries, most notably the role of genetic expression abnormalities and peripheral nerve dysfunction. These findings largely validate the treatment approach CFC has taken with impressive success for years. Also extremely important, are the roles of central sensitization via the pain processing pathways, and impacts on the immune system and gastrointestinal system. 

Key to the above, fibromyalgia sufferers are “predisposed” to the condition, most likely through either hereditary genetics, or exposure to major physical or emotional (or both) stress events.

Such events can lead to genetic expression abnormalities, and consequential immune, gastrointestinal, mitochondrial and metabolic changes. 

Is Fibromyalgia Real?

YES.

Validation of Fibromyalgia as a legitimate medical condition has come from the comparison of studies on elite athletes with “Overtraining Syndrome”, a condition characterized by near identical symptoms and caused by excessive physical stress on the body. This results in HPA Axis dysfunction, genetic expression changes, and serotonin and dopamine abnormalities. 

What is important about these findings, is that the healthcare system has moved away from fibromyalgia being a condition of depression or other problems “in your head”. This is important in that it is allowing practitioners to advocate for better care and understanding of fibromyalgia.