Fibromyalgia Resources and Clinical Trials on Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition that involves the existence of widespread pain throughout the body. In order to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, you must experience pain on both sides of the body, both above and below the waist and in your back. In addition, pain must be felt in at least 11 of 18 tender point sites of the body.

But body pain is not all that is associated with fibromyalgia. On top of this, sufferers often experience some of the following: general fatigue; headaches; sleep disruption; psychiatric complaints such as depression or anxiety; numbness or tingling sensations; or irritable bowel syndrome. In order for fibromyalgia to be diagnosed, these symptoms cannot be attributed to another systemic condition.

Certainly, fibromyalgia is not a pleasant illness to experience. Still, it affects roughly two per cent of the population and many more women than men.

Psychiatric symptoms are very commonly associated with fibromyalgia and seem to make the condition worse for those who experience both pain and depression or anxiety. Patients with fibromyalgia have an 8 fold increase in lifetime prevalence for bipolar disorder and 3 fold increase for major depression. They also have a 4 fold increase in lifetime prevalence for any anxiety disorder.

Further, those who have high levels of depression or anxiety tend to also experience more physical symptoms, worse general health, more dissatisfaction with their health and more life disruption from pain and stress.

Depression is considered a risk factor for the development of fibromyalgia. Indeed psychological problems often predict chronic pain.

Recently, doctors are beginning to learn what is happening inside the bodies of people with fibromyalgia that makes them experience chronic, debilitating pain. Studies are now showing that this condition seems to involve hyper- sensitivity to the perception of pain.

Where a patient may have a normal detection threshold for pain, he or she will have a much lower tolerance level. A lighter stimulus will be perceived as more painful than it is for someone without fibromyalgia. This hyper-sensitivity exists for many different kinds of stimuli - such as pressure, heat, noise and electrical stimulation.

Interestingly, this same problem with sensory processing is also thought to account for the increased physical aches and pains experienced by depressed individuals. Normally, there are countless sensory inputs received by our bodies, which are filtered out so that we are not conscious of them. In depression and perhaps fibromyalgia, the filtering process is impaired so that much more of the sensory input from our daily wear and tear reaches consciousness and results in symptoms. Antidepressant medications seem to bolster this filter in addition to improving mood and also can be effective for treating fibromyalgia.

Although the exact cause of fibromyalgia is not yet understood, there seem to be genetic, biological and environmental factors involved. For example, the abnormal pain processing could be the result of a biological difference. Other biological factors could include dysfunction in smooth muscle activity or autonomic nervous system.

In terms of genetics, it has long been understood that there is a strong family predisposition for fibromyalgia and recent studies have even identified several specific genes that seem to be involved. First degree relatives of someone with fibromyalgia have 8 times the risk of developing fibromyalgia as someone without such a relative.

Environmentally, there are several experiences that can act as triggers to fibromyalgia. Some of these include infections, physical trauma, psychological stress or distress, hormonal changes, drugs, vaccines or certain catastrophic events such as war.

Current Studies

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