Is Fibromyalgia Real?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition that affects multiple areas of the body. Pain caused by this disease is often generalized, with whole body discomfort being common. It is somewhat difficult to diagnose fibromyalgia, because there are no visible physical indicators of its presence. Some people question whether fibromyalgia is a real illness at all, or if it is a product of imagination and overdiagnosis. For those with the chronic pain disorder, this debate can be frustrating and invalidating. This article will venture further into the details of fibromyalgia in an attempt to confirm the condition’s legitimacy.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
- Difficulty completing thinking and memory-related tasks (called “fibro fog”)
- Joint stiffness in the morning
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Numb or tingly hands and feet
- Restless legs syndrome (RLS)
- Temperature sensitivity
- Sensitivity to sound and light
- Painful menstrual periods
Is Fibromyalgia Real?
It is estimated that an approximate 5,000,000 U.S. citizens have fibromyalgia, says The Fibro Center. As the condition is diagnosed on a self-reported basis, some people believe this information is too subjective to confirm fibromyalgia is real. Many researchers have set out to determine whether there are any specific markers that indicate the presence of fibromyalgia, aside from physical pain symptoms. A study published in Neuroscience Research looked at the brain activity of women with fibromyalgia. More specifically, 24 healthy women and 23 women with fibromyalgia underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to observe brain responses while viewing an image of hands or feet being injured. When compared to the healthy group, women with fibromyalgia showed less response in centers of the brain responsible for pain processing. It was concluded that those with chronic pain appeared to have less empathy for others in pain, potentially as a means of self-preservation (lessening physical arousal).
Other researchers focused on the possible imbalance between sensory and motor neurons as the cause of fibromyalgia. A study out of The University of Bath created an intentional mismatch between sensory and motor functions of the brain to determine whether the alteration would cause symptoms of fibromyalgia. Participants were required to observe a reflection of one arm in a mirror, while moving the other in the opposite direct. The moving arm was hidden behind the mirror, which created a difference between what the brain saw, and what it felt. Of the 29 subjects, 26 reported feelings of increased pain, temperature changes, or a heavy feeling in the hidden arm, noted Bath researchers. This suggests that the symptoms of fibromyalgia could be caused by an imbalance between sensory and motor brain activity.
Lastly, a study published in the Brain journal showed that fibromyalgia symptoms may be caused by a lack of unmyelinated nerve cells. These cells are responsible for slowly transporting pain messages throughout the body. When people with fibromyalgia were given a pin-prick pain test, the response of these nerves was smaller than in healthy individuals. This supports the finding that those with fibromyalgia have fewer unmyelinated nerve cells than is typical. The researchers concluded that further studies need to be done to determine if this phenomenon causes fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia is mysterious condition that relies on self-reports and doctor’s intuition to diagnose. Its validity is often questioned for this reason. While no cause has been identified, research has been conducted to try and prove the existence of fibromyalgia. Those with the chronic pain disorder have been found to elicit different neurological responses than the general population. The data seems to support the idea that fibromyalgia is real, though more research must be conducted to gain concrete answers. For those with fibromyalgia, constant questioning of the disorder may be frustrating. A definite answer would allow for the proper treatment, as well as social and emotional validation.
Los Angeles clinical trials for fibromyalgia are currently held in Los Angeles. For more information, contact the Pacific Institute of Medical Research, which is an independent clinical research site specializing in psychiatry since 1982. Visit us online or call us at (310) 208-7144.