Fibromyalgia is much more surprising when you see not only what it does to you but also what it hides from you. Discover the pain that fibromyalgia causes and all the consequences of this disease.
What is fibromyalgia ?
Also called “pain everywhere”, it is a non-inflammatory painful disease, characterized by both chronic, diffuse and specific “tender points”. These are painful and sensitive points that are abnormally amplified (hyperalgesia) and that can be triggered by a light touch that is normally painless (allodynia). In addition, people affected by the disease may experience : excessive fatigue, mood changes, frequent behavioral changes (neurocognitive disorder) and sleep disorders (scientific reference).
As science advances, we observe that it is associated with various functional syndromes. In other words, the world of FM is governed by dysfunctions of several systems.
Fibromyalgia is still very little known in our society. It was only in 1976 that the term “fibromyalgia” was used for the first time by Hench. And very surprisingly, it was only recognized as a disease in January 2006 by the WHO. These very insignificant figures in our society affect every day the subjects suffering from fibromyalgia. But particularly, the French misunderstood, neglected and still little considered by their state. Even today, fibromyalgia remains a syndrome and not a disease in its own right in France. However, it affects 2 to 5% of the French population.
Symptomatology of fibromyalgia
Firstly, a study was conducted on the hypothesis of a muscular anomaly in patients suffering from fibromyalgia. It showed a decrease in muscle strength and endurance during exercise in more than 80% of cases.
Consequently, the muscular deficit would rather be the consequence of pain induced by effort. In other words, the patient suffering from fibromyalgia does not have a muscular anomaly but rather a dysfunction of the latter.
In addition, their low muscle fiber quantity (type II) and their low muscle tissue oxygenation rate make adaptation to physical exercise difficult.
Secondly, a study added that fibromyalgia patients have a lower level of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) compared to healthy patients. This little coenzyme is our daily fuel, essential to our lives. It takes up residence in our cells and ensures that our cells are supplied with the energy they need for every activity.
What happens when our cells no longer have the necessary fuel ?
The energy production capacity drops and thus alerts the body to a decline in ATP production. Then, heavy consequences will be added to the physical and psychological systems. Indeed, they cause muscular weakness, morning muscle stiffness, pain and cognitive difficulties. Consequently, in the long term, this cellular energy deficit can trigger various failures in the functioning of organs and muscles.
Biopsychosocial system (psychological, social and biological)
Each of us has a small bean-shaped gland located under the brain called the pituitary. It is often called the “master gland” because of its essential role in the proper functioning of the body’s hormones. This gland secretes a good quantity of hormones essential to our lives. Such as the growth hormone (GH) useful for the development of the body and the brain. It allows bone maturation and a better metabolism for the muscles.
Furthermore, it sends necessary information to its fellow “adrenal glands” located in the kidneys. These trigger the release of the hormone cortisol (stress hormone or adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)).
In a stressful situation, our allies the cortisol hormones quickly warn the body. They then mobilize our metabolic resources in carbohydrates, lipids and proteins so that they are correctly regulated. This is crucial for a good response to stress.
Moreover, it also acts for the good functioning of our reproductive organs. For this, it produces the luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) important for the production of estrogen and testosterone (hormones essential for the maturation and production of eggs and sperm).
What happens to the Fibromyalgia patient?
Following a stressful situation, cortisol hormones are disturbed. We observe a loss of the cortisol cycle and a decrease in its overall secretion. As a result, our allies the cortisol hormones cannot prevent the organism quickly. And so, the carbohydrate, protein and lipid metabolisms are not ready to regulate stress adequately. As a result, a poor response to stress leads to repercussions on the digestive system (irritable bowel). As well as an emotional disorder, dyspareunia (pain during sexual intercourse), mood disorders, in addition to weakening the immune system.
This is where a very interesting theory came from. The relationship between the function of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis with psychological and digestive alterations, among others.
From stress to gut irritability
First of all, it doesn’t take the slightest bit of anxiety to bother the intestine. Indeed, in addition to taking care of our digestive system, the intestine has an impact on the psychological system. To do this, these two systems have a very specific communication network, via the vagus nerve. Moreover, it is in the context of their exchange that stress is their main stimulus.
When our brain encounters a difficulty, its objective is to find the solution. So it needs energy, which it finds in the intestine. As a good friend, the intestine will then slow down the blood flow and the mucus consumption. Consequently, the state of emergency is triggered and abuses the kindness of its comrade, the intestine. And so, exasperated, it sends less sympathetic signals to the brain.
Finally, the after-effects for humans are a state of fatigue, lack of appetite, colic and even malaise. In extreme cases, emotional vomiting can occur to cope with the energy withdrawal prescribed by the brain.
In addition to drawing a large part of the energy dedicated to digestion, it will also come to offer ideal conditions to our nastiest intestinal bacteria. In other words, this means that our gut is able to make us feel the effects caused by stress.
In the fibromyalgia patient, this process is amplified. Indeed, the adrenal gland is unable to adapt to the stimuli of the stress hormone (ACTH). As a result, this implies a stress disorder and can lead to a miscommunication between the brain and the intestine. And again, this can lead to the development of irritable bowel syndrome, colopathy and diarrhea.
Sensitization of the central nervous system
Recently, it has been shown that fibromyalgia patients have low levels of growth hormone and somatomedin C. Moreover, the latter promotes bone reconstruction, chondrocytes and fibroblasts. Moreover, due to their low quantities, the patient suffering from fibromyalgia is predisposed to poor tissue renewal and frequent muscle micro-trauma. It is then that he will express difficulties to fall asleep and to manage an intense physical effort. In addition to being emotionally overwhelmed and disturbed on the digestive level.
Fibromyalgia and covid19
Firstly, in the sanitary conditions in which we are currently. We advise you to protect yourself and apply the hygiene advice against the virus. Knowing that the immune system is less robust in patients with fibromyalgia.
However, who says coronavirus does not mean to stop physical activity, essential to maintain and reduce symptoms.
- Stay active
- Adopt a relaxing activity to offset stressful situations
- Take advantage of this to take care of your diet
“I am 81 years old and I don’t remember when I started to suffer from diffuse and sometimes very intense pain.
At first, as a child, as soon as someone touched me, I had pain. Then I thought I was “soft” because my friends didn’t complain. I was always very tired when I got up. I didn’t eat much, I had vomiting, constipation, a bloated stomach, a weak bladder, disturbed sleep…it was painful but I didn’t talk about it.
Married, I had three children that I raised with this discomfort always present: repeated migraines, vomiting, constipation, pain everywhere more or less acute. My body was more mobile at times but very painful in stressful situations. So much so that nobody understood me, even the doctors who made me feel that it was in my head.
Then, at the age of 40, I went back to work as a secretary with sometimes unbearable shoulder and back pain. As for the physiotherapy sessions, they brought me some respite.
Finally, in July 1992, my doctor told me that I had SPID “syndrome, polyalgic, idiopathic diffuse”. Thus, I had the impression of being heard and understood. Basically, it was a liberation for me, “I wasn’t complaining for nothing even though there was no treatment”. Today this disease has a name, fibromyalgia! From now on, I live from day to day with ups and downs but I try to “live with it”. I have a few medications for background treatment plus paracetamol to start the day. Also, the doctor prescribes me every month vitamin D in ampoule.
To help me better manage the stressful situations that are very painful for me, I have been participating in sophrology sessions for the past 2 years which have helped me and still help me control my breathing. Moreover, a year ago I also followed Pilates sessions which helped me to keep the necessary strength. At the same time, I continue to be present and active as president of an association. This forces me to focus my attention away from the pain and to help others. It has taught me to put my problems into perspective and to manage my stress better. And every week I go to a water aerobics class.
Once a year, I organize a three-week cure with balneotherapy for rheumatism. I always feel a relief after several months.
To conclude, I live today with my mind always occupied with all other things than the pains that are permanently present in my body.