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Causes of Fibromyalgia
• Physical Trauma
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|The exact cause or causes of fibromyalgia are not known, although there are many theories in discussion. Possible causes include:
Research shows that fibromyalgia can be triggered by trauma or injuries caused in an accident (in particular injuries to the neck). The syndrome for example has occurred in people after a car crash, or after an accident at work. Repetitive strain injury (an injury which occurs from repeated motions, such as carpel tunnel syndrome) can develop into fibromyalgia. Even a serious fall or slip can result in fibromyalgia developing in some people. For others, a serious illness or infection, surgery or a diabetic crisis can cause it. In some instances, women after pregnancy develop the syndrome. See also, can an accident or trauma trigger fibromyalgia?
Initial studies indicate that those who are physically or sexually abused may be more prone to developing symptoms of fibromyalgia. Some may have been abused as children, others in adulthood by abusive partners. A doctor may ask a patient for details of their past history, to see if this is a potential cause.
Unusual stress and traumatic experiences may ultimately trigger fibromyalgia. Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSB) is a reaction the body has to a particularly horrific incident, such as a car accident, witnessing a crime or serving in a combat situation. PTSB is an anxiety disorder where a person who suffers it may frequently relive the experiences which caused it. People with PTSB may start to experience fibromyalgia symptoms soon after the incident, or within 6 months. After the 1991 Gulf War, nearly 50 percent of soldiers who served during the campaign complained of muscle pain, headaches, fatigue and memory difficulties. For lack of a diagnosis, this became known as Gulf War Syndrome. This certainly seems to indicate that PTSB is a clear risk factor for fibromyalgia.
Research demonstrates that people with a diagnosis of fibromyalgia have abnormally higher levels of the pain neurochemical called Substance P. The main purpose of the chemical is to send pain messages to the body. These messages are important as they tell us for example when something is too hot to touch, so we quickly withdraw our hand. The problem with excess Substance P is that a person experiences a pain signal out of proportion to the cause; in fact pain may be three times higher than necessary. Scientists are still not sure if excess Substance P is a cause or a result of fibromyalgia. More studies are needed.
Other studies indicate that neurochemicals, in addition to Substance P, may affect fibromyalgia symptoms. Many people with the syndrome for example have low thyroid hormones, and treating this can improve symptoms. Others may have low levels of serotonin, the so-called 'happy hormone'. Fibromyalgia stretches, where possible, can help to increase serotonin levels naturally, and so are viewed as part of a comprehensive fibromyalgia treatment plan.
One theory is that allergies can trigger fibromyalgia. This may be why antihistamines make some patients feel better. Allergies can be environmental, such as an allergy to cigarette smoke or chemicals, or allergies to food (such as diary or MSG) and perfumes.
Based on some reports, fibromyalgia can in the family, so genes may be a factor. Another theory points to a shared environment, as families live together, eat the same food and may be exposed to the same environmental toxins. However, just because a sister, mother or grandmother has the syndrome, does not mean that you will develop it too. For more on this read our article: Is fibromyalgia genetic?
Interesting Articles and Q&A's:
Some people feel that a viral infection was the cause or trigger of their fibromyalgia. This is substantiated by a 2005 study reported in the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, which suggested that the risk of fibromyalgia in people with chronic hepatitis B was higher. They were more likely to have sleep disorders, fatigue and musculoskeletal pain. As many children in the United States are now immunized against hepatitis B, this may reduce incidences of fibromyalgia in the future. Experts also suggest that fibromyalgia is more common in those with hepatitis C, Epstein-Barr, HIV virus and Lyme disease. For more detail, see our article, can a viral infection trigger fibromyalgia?
Some researchers believe that lack of sleep not only worsens fibromyalgia but may actually cause it. Patients with fibromyalgia have a higher than average rate of periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD), where the leg muscles involuntarily contract every 20 to 40 seconds during sleep. One study showed that healthy volunteers experienced fibromyalgia-like pain when their sleep was interrupted. Disturbed sleep or insomnia, seems to trigger chemicals in the immune system which cause inflammation and fatigue (triggering pain in the fibromyalgia tender points). Sleep disorders also cause breathing problems in women with fibromyalgia, as well as fibro-fog (memory problems).
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For more about symptoms and causes, see the following:
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