The Sympathetic Nervous System and Fibromyalgia

According to researchers, over-stimulation of the nervous system results in fibromyalgia. It is a typical response of body towards a trauma or accident. Chronic pain and muscle spasms occur due to interference in the flow of neurotransmitters from brain and body caused by fibromyalgia.

Since you don’t have normal serotonin levels, so fibromyalgia prevents you from having a deep sleep that your body wants. Serotonin is a hormone that controls your mood. When there are decreased serotonin levels, some interference occurs in the body’s ability to heal itself and depression and fatigue can be caused.

Fibromyalgia has been related to the dysfunctional autonomic nervous system. Several different components made your nervous system. The central nervous system comprises of the spine and is the primary control center of the body. The connection between the central nervous system and tissue and organs is the peripheral nervous system. The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system is included in the autonomic nervous system. The nervous system that controls the fight or flight response you feel when you are getting into an unsafe situation is the sympathetic one. While the nervous system that is responsible for lowering the heart rate slowing down the muscles for preserving energy is the parasympathetic one.

It is found that the sympathetic nervous system functions at a very higher level whereas parasympathetic nervous system functions at a much lower level in people with fibromyalgia. This means that there is more feeling of fight or flight response in people with fibromyalgia. Some studies have shown that increased heart is seen in people with fibromyalgia whether they are standing or lying down when they are in the sustained hyperactive state. A lot of studies have also proved that women who suffer from fibromyalgia also have severe dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system.

Autonomic nervous system

The central nervous system’s most important part is the autonomic nervous system. This system works automatically to get your body keep on functioning daily. The autonomic nervous system in your body works with the natural neurotransmitters and hormones to get your body work properly. Several bodily organs, as well as bodily systems, control it. There are many responsibilities of the autonomic nervous system that is:

  • Maintenance of heart rate
  • Body temperature regulation
  • Maintenance of bowel/bladder function

Two branches of the Autonomic system

As it has already mentioned that there are two different branches of the autonomic nervous system. Both these branches work together by sending the messages through neurotransmitters in the body. Following are the two main branches:

  • Parasympathetic: is responsible for controlling the digestion process and sleep.
  • Sympathetic: helps you in answering to stressful conditions like emergency situations.

What actually are neurotransmitters?

Neurotransmitters are the hormones used by these two branches of the autonomic nervous system in order to communicate with each other. Such vehicles that carry information between the brain and the rest of the body are neurotransmitters. The autonomic system becomes puzzled when there is some interference with this communication. Few neurotransmitters are considered to be the part of causing fibromyalgia. These neurotransmitters are as follows:

Substance P: this neurotransmitter is found to be present in the spinal fluid. It helps in facilitating to communicate pain sensations to the brain and the body. A lot of studies show that this neurotransmitter which is present in spinal fluid is three times more in people having fibromyalgia as compared to other people, resulting in increased pain perception that can cause a mild stimulus extremely painful.

Endorphins: your body secretes these neurotransmitters as a reaction to physical stressors like fear or exercise. These neurotransmitters are thought to be natural opioids and they help the body in dealing with pain and fatigue. Suppression of pain is done by the Beta-endorphin. These neurotransmitters have half the levels in people with fibromyalgia as compared to other people. This explains the reason for fibromyalgia patients that are in so much pain.

Serotonin: these neurotransmitters help in controlling the mood and keep you from being so overexcited or too much depressed. Studies show that people with fibromyalgia have low levels of serotonin which results in depression, anxiety, and chronic headaches. For regulating the levels to lessen fibromyalgia symptoms, anti-depressants are used.

What are hormones?

The autonomic nervous system relies on neurotransmitters as well as on hormones in contributing to specific bodily functions. The specialized chemicals that are secreted by glands in your body are hormones. These hormones help in causing growth, helping infertility and many other functions. Following are the hormones that are important for the autonomic nervous system to function:

Cortisol: adrenal glands secrete this hormone. When your body feels under stressed or threatened, cortisol is released. It is also termed as the stress hormone. The levels of cortisol are not normal in people with fibromyalgia.  There is a constant stress state in the bodies of fibromyalgia sufferers, which means that there are much higher levels of cortisol. This leads the fibromyalgia sufferers to a tired and drained state.

Growth hormone: during deep sleep and exercise, this hormone releases in your body. The hormone’s primary function is to help the metabolism and muscle/tissue growth. This hormone also helps in healing the wounds and injuries. This level of this hormone is lower in fibromyalgia sufferers. This hormone is not triggered enough by the autonomic nervous system in repairing muscles and tissues. People suffer from fibromyalgia have problems in sleeping so this problem also restricts the release of this hormone.

Norepinephrine: adrenal gland releases this hormone and sympathetic nervous system controls this hormone. This hormone regulates the responses like increased heart rate, sweating and muscle contraction. There are low levels of this hormone in fibromyalgia sufferers, due to which pain and fatigue are caused.

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