Through the years, I have spoken with many individuals, usually, women, who have now been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a condition in which individuals suffer from chronic pain, and have tenderness in about a dozen different spots in the body, and have “brain fog”. They suffer from unremitting fatigue, bowel problems, difficulty in sleeping through the night, and waking up unrefreshed. As would be expected, they are depressed and anxious as well.
There are some physicians, even now, that think fibromyalgia “is all in the minds” of their patients. Some studies have shown, that compared to the general population, individuals with fibromyalgia have significantly higher levels of depression and anxiety. [Now why someone who is in pain and tired much of the time, would be depressed is beyond me.]
I once spoke to a male physician who said that he always thought that fibromyalgia was “just” a psychological problem, having nothing to do with biology. I asked him why he used the past tense, and he said to me, “because I got it!”.
Now that the pharmaceutical industry has come out with at least three FDA-approved medications for fibromyalgia, it evidently means that fibromyalgia can now be classified as a disease, and many clinicians treat it as such.
Many patients have differing success when using these prescription medications. The three pharmaceuticals reduced pain symptoms by only 30%. Some of the medications made a difference in fatigue, but not in sleep patterns. Many of these medications result in side effects ranging from insomnia (which they were trying to combat in the beginning!), nausea, and diarrhea. Unfortunately for individuals suffering with fibromyalgia, many patients find that if the medication does work for them, too often it is for only a short-period of time, for as little as six months total.
Most clinicians state that the cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but that “painful tissues” are not associated with inflammation.
I respectfully suggest that inflammatory responses are major contributors to the pain and discomfort those individuals with fibromyalgia experience. Indeed, I cannot imagine that a person can feel pain, in the absence of inflammation.
Increasingly, the literature suggests that fibromyalgia, and other neuromuscular conditions are characterized by low-grade inflammation. Inflammatory cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha and IL-1, and other immunological factors, have been found to be at higher levels than “normals” and may be resulting in the fatigue and flu-like illness experienced by individuals with fibromyalgia.
Controlling run-away inflammation by returning to immune homeostasis, immune balance, has, in my experience, resulted in dramatic differences in the quality of life of individuals suffering with fibromyalgia. These individuals have tried other approaches with only limited success, so why not support balanced immune responses?
Medscape Family Medicine 2012 WebMD, LLC