Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) is a systemic disorder, a chronic condition defined by widespread pain throughout the body as a consequence of abnormal pain processing in the central nervous system. Effects and degrees of suffering differ from person to person due to the many different types of fibromyalgia pain and other key influences such as lifestyle, diet, posture and mobility, worry and stress, also whether the diagnosis co-exists with other illnesses.
At the clinic our treatment options address all major factors contributing to fibromyalgia pain. Our holistic approach accepts that different levels and types of pain respond to different types of treatment for each person and there is no single fix for all.
Fibromyalgia pain fluctuates and varies widely and is influenced by how our mental state impact pain receptors. Known as the the Gate Control Theory, proposed in the early 1960’s by researchers Ronald Melzack and Patrick Wall, it is still referred to today as an accurate account of the theory of pain and the connection to the physical and psychological aspects of pain perception.
Many sufferers who visit the clinic report feeling a huge relief and reassurance to know their symptoms and fibromyalgia pain is real and it’s not all in their head whilst gaining an understanding of the body’s pain loop and how different types of fibromyalgia pain can manifest and that there are numerous natural, pain reducing solutions to help self-manage.
Types of Fibromyalgia Pain
- Widespread muscle and myofascial is a common type of fibromyalgia pain. Nociceptive pain, either somatic or visceral, is detected in the muscles, skin or organs by specialized sensory nerves called nociceptors that pick up painful stimuli and signal the information to the spinal cord and brain to interpret and respond. This is the body’s way of alerting you to an injury or illness, so this should be normal, right?
Not if you have fibromyalgia! Instead, the body’s pain mechanism and pain response in the brain gets switched on, stays on and turns up the volume!
- This is one of the most common types of fibromyalgia pain, known as HYPERALGESIA – “hyper” as in excess and “algesia” meaning pain. It’s an underlying feature of a category of illnesses called Central Sensitivity Syndrome (CSS). It’s the medical term for pain amplification and is the baddie in fibromyalgia and many other syndromes such as ME/Cfs, restless leg and irritable bowel, also associated with several inflammatory health conditions and certain types of nerve damage. Most of the drugs associated with fibromyalgia, amitriptyline, pregablin, gabapentin etc., are aimed at, at least in part, to treat hyperalgesia which itself doesn’t directly cause pain; it intensifies the level of many of the different types of fibromyalgia pain, such as:
- Idiopathic Pain which can exist either wide spread or isolated is a very real type of fibromyalgia pain despite there is no known way of detecting the pain with medical knowledge, the physical and psychologicial cause can’t be connected with nociceptive or neuropathic causes.
- Chronic neck, head and shoulder pain
- Weak and Painful limbs exasperated by little exertion
- Costochondritus, painful and tightening of the chest area
- Tender points throughout the body
- Premenstrual and Menstruation pain is intensified due to hyperalgesia accompanied by mood swings and symptoms associated with hormone imbalance add to the discomfort and misery of fibromyalgia pain.
- Joint pain, particularly hips, knees and feet accompanied with the sensation of swelling despite no detectable signs or cause.
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) where the jaw bone connects to the skull on either side of the face. Many describe this as ranging from a dull ache to severe stabbing pain that reaches into the ear, around the eye and temple area and lower jaw causing severe pain whilst eating. Despite the pain and discomfort of this fibromyalgia pain no actual cause is revealed through testing unlike with similar symptoms of joint pain in arthritis or auto-immune conditions.
- Neuropathic pain caused by nerve disturbances where nerves are not functioning normally causing stabbing and prickling fibromyalgia pain that on testing show no irregularities with nerve strength, reflex and sensations appear to be normal.
- Parethesia which causes odd nerve sensations that feels like bugs crawling on the skin, itching, prickling and tingling with random burning sensation on arms and legs that can be quite severe. Numbness is common and can lead to long sedentary periods and frequent accidents of falling or dropping things. Treatments include anti-depressant medications, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s) (SNRI’s), Vitamin B12 and acupuncture.
- Migraines and headaches are very common symptoms of fibromyalgia pain. Tension headaches are often due to stress, anxiety and poor sleep, all which co-exist with fibromyalgia and are factors of central sensitization – a root cause of fibromyalgia and heightened perception of pain. Other causes of headache may be poor posture, stiff neck and shoulders hindering circulation to the skull. Dehydration and irregular blood sugar levels, medication side effects also contribute to headaches.
- IBS and Abdominal fibromyalgia pain caused by a digestive disorder is characterised by painful abdominal cramping, bloating, food intolerance, diarrhoea, constipation and nausea.
- Pelvic and Bladder pain causing discomfort and painful symptoms of interstitial cystitis with the need to urinate more frequently day and night. As with IBS, managing these conditions add to stress levels as they can easily take over when making plans, many sufferers avoid situations due to anxiety of having little or no access to facilities.
- Allodynia is a condition referring to an abnormal reaction to pain from a non-painful stimulation on the skin, commonly described as a burning sensation. It could be activated by the lightest of pressure and is characterised by central sensitization at the core of the pain centre having highly excitable pain nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. For those who have allodynia, it can be excruciating and it’s certainly one of the weirdest things having three sub-types:
Tactile: where a severe degree of pain is generated from the lightest, gentlest of touch or pressure
Thermal: extreme pain is generated from either heat or cold and is often felt in hands and feet
Mechanical: pain is caused from a repeated activity or at an injury site
To conclude it’s necessary to point out that fibromyalgia pain is a multi faceted and complex subject. Each person will have their own difficulties and will respond to medications and treatments individually. What we do know is that supporting you with reassurance that your pain is real and that there are many natural remedies and solutions to ease and soothe the different types of fibromyalgia pain. Our services offer a range of holistic treatments and our bespoke programme “The Fibro Tool Kit” addresses the physical, emotional and psychological aspects of self-managing fibromyalgia. Our support groups are a place to come along and share your concerns with others who face similar challenges.
Author: Jok Saunders, fellow sufferer and founder of the clinic, wishing you well.