Symptoms of fibromyalgia are due to neurological issues, whether it is a result of a lower pain threshold is unknown. However, people with fibromyalgia feel pain more intensely and suffer more than others. More and more research is showing that the chronic pain of fibromyalgia is indeed real.
Because pain is subjective, getting a diagnosis may be difficult. Some doctors still don’t believe that fibromyalgia even exists. And other healthcare professionals believe that people with fibromyalgia are exaggerating about their symptoms. So, unfortunately, there are many who struggle, suffering their pain in silence.
Fibromyalgia can start suddenly after a severe psychological or physical stress that tricks the body into the that pattern. And for others, the symptoms of fibromyalgia accumulate over time.
The Pain and Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
The pain in fibromyalgia, besides being subjective, will also vary in intensity in each individual. No one feels the same level of pain or even in the same areas. It can be an overall aching or burning. It can be stiffness. It can vary from day to day. At times it can be so intense that you are completely debilitated.
Getting Diagnosed with Fibromyalgia
There are other conditions that mimic fibromyalgia such as the fatigue caused by sleep apnea or Vitamin D deficiency. These must be ruled out first. Lab work, a physical exam and a complete patient history is needed to help in the diagnosis.
One distinctive characteristic of fibromyalgia is the presence of trigger point pain. There are tender points in the human body. Many physicians will press on 18 of these during the exam and work-up. If pain is felt in more than 11 tender points, and if the pain occurs over time, then fibromyalgia is suspected.
Proving the Pain is Real and the Symptoms of Fibromyalgia are real
Finally and just recently, researchers have discovered that a novel functional MRI approach may provide a long sought-after way to objectively measure pain in those who suffer from fibromyalgia. This MRI approach measures resting brain activity and connectivity.
When the 17 female subjects with fibromyalgia were treated for their pain, there was a noted reduction in the connectivity between two areas of the brain that correlated with reduced clinical pain scores the women reported after the pain treatment. The verbalized pain scores fell from a level 10 to a level 6 and this correlated positively with the reduced connectivity. This same positive correlation was found following nine sessions of acupuncture.
Many research studies have identified brain abnormalities in fibromyalgia patients but it was unclear what exactly caused the abnormalities.
The new research on the functional MRI approach was reported in MedPage Today by Nancy Walsh. To read more about it, you can click here.