Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by chronic pain throughout the body.
One of the key symptoms of fibromyalgia is that specific points on the patient’s body might be especially tender to touch.
These typically include the areas around either side of the collarbone, the upper part of the chest, the insides of the elbows, the areas going inward beside the knees, the back of the neck, the middle of the shoulders, the upper back, and the upper and middle portions of the buttocks.
When these locations are pressed, a patient with fibromyalgia will experience pain, while a healthy person might just feel pressure.
A person must be sensitive to touch in a majority of these points and suffer persistent muscle pain throughout the body to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia pain may vary in intensity and frequency, but it is generally described as a chronic, shooting muscular pain.
Besides pain, other common symptoms include a disrupted sleep pattern or insomnia, excessive fatigue that renders one incapable of engaging in daily activities, joint and muscle stiffness that persists all day, leg pain, headaches/migraines, and memory and concentration issues.
Some people might also suffer flu-like symptoms, weakness, night sweats, severe chest pain and ribcage tenderness (non-cardiac, but may feel like a heart attack), facial pain, tingling in the hands and feet, irritable bowel syndrome and menstrual problems.
Many people describe fibromyalgia as a sickness that doesn’t pass.
Because fibromyalgia symptoms resemble common symptoms that could indicate just about anything, many people do not think to get evaluated for fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia affects 2 to 8 percent of the global population and can occur at any age, according to a 2013 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Women, men and even children can develop it.
Furthermore, the causes and risk factors associated with this disorder remain largely unknown. However, researchers are starting to identify them.
Knowledge of these factors might just help an undiagnosed patient of fibromyalgia associate his or her symptoms with the risk factors and seek appropriate medical care.
The medical profession recently debunked the myth that doctors are unable to do much to treat fibromyalgia. It is certainly treatable.
Here are 10 causes and risk factors of fibromyalgia you may not know.
Genetics play a major role in the incidence and development of fibromyalgia in patients. This claim is undisputed and backed by evidence.
First-degree relatives of people with fibromyalgia were found to be 8.5 times more susceptible to fibromyalgia than people whose relatives did not have the disorder, according to a 2004 study published in Arthritis and Rheumatology.
Relatives of fibromyalgia patients are also likely to have more tender points in the event that they develop the disorder, and families with a history of fibromyalgia may share other associated neurological symptoms, such as mood disorders and increased sensitivity to pain, the study further notes.
Fibromyalgia occurs more commonly in women than men, according to a 2008 study published in Society for Women’s Health Research.
As many as 80 to 90 percent of all diagnosed fibromyalgia patients are females, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.
This is not to say that men do not get fibromyalgia. They certainly do, however, their symptoms are less severe and occur less frequently than in women.
The exact science behind this occurrence is unknown, however gender has been found to play a major role in the development of the disorder. Women with a family history of fibromyalgia become even more vulnerable to it.
3. Sleep Disturbances
Many people with fibromyalgia report trouble sleeping or even insomnia.
Electroencephalographic readings of the brain’s electrical activity in fibromyalgia patients have shown the presence of anomalous alpha wave activity, which is typically related to wakefulness and arousal.
The lack of restorative sleep in people who have trouble falling asleep might cause increased pain and fatigue and might be a cause of fibromyalgia, according to 2009 study published in the Rheumatic Disease Clinics of North America.
4. Gluten Sensitivity
Gluten sensitivity might just be a factor responsible for the development of fibromyalgia, according to a 2014 study published in Rheumatology International.
Gluten sensitivity can be described as a group of symptoms (mostly gastrointestinal) that develop from gluten consumption, and subside when gluten is eliminated from the diet.
Removing gluten from the prescribed diets of fibromyalgia patients has recently proved helpful in improving their symptoms, according to a 2015 study published in Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology.
Although the risk isn’t significantly high, people with fibromyalgia who suffer gluten sensitivity should also get checked for celiac disease, which is an occasionally reported disease in gluten-sensitive fibromyalgia patients.
5. Other Diseases & Disorders
Oftentimes, other diseases may trigger fibromyalgia.
These diseases include musculoskeletal and joint disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis; autoimmune disorders, such as Sjögren’s syndrome, lupus and spondylitis; and mental health disorders, such as depression.
About 25 percent of people with rheumatoid arthritis, 30 percent of those with lupus and 50 percent of those with Sjögren’s syndrome may develop fibromyalgia, according to a 2011 study published in Best Practice & Research Clinical Rheumatology.
A 2005 study published in Arthritis and Rheumatology also reported that fibromyalgia is a very common occurrence in lupus patients.
Therefore, patients suffering from these diseases must keep an eye out for added unusual symptoms as they could indicate fibromyalgia.
6. Physical Accident
A traumatic physical event, such as a car accident, can be a risk factor for developing fibromyalgia.
Studies have shown that many people report the development of chronic body pain right after they have been involved in a traumatic event.
People who suffered a road accident were found to be at a significantly high risk of developing chronic widespread pain, according to a 2011 study published in Arthritis Care and Research.
7. Early Childhood Trauma
Early emotional trauma, such as abuse suffered in childhood or the loss of a loved one, can trigger the onset of fibromyalgia later in life. Although this is a less common factor, it is worth considering nonetheless.
Living a dysfunctional life as a child may trigger certain behaviors early on that are characterized as constituent symptoms of fibromyalgia.
In a 2003 study published in the European Journal of Pain, people with fibromyalgia reported adverse emotional childhood experiences before the age of 7.
These experiences included sexual and physical abuse, alcoholic or drug-addicted parents, bad relationship with parents, quarrelsome relationship between the parents, lack of love and affection in the household, parents’ separation and a poor financial condition, the study further notes.
8. Repetitive Strain Injury
A repetitive strain injury (RSI) is an injury or pain suffered by the muscles and nerves due to repeatedly and constantly engaging in physical work, exerting one’s self and maintaining stressful positions for prolonged periods.
This condition occurs in the upper part of the body and may be characterized by pain, cramps, stiffness, numbness and a tingling sensation in the neck, shoulders, arms and hands.
People who develop RSI are at an increased risk of developing fibromyalgia.
Out of 34 industrial workers with RSI, 58.8 percent were diagnosed with fibromyalgia, according to a 2001 study published in Joint, Bone, Spine.
9. Neurological Makeup
In fibromyalgia patients, the brain has been found to be super sensitive to pain.
Although scientists and researchers remain divided on the actual, concrete causes of fibromyalgia, some suggest that the pain-perception of the brains of fibromyalgia patients is slightly disturbed.
This means that the pain-perceiving nerve cells in the brain, responsible for perceiving and executing pain responses to all the parts of the body, are extra sensitive to pain. This may explain the extreme body pain experienced by patients of fibromyalgia.
10. Phosphate Buildup
Endocrinologist Dr. St. Amand worked extensively with fibromyalgia patients for several years. He found that the kidneys of fibromyalgia patients do not work well and are unable to eliminate calcium phosphate from the system. This leads to a phosphate buildup in the cells over time that might just be one of the primary causes of fibromyalgia.
Although this study warrants further research, consult your doctor if you think you might have fibromyalgia and go for a phosphate screening, if you are so inclined.