Scientists Find Shocking Cause for Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain
While science currently has no way of determining the exact cause of fibromyalgia , certain contributing factors are present in many cases. The three main causes of fibromyalgia are infection, genetics, and past abuse. Read more about how child abuse and fibromyalgia are linked below.
By Brenda Priddy
Although fibromyalgia has been classified as a serious medical condition since the 1970s (before that, doctors thought the condition was bogus and invented by women to get more drugs), it is still a serious problem. scientists are beginning to discover what causes the disease.
In some striking studies, researchers have found that childhood abuse is associated with higher rates of chronic fatigue syndrome, chemical sensitivity , and fibromyalgia . Studies have shown that women (and some men) who have reported child abuse (sexual or physical) are 65 percent more likely to have fibromyalgia and twice as likely to have chronic fatigue syndrome (which some scientists believe is closely linked to fibromyalgia ). According to a 2011 University of Toronto study, “These results persisted even after controlling for possible confounders such as other adverse childhood experiences , age, race , mental health, and adult socioeconomic status. “However, although the studies show that abuse and fibromyalgia are linked, there is still some debate in the medical community about the significance of the findings.
According to the studies, approximately 30-40 percent of adults have been physically, emotionally, or sexually abused at some point during their childhood. Other studies suggest that the actual statistics may be much higher and are reported. Several studies have looked at the role of sexual abuse and fibromyalgia in particular, and the results are striking. In several studies, about 65 percent of women with fibromyalgia reported sexual abuse. Although researchers are not sure how or why child abuse is linked to fibromyalgia , it is important to consider the role of abuse in measures taken to cure and manage fibromyalgia symptoms. People with fibromyalgia should examine their personal history to discover any past abuse that may have contributed to the condition.
Other possible causes
Although abuse is a common contributing factor to fibromyalgia , it is not the only factor. Genetics and infections can also be triggers. Current research has looked at the role of infections in fibromyalgia , and the results are also somewhat surprising. Latent infections, particularly infections in the nervous system , may contribute to fibromyalgia symptoms and pain sensitivity . Genetically, studies have shown that people who have family members with fibromyalgia or other pain-sensitivity disorders are more likely to have fibromyalgia as well.
How Was Abuse Linked to Fibromyalgia?
Much of the research on abuse and fibromyalgia has emerged in the last 5-10 years. This means that there is little evidence that pins down how abuse may influence fibromyalgia symptoms in the future. However, there are currently two different theories about how fibromyalgia and abuse are linked: Extended Stress Theory Research published in Scientific American in 1995 looked at brain changes in patients who were sexually abused. The researchers found that the hippocampus was significantly altered in abused patients. The hippocampus is the part of the brain responsible for short-term and long-term memory. During stressful events, the hippocampus is flooded with the stress hormone cortisol. This alters the brain and the way memories are stored in abused patients. Some researchers theorize that prolonged stress may also alter the area of the brain that receives pain. Studies have shown that people with fibromyalgia are more sensitive to pain, even on a chemical level, so this theory is not completely unfounded.
The second theory about fibromyalgia and abuse is called sensitization. This theory states that people with fibromyalgia have a lower pain threshold because their brains are more sensitive to pain signals. This theory is similar to the stress theory, but it looks at the same conclusion from a different angle. Researchers believe that extended nerve stimulation (as occurs during abuse) may cause changes in the brain in people with fibromyalgia. Basically, all sensations are reported to the brain as pain.