Nobody believed “Anna” when she said that her muscles and joints hurt all over. Soon she had many other problems too, including severe tiredness – even after a full night’s sleep; headaches, muscle spasms, severe pain all over, difficulty remembering things, and cloudy thinking, like a ‘fog’ in her brain. When she visited her GP, he made her feel like a hypochondriac.
Anna is typical of patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a condition that has often been dismissed as ‘not real’. Yet not only is it real, but it can be devastating. It is found much more frequently in women, and affects a staggering 1 in 20 people.
Slowly research is beginning to improve understanding of fibromyalgia. Recent studies show that pain-processing chemicals in the brain are altered in this condition. When we feel pain, chemicals called neurotransmitters transmit signals from the place pain is felt via our spinal cord to our brain, where we become consciously aware of it.
In fibromyalgia, it seems that the levels of neurotransmitters that transmit pain signals are cranked up. Meanwhile, the amounts of other brain chemicals which normally damp down pain signals decrease. The result is that fibromyalgia sufferers can experience pain from even a slight pressure that would not bother healthy people.
There is no agreement on the cause, but acknowledged risk factors include a family history of fibromyalgia, a major stressful life event such as a road accident and various infections. Because the pain of fibromyalgia stems from a different mechanism, many over-the counter remedies like Ibuprofen and aspirin don’t work. Other drugs may be more effective but can have significant side effects, such as drowsiness and dizziness.
Many people from Meath, Cavan and Dublin come to us seeking a reprieve from the unrelenting pain of fibromyalgia. If you’re in pain, why not give us a call?