Fibromyalgia is a complex central pain sensitivity syndrome characterised by widespread pain with no obvious cause for the pain, no recent injury, no known source for the pain and medically there is no explanation.

Chronic pain is usually diagnosed after several months of out of proportion experience of pain. In general many sufferers find it hard to tell what makes the pain better or makes it worse. Whilst some days may be better than others there is no consistency, leaving you to manage not only the pain but the sheer unpredictability on a daily basis – it’s a bit like waking up every morning up and finding yet another uninvited house guest has arrived and you worry how you’re going to manage and who’s going to show up next!! What a pain in the neck that would be!

There’s no wonder that living under this continuous pressure will cause some sufferers to become seriously pessimistic and find themselves in a continuous loop of worrying about the symptoms and that they may be a sign of something worse. Under these circumstances it’s very understandable to fall into the habit of worrying, overthinking and catastrophize about how you are able to cope and become overwhelmed with the stress.

Stress begins to accumulate causing exhaustion, disrupted and non-refreshed sleep. When chronic stress takes hold it often leads to anxiety, depression, compromising the immune system and opening up vulnerability to infection and inflammation. All of this is heightened due to central sensitization and long-lasting sensitivity to peripheral and sometimes sub-threshold, toxic stimuli causing persistent strengthening of the synaptic activity in the central nervous system, believed to be a root cause of fibromyalgia.

But the question is “What is fibromyalgia, is it a disease, a disorder, a syndrome, a condition and what’s the difference”?

What is a syndrome?  A syndrome is a term that refers to a disease or a disorder that has more than one identifying feature, or a set of correlating signs or symptoms that characterize or suggest a disease.  Fibromyalgia is a good example.

What is a disorder?  Fibromyalgia is often referred to as a chronic pain disorder. The definition of a disorder is a disruption of a disease to the normal functions in the body or a part of the body.  For example insomnia, a sleep disorder resulting from the chronic pain of fibromyalgia and leading to other worrying health problems. A disorder can be classified into mental, physical, genetic, structural, emotional or behavioural.

What is a disease?  An original definition was published in the British Medical that disease results from a pathophysiological response to external or internal factors. The medical profession treat disease based on abnormalities in systemic functions.  For example fibromyalgia causes  abnormalities that cause both internal and external factors including the physical and emotional signs and symptoms, as well as pain, distress, heightened central sensitivity and dysfunction.

What is a condition?  The definition of a condition is an abnormal state of health that interferes with life’s usual activities or feelings of well being. For example fibromyalgia which is becoming more commonly treated as a neurological condition as opposed to a muscular-skeletal and is diagnosed from a history and collection of symptoms in addition to the main symptoms of chronic wide-spread pain.

And there we have it, still non the wiser?  Join the club! But does it really matter what label they give to fibromyalgia?  What really matters is what you do to manage it, to get the best out of life that is possible for you and your well being, one day at a time is enough. 

Author Jok Saunders, founder of the Fibro Clinic South West.  Feel free to comment below.

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