Fibromyalgia syndrome, or FMS for short, is a chronic pain syndrome that can significantly reduce the quality of life. It is characterized by extensive and persistent pain in various parts of the body, often on the chest, back, arms and legs. In addition to the pain, there are other complaints, including sleep problems and exhaustion.
Fibromyalgia as the word “fibre muscle pain” describes. Doctors speak of a syndrome because there is a typical complex of various symptoms that cannot be explained by a specific trigger.
Scientists disagree about what causes it and what promotes the syndrome. It is not a mental illness, it is not soft-tissue rheumatism or any other inflammatory rheumatic disease. As far as we know, there are no underlying disorders in the muscles or joints. FMS is often associated with a depression or anxiety disorder, which presumably develops as a result of many years of suffering and doctor odysseys. Other diseases also occur more frequently in connection with FMS.
Significantly more women develop FMS than men, mostly between the ages of 30 and 50. In Australia, around two to three percent of the population is affected. Fibromyalgia syndrome can also occur in children and adolescents.
The medical guideline classifies fibromyalgia as a “functional somatic syndrome”. This means: There is a typical complex of physical symptoms (syndrome) that lasts for a certain period of time and cannot be explained by a (verifiable) physical cause (somatic).
It is unclear which disease mechanism could be behind this. There are currently different explanations:
Acute pain occurs when, for example, we touch the hot stove or fall while exercising. Then nerve fibres from the affected region – for example, the hand or knee – send electrical signals via the spinal cord to the central nervous system (CNS). There the signals are processed and pain is perceived. All of this happens very quickly and ebbs away again. Chronic pain occurs, among other things, when the nerve fibres from the periphery constantly send signals to the CNS. It “remembers” the stimuli, is sensitized and over time reacts to the incoming stimuli earlier and earlier. A so-called central sensitization arises.
Some researchers suggest that this could also happen with fibromyalgia syndrome. Persistent pain signals could lead to the central nervous system becoming overactive and, among other things, not processing pain normally. It could react with an increased sense of pain. For example, those affected perceive external influences as painful that should normally not hurt, such as a massage. Doctors call this allodynia.
Numerous messenger substances are involved in the processing of pain. These so-called neurotransmitters include, for example, serotonin, glutamate and dopamine. In subgroups of fibromyalgia patients, the concentrations of these messenger substances can be changed, as some studies indicate.
The autonomic nervous system (involuntary functions) is one part of our entire nervous system, the other is the somatic nervous system (arbitrary, i.e. controllable functions). Both are in turn part of the central and peripheral nervous systems. The CNS is formed by the brain and spinal cord, the peripheral nervous system runs through the various organs and regions of the body. The autonomic nervous system consists of the sympathetic (“flight or attack”) and the parasympathetic (“rest and digestion”). Some studies indicate that subgroups of patients with fibromyalgia syndrome could also be caused by a malfunction of the autonomic nervous system (dysautonomia). In some patients, the sympathetic nervous system is too active, in other patients the parasympathetic nervous system.
The peripheral nervous system includes large and small nerve fibres that run through the body and transmit signals to the CNS. Recent studies suggest that a disorder in the area of small nerve fibres, especially so-called small fibres, could also contribute to FMS pain in some of those affected. The small fibres end in the skin, where they are responsible, among other things, for the perception of pain, temperature sensation, itching and the perception of pleasant touch. A review article showed that an average of 49 percent of the FMS patients examined had abnormalities in the area of small fibres. However, it is not yet clear how these nerve fibres are impaired in the patient and how this damage can possibly contribute to the pain.
Since the nervous system, immune system, endocrine system and psyche are closely linked and influence numerous body functions, fibromyalgia syndrome has a variety of effects.
Due to the possible influencing factors, some scientists try to explain the fibromyalgia syndrome with the so-called biopsychosocial model: Certain physical and psychological factors trigger the disease with a corresponding predisposition. However, this does not mean that it is a mental illness, just that several unfavourable living conditions come together and upset the body.
With any form of ‘syndrome’, it is important to keep your immune system strong to support healing. By cleaning your colon regularly you support a good microbiome and a good immune system.