Understanding Fibromyalgia

There’s still lots to learn about fibromyalgia, but just because it isn’t fully understood, doesn’t mean it’s poorly understood. Scientists have been researching this chronic pain condition for centuries, and today, the body of knowledge is robust and still growing.

Our specialists at Regency Pain & Therapy Institute in Mansfield, Texas have extensive experience diagnosing and treating fibromyalgia. Whether you suspect you may be suffering from this condition or have been living with it for years, you may find it helpful to view or review our overview of the symptoms, diagnostic tests, and treatments here

In this post, we go beyond the basics and dive into the history of fibromyalgia and the latest research to give you a deeper and broader understanding of the condition. 

Fibromyalgia through the years

Doctors have struggled with understanding fibromyalgia since the late 1500s. For lack of a better term, they labeled it “rheumatism” and lumped it in with all types of musculoskeletal pain they couldn’t define.

A couple hundred years later, a Scottish surgeon found nodules on connective tissues and discovered the link between inflammation, nodules, and pain — what many modern day sufferers know as tender points. 

In the mid-1800s, a French physician coined the term “neuralgia” to describe the pain that originates in the tender points and radiates out along nerve paths.

About 50 years later, an American neurologist added “neurasthenia” and “myasthenia” to the lexicon to encompass the chronic fatigue and psychological components of the mysterious condition. 

After a few more attempts at defining the indefinable, a British neurologist finally landed on “fibrositis” in 1904 — fibro, meaning connective tissues, and itis meaning inflammation. This remained the umbrella term for the general symptoms for many years, and it spurred on serious research into the causes and mechanisms of the condition.

Scientists delved into the way pain travels along nerves, how nerves send pain messages to the brain, how the central nervous system plays a role, and how tender points can lead to widespread referred pain known as myofascial pain syndrome. 

Fast forward to the 1970s, when the “itis” was dropped for another syllable that made for a more accurate diagnostic term: fibromyalgia. Along with the new name came a list of more recognizable symptoms, including abnormal sensation in the nerves called paresthesia, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, and tension headaches. 

The next several decades saw a flurry of research, discovery, clinical trials, and treatments, including:

We’ve come a long way in the search for answers to the root cause and most effective treatments for fibromyalgia, but there’s still work to be done. Perhaps one of the best developments to arise from the years of study is that fibromyalgia has been destigmatized and recognized as a legitimate medical condition. 

Latest fibromyalgia research

As fibromyalgia research progresses, it seems to produce more questions than answers, but that’s a good thing because it facilitates more targeted studies. Meanwhile, the prevailing theories offer valuable information for diagnoses and treatments. Here are some of the current veins of research:

Central sensitization

Some theorize that fibromyalgia patients’ hypersensitivity — excess pain with relatively little provocation — may be explained by changes in the central nervous system. However, while the occurrence of central sensitization may be a symptom of fibromyalgia, it doesn’t explain the primary mechanism or root cause of it. And it doesn’t address the other common symptoms, such as mental fog and fatigue.

Abnormal immunity

Because some research shows that fibro patients have abnormally functioning immune systems, there may be a link to autoimmunity, particularly to serotonin.

Nerve damage

Exploring nerve damage as a cause for fibromyalgia may seem like a no-brainer, but there’s no obvious connection in all patients. Current studies, however, are looking at small-fiber neuropathy to find out if specialized nerves are involved.

Extra nerves

Some fibro patients have too many pain- and temperature-sensing nerves on their blood vessels, which may contribute to the symptoms.

Relief from fibromyalgia symptoms today

Knowing the history of fibromyalgia and the path toward future research gives you a better understanding of your condition, but it doesn’t address the symptoms you’re experiencing right now — fortunately, we do.

Our team of pain management specialists and fibromyalgia experts stay abreast of the latest advancements and offer the most effective treatments for your specific symptoms. From conservative approaches like stress management and nutrition to osteopathic manipulation to evidence-based medication, we can help you live more comfortably with fibromyalgia. 

Schedule an appointment online to learn more about your treatment options — or call us at 817-435-1642 today. 

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