After decades of struggling to identify a cause, researchers have identified certain changes in nervous system function that are likely to be the cause of fibromyalgia. These changes, which occur as the result of a process known as central sensitization, cause fibromyalgia patients to experience pain more intensely than they had before.
People with fibromyalgia also tend to experience other symptoms, such as chronic fatigue and difficulty concentrating (“fibro fog”). While we still need more research, many promising studies have shown that these same changes in nervous system function are likely to be the cause of these symptoms as well.
To me, the terms “chronic pain” and “fibromyalgia” are not separate medical conditions. Instead, they describe sets of symptoms that lie along the same continuum— all stemming back to central nervous system function.
The reason I made this separate section on my blog to discuss fibromyalgia is because I realize that this word plays a very unique role in the online community. Entire support networks have been built up around this word; patients who have been brushed off by doctors have found each other and shared information about treatments and moral support.
Therefore, when I use the word fibromyalgia instead of chronic pain, it is not because I think the science behind each is different. Instead, I use it because of its unique connotations in terms of the way people understand their symptoms, and in the way they pursue treatment.
I hope you find the resources I offer on my blog to be helpful. Check out:
- Do you need to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia to be successfully treated?
- History of fibromyalgia as a diagnosis
- Inflammation, Fibromyalgia, and Deceptive Marketing Tactics
- Someday there could be a test for fibromyalgia
- Super informative video lecture from Dr. Sean Mackey of Stanford University on the causes of fibromyalgia