While the syndrome is often poorly understood and large portions of it remain a mystery, research is beginning to find observable physiological reasons for it.
Certainly there is still a long way to go, however, the syndrome has a long history of misunderstandings and dismissals, so even a beginning in the project of finding more physical connections is a good step.
Fibromyalgia is often misunderstood, but there is no real confusion about how it occurs. The syndrome is characterized by a generalized pain that usually affects the muscles or joints.
However, it can affect any area of the body, including tissues. It results in back pain and muscle pain, feeling of general fatigue and specific areas of sensitivity.
Despite having multiple points that are sensitive to palpation, called “soft spots”, the patient will have a normal neurological examination that does not give an idea of what is happening. Soft spots are specific points in the body and when pressure is put on these points, it causes pain.
The syndrome most commonly affects middle-aged women who are otherwise healthy. However, it can affect women of different ages, as well as men and boys.
In addition to pain, people with fibromyalgia often experience other symptoms, including sleep fatigue, other difficulties with sleep, and difficulties with memory and concentration. It can also cause intestinal disorders.
First, the syndrome may be responsible for both sleep disturbances and sleep fatigue. The latter refers to the fact that sleep is often not relaxing or refreshing due to fibromyalgia. As a result, the syndrome is often confused with chronic fatigue syndrome.
The syndrome may also be responsible for something called “brain fog.” What this refers to is the inability to concentrate or think clearly that often accompanies the syndrome.
It is not clear that this is, in fact, directly related to fibromyalgia, or if it is caused by the chronic pain and fatigue that the condition brings.
Fibromyalgia can also be responsible for digestive disorders. It is not uncommon for the syndrome to cause intestinal irritation.
In addition to pain, the syndrome can also cause burning or itching sensations. This is a rare side effect, but it happens occasionally.
Finally, it is not uncommon for people who suffer from fibromyalgia to also suffer from other psychological conditions at the same time.
This can be a problem, since fibromyalgia has a long history of being dismissed as “all in your head” by doctors and other health professionals previously.
However, this is not classifying this syndrome as psychosomatic, only to recognize that there may be other things happening at the same time as fibromyalgia. Like sleep disorders, it is not clear that this is directly related to the syndrome, however.
It is not at all surprising if patients who suffer from chronic pain and are experiencing the other types of frustration that fibromyalgia can create, could also suffer from depression.
This is not a direct result of fibromyalgia, but rather the cause of the symptoms that the syndrome brings. That does not make it less the result of fibromyalgia, it just means that it will not be treated as a direct result.
Pathophysiology of fibromyalgia syndrome
Pathophysiology or pathophysiology is the combination of pathology with physiology.
Pathology is the medical discipline that describes the conditions typically observed during a disease state, while physiology is the biological discipline that describes the processes or mechanisms that operate within a patient.
The pathology describes the abnormal or unwanted condition, and the physiopathology tries to explain the physiological processes or mechanisms by which said condition develops and progresses.
Ultimately, the pathophysiology can be described simply as the observable changes that occur physiologically due to a medical condition.
Pathophysiology is not the cause, but rather the effect that a condition has on the body.
This must be understood as distinct from the etiology, which is the term used for the causes.
Pathophysiology does not describe the causes of anything, which in terms of fibromyalgia, is good, since the causes of the syndrome is unknown.
Pathophysiology of Fibromyalgia
So, what changes in the patient’s body are caused by fibromyalgia? This will be naturally difficult, since almost everything about this syndrome is involved in uncertainty.
However, there are at least some aspects of the disease that are observable and therefore can be seen as part of the pathophysiology of the syndrome.
The most obvious and observable symptom is pain. This is understood as a problem with hypersensitivity to stimuli in general, which then manifests as pain.
This hypersensitivity is possibly the result of neurobiological or “hypervigilance” changes.