What is fibromyalgia? Causes


If you’ve found your way onto this site, it’s likely that either you or someone you know has fibro. Regardless, its nice to know what you’re dealing with. For those of you who don’t know much about it, or those who want to learn more, you’ve come to the right place.

In today’s post, I am going to outline the various different theories relating to the causes of fibromyalgia, however, it is important to remember that doctors are unclear of the exact cause (hence why these are known as theories).

First of all, let’s recap. Fibromyalgia has a 3 key aspects that stand out from other lesser symptoms:

  • Chronic pain
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Cognitive dysfunction

* You can read more about these in the glossary that I am working on at the moment. This will be available by the end of October with the idea that I can add to it as I go.

The diathesis-stress model

The condition is thought to arise based on a 2 part system, often known as the diathesis-stress model. This theory suggests that there is a genetic predisposition towards the illness; that manifests itself as fibromyalgia once triggered by a stressor.

Stressors can be anything, but can usually be classed as one of two main focuses:

  • Psychological traumas- anxiety, depression, stress, abuse, etc.
  • Physical traumas- a virus, an accident, overworking your body, etc.

In simple terms, if you have a high chance of getting fibro because of your genetics, a bad experience may trigger it.

The nervous system

Your nervous system is responsible for sending messages from one part of your body to another, and is made up of a network of tiny neurons which span across every inch. Your nervous system is what delivers the messages sent to and from your brain, and it is often thought that fibro is caused by a mix-up in this process. Messages are sent throughout your body, but some area of the system malfunctions, meaning that the message is incorrectly delivered and/or received.

Within fibromyalgia, it is thought that a lack of certain neurotransmitters known as Serotonin and Norepinephrine are to blame.

Serotonin is known to help with the processing of pain, as well as being a well known aspect of the sleep cycle, allowing the human body to feel awake. Furthermore, it is used in the process of creating melatonin, the neurotransmitter involved in making you feel sleepy. Norepinephrine is involved with cognitive processes such as stress response, memory, and alertness, and is used to create the motivational neurotransmitter, dopamine.

In many cases, the effects of this can be lessened by taking an antidepressant known as an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) or SNRI (serotonin- norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor), as these drugs focus on changing the way these neurotransmitters work in the brain- the uptake of these certain chemicals is reduced. Often, drugs like this are prescribed when they give a dual effect of lessening depression, a cognitive issue linked to fibromyalgia, as well as reducing pain.

Other causes

There are many ideas that have been tossed around in the process of trying to figure out why fibromyalgia came to be. Here are a few more ideas that you might like to research for yourself:

  • Fibromyalgia sufferers have gone through a change in the way the brain handles pain and stress due to previous relationships with them (such as abuse).
  • Fibromyalgia is a symptom of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).
  • Due to the fact that females are more likely to experience fibromyalgia, it has been considered that the illness is caused by some differing factor between males and females. These are usually thought to be related to biological or societal differences between the two sexes.
  • Fibro is a  comorbidity of another illness.

Do you have any theories that you think may explain why fibromyalgia comes about? Let us know in the comments below, or get in touch via the contacts page. Don’t forget to like and share if you enjoyed this post.

Thanks guys 🙂

Travelling with illnesses: dealing with hot weather

Help for sufferers, Posts, Travel, Travelling with illnesses series

A big issue with travelling abroad is that, often, you are visiting an environment which is different to your own. The problem with this? Drastic temperature changes can seriously impact your health, and moving from your usual climate to somewhere super hot is pretty much a recipe for disaster. These are a few things I do to minimise its effect on my fibro:

1. Drink plenty of water.

Hydration is key to dealing with heat, so make sure you top up constantly throughout the day. Rehydration sachets also come in handy if you start to fall behind, and consider carrying a water bottle when you are out and about to avoid sweating out too much H2O when you don’t have access to drinks.

2. Battle the chub rub.

Those of us who suffer from chafing; whether it be in the thigh area, under the arms, or somewhere else altogether; know just how much of a nightmare hot weather can be. There are a few tried and tested methods out there that can help prevent the dreaded chub rub, and it’s worth investing before you go, so as to tackle the problem before it starts. I like to put a layer of roller deodorant on my affected areas, and then top this with a good coat of talc. Sometimes, though, it’s easier to play it safe by making sure there’s a layer of fabric between the two points of contact (I like long, floaty trousers for this).

3. Fatigue.

Fatigue is pretty much a constant when it comes to fibromyalgia, but this can spiral out of control when the temperature comes into play. Make sure you have plenty of rest, seek shade as much as possible, and consider a decent fan as back up. Don’t forget to make use of your usual fatigue coping techniques, as these will help to keep your day to day problems at a minimum.

4. Fainting.

I don’t know about you, but I have a bad habit of fainting when I get too hot or too cold. Try not to over do things, and pace yourself as much as possible. It is best to have someone to accompany you if you feel like this may be a problem, and if you do start feel faint, alert someone nearby before lowering yourself to the ground. The aim is to get blood flow to your brain, so laying on a level surface, putting your head between your knees, or even putting your legs up against a wall, are all techniques which help with this. Stay low to the ground to avoid heavy falls (if you do happen to lose consciousness, you don’t want to hit your head as this may cause concussion, so preventing falls is very important). When you feel a little better, make sure you have some water and something sweet to boost your blood sugar. (N.B: a good excuse to eat chocolate!)

5. Clothing.

It is important for any vacation that you pack the right clothing for your destination, but it is especially so when you have an illness to think about. Personally, my fibro makes me very sensitive to temperature change, so I find it vital to pack the right clothes for my holiday. Try comfortable, loose fitting clothes in light colours in order to aid ventilation and reflect sunlight. However, remember that all climates are prone to temperature variation, and you may find an unsuspected cold period knocks you off course. Thus, always pack a few warmer layers that you can play about with depending on the forecast. Furthermore, hot weather often results in other problems, think: sweating, chafing, heat rashes. Make sure you choose breathable fabrics which are itch- free and easy to wear, and avoid piling up on accessories. For all of my ‘feminine’ followers, I avoid jewellery in case of theft or loss, but also because hot metal and skin is NOT a good combo. A sunhat and glasses will suffice during the day, and one multipurpose necklace and a set of earrings add glamour for a night out. Finally, don’t forget to bring comfortable shoes, especially if you plan to do lots of walking, so as to avoid blisters and athlete’s foot. A simple pair of worn in pumps or sandals will do perfectly.