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Fibromyalgia

    Mark Larkin
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    By Mark Larkin

    What is Fibromyalgia

    It is a nerve condition that  affects around 3% of Americans, mostly women. In simple terms, it is a chronic dull pain often together with tenderness that comes and goes moving from one region of the body to another. Those with underlying conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or spinal arthritis are more at risk of developing fibromyalgia. Currently, there is no targeted diagnosis of the disease. Providers often use differential diagnosis meaning that they rule out other causes of pain first. Usually, the common signs complementing fibromyalgia are fatigue, feeling unrefreshed waking up, memory decline, pain lasting more than three months, and pain radiating throughout various regions of the body.

    Symptoms

    Common symptoms other than pain include tenderness to touch, tiredness, sleep problems, memory, or decisional thinking. Some have reported depression, anxiety, headaches, digestional issues, urinary problems, pelvic pain, or temporomandibular disorder (jaw pain, face pain, or ear ringing).

    Causes

    Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to what causes fibromyalgia. There are those who believe that a traumatic event such as emotional trauma, multiple injuries, or illness such as a viral infection can play a role in fibromyalgia. Others say that the nervous system and the brain can be the root cause because unlike other chronic pain health conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia does not involve the immune system, inflammation, or joint/ muscle disorder.

    Pain Control

    It is likely that there is an imbalance of levels of chemicals that influence how our body recognizes pain when dealing with fibromyalgia. These chemicals are produced at an adequate level when the cells and the mitochondria work harmoniously within the brain and the nervous system. The mitochondria are the energy-making factories within the cells and are important in overall cell function. Thus, if mitochondria dysfunction is the cause of the chemical imbalance, then supplements to increase mitochondria can be considered as a remedy to control fibromyalgia-associated pain. For example, vitamin C can help combat mitochondrial issues. Potentially, vitamin C can act as a protectant of the mitochondria by ‘feeding’ necessary nutrients to strengthen energy production. Other than natural remedies, there are many prescription drugs to optimize pain tolerability. Some drugs work to block the pain transmission to the nerves which decreases the activity of the pain transmissions to the brain. Also, there are drugs to modulate the chemicals that affect the brain as well. It is best to avoid opioids to manage fibromyalgia. Taking opioids for a long time can worsen the pain sensitivity and work against the desired outcome of pain management. Always discuss options with the provider for the best results.

    Reference:

    1. ​​Jahan F, Nanji K, Qidwai W, Qasim R. Fibromyalgia syndrome: an overview of pathophysiology, diagnosis and management. Oman Med J. 2012;27(3):192-195. doi:10.5001/omj.2012.44.
    2. Wesselink E, Koekkoek WAC, Grefte S, Witkamp RF, van Zanten ARH. Feeding mitochondria: Potential role of nutritional components to improve critical illness convalescence. Clin Nutr. 2019 Jun;38(3):982-995. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2018.08.032.

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