Muscle and joint pains can be related to various factors. We will learn about one such type of muscle pain called fibromyalgia, and discuss all about its causes.
Pain in the joints, tendons and muscles is not a rare condition, and with age and other factors, these are bound to attack one’s health. We know of many common conditions like arthritis, systemic lupus, polymyositis and other diseases that are associated with muscle and joint pain.
Fibromyalgia or FMS is one name that associates with muscle and joint pain. It can be described as a chronic condition, a rheumatologic disorder that leads to pain in the muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons. It also causes stiffness and tenderness along with pain, and sometimes is defined as fibrositis or fibromyositis. This disorder typically affects more women than men. Fibromyalgia can happen at any age between 30 to 50 years and above.
Unlike other joint and muscle pain disorders, that have an underlying cause for the pain, fibromyalgia till date does not have a specific cause, and research is still working on finding the exact cause of it. There is no inflammation of the muscles or similar conditions. Therefore, the patient will not suffer from any internal body damage or any other deformity. There are certain possible causes, according to experts, and we will shed some light on these, along with the symptoms and treatment as well, in the following.
The most prominent symptom is widespread pain throughout the body. Pain will be consistent throughout the day or may vary. It can also increase with cold and damp weather conditions and rigorous activity. Muscle pain and spasms are not typically in the joints, but in the muscles and ligaments.
The common areas of pain, that are called trigger points, are the back, neck, shoulders, and hips. Fatigue and numbness and tingling, muscle spasms, weakness in the limbs, and sleeping disorders, are some of the symptoms. There are other symptoms like bowel disturbances and disorders, frequent urination, palpitations, depression and irritability, weak memory and forgetfulness, anxiety, migraines and headaches.
As discussed above, there are no concrete causes that have been found. However, the following are some conditions that may lead to fibromyalgia. It is also found that this chronic pain is most likely to be caused by not one factor but a combination of many causes, both physical and emotional as well. Let us take a look.
Genetics and Heredity
Many studies have related FMS to being a heredity issue. There is a possibility of it being inherited through the family. In case of a family history of fibromyalgia, there is a strong possibility of a family member being affected due genetic disposition.
Less sleep is also considered as a potential cause. Deep sleep is one stage when the muscles of the body relax. If a person does not reach this stage (deep sleep), the body does not relax and the muscles remain strained and stiff. These patients may sleep for an adequate amount of time, but they seldom reach the deep sleep stage that is required.
Depression and Stress
Stress and depression are also considered as major causes. An over exposure to the stress hormones is the possible cause. Any psychological stress and trauma leads to sensitivity in the brain chemicals. Post traumatic stress and other emotional disturbances may help develop FMS.
Brain Chemistry and Hormones
It is observed that pain, trauma and stress, affect the CNS (central nervous system). This imbalances the chemicals in the brain – chemicals like serotonin, that is responsible for deep sleep, and other feelings of health and well-being. Low serotonin is observed in many patients .A decrease in stress hormones like cortisol and norepinephrine affects the ability to deal with stress and trauma. Low levels of growth hormones make the muscles weak, and also affects energy levels. The chemical called CSF, also called substance P, increases, thus increasing the sensitivity of the pain and stress communicating chemicals in the nervous system.
Many of the cases studied have had abnormal muscle issues. The deficiency of muscle cell chemicals that regulate calcium in the cells can affect the calcium supply that enables muscle contraction and relaxation, hence causing stiffness. The thickness of the blood vessels in the muscles, that are called capillaries, is more than regular in fibromyalgia patients. This creates lesser supply of blood and other essential compounds to the muscles.
Fibromyalgia is still considered a mysterious disorder, with practically no strong evidence to support the exact causes, and the treatment is usually focused to relieve the pain. There may be drugs, pain killers, muscle relaxers, antidepressants, etc., that will be prescribed as medication. Along with them, treatments like physical therapy and exercise, and following a fibromyalgia diet can also help. The patient will be advised with behavioral therapy, and good education on coping with the pain, etc.
A lot of times, other diseases are confused with FMS due to the similar symptoms. It is important for the doctor to have a thorough examination and detailed observation of the patient’s history and symptoms, before concluding it to be fibromyalgia. Research and science are making efforts to find an exact cause and cure for this disorder. Until then, being aware of the facts and taking necessary precautions can help tackle this mystery of muscle pain.