I've wanted to write this article for some time but have been gathering additional information. The final piece fell into place when I read a couple of releases on the same subject:
In this article it reveals new information:
“Instead of being in the brain, the pathology consists of excessive sensory nerve fibers around specialized blood vessel structures located in the palms of the hands,” said Dr. Rice, President of Intidyn and the senior researcher on the study. “This discovery provides concrete evidence of a fibromyalgia-specific pathology which can now be used for diagnosing the disease, and as a novel starting point for developing more effective therapeutics.”
As readers may be aware, Fibromyalgia is a condition in which the patient regularly suffers considerable pain. It manifests in several ways but is often reported as debilitating pain in the joints, muscles or skin. The "mysterious" aspect of this disease is it has had no biologically traceable reason, causing the medical profession to either question its existence or consider it a purely psychological condition.
However recent research (including informal research on my part by interviewing numerous Fibro patients) has consistently tied Fibromyalgia to two primary issues, one of them physical:
1. PTSD-type reaction to identifiable trauma, whether physical, psychological or a combination of both
2. Excessive nerve clusters in skin and vein areas
WHAT IS PTSD?
Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome is simply the mind and body's reaction to excessive stress. This can happen with accident victims, war veterans, or in post-operative cases where the mind and body is trying to adapt to severe trauma and is simply overwhelmed by the sensory input. Put simply the brain can only handle so much at a time. Think of it as overloading an electrical circuit (that's overly-simplified, but it gets the idea across). Since the brain controls almost everything that goes on in the body, when the brain and body fail to communicate properly the results can be severe... and can have actual physical manifestations such as sweat downs, severe chills, chronic insomnia-- or even heart failure. It is true-- stress kills.
PTSD is very real and it's not "all in your head". It is an imbalance in communications between the mind and body that results in mental and physical manifestations-- and it can be debilitating or even deadly.
HOW DOES THIS RELATE TO FIBROMYALGIA?
Every person I have interviewed regarding when and how they "contracted" Fibro has indicated a correlation with a period of severe trauma preceding the onset. This has lead me to believe for years that medical science has been approaching the concept of Fibro from the wrong direction. They've been looking for a physical cause, when in reality the evidence indicates Fibro is a form of PTSD. But one question was unanswered in this opinion: Why the specific Fibro symptoms rather than more typical PTSD reactions? There must be something else involved... something so far undiscovered by medical science.
Apparently from recent medical studies there is one other trait Fibromyalgia patients have in common: unusually dense nerve clusters, especially in the hands.
In one report I read the doctor testing Fibro patients came upon this discovery via simple skin tests. He discovered that every legitimate Fibro patient he saw showed 'double the nerve density in hand tissue samples'. This unexpected and high correlation caused him to consider why this might result in the symptoms we call Fibromyalgia. The answer wasn't difficult to determine.
FIBRO = PTSD... with a twist
Sometimes the answer is staring us straight in the face. As disclosure: the Fibro=PTSD is my unofficial conclusion based on personal research, not official medical statement. But consider:
Unusual densities of nerve clusters would already make a person sensitive to stimulus. Such people report extra-sensitivity to pain, with minor cuts (especially on the hands) being much more painful than they should be. Some report being extra-sensitive to light or sound. High-density nerve clusters would understandably account for such reports.
Something else it would mean is that the brain would be constantly flooded with more nerve impulses than it should be. Imagine driving a car and revving your engine to high tach readings every time you pull up to a stop light. What kind of effect will that have on your car engine over a period of time? Eventually it will simply break down from the stress.
So too with Fibro patients. Their brain, constantly being invaded by excessive nerve impulses is already over-stimulated. That situation combined with severe trauma could then push the biochemical system (which forms our mind and body) over the edge, resulting in permanent damage, ie, Fibromyalgia.
Once we recognize that Fibromyalgia is very likely a form of PTSD (brought on by excessive stimulus mixed with trauma), there are two treatments that come to mind that may be most effective in treating... and perhaps even curing the problem.
TREATMENT. It would make sense to treat Fibro as any PTSD situation would be treated, both with medicine (to balance the body, calm the stress and give the patient a fighting chance), accompanied with education to help the person learn how to deal with and cope with stress of various kinds. We are all regularly stressed by our daily lives. There are effective ways to mentally cope with stress, ways that can be learned. The combined application of effective anti-PTSD medicines along with conscious coping habits could go a long way toward reducing or even eliminating the symptoms of Fibromyalgia.
ELIMINATION. But would it be possible to actually eliminate Fibromyalgia all together? The new medial findings provide hope in this area. If excessive nerve clusters are a trigger, one cure may be to medically reduce the number of nerve clusters, especially in the hands (which receive almost constant stimulus from our environment). This could perhaps be done by laser, electrical pulses or other methods that would kill out surface or cluster nerves and simply reduce the number of impulses coming to the brain. The brain, then relieved of excess stimuli, may over time be able to resume a more normal balance in the body, effectively eliminating the effects of Fibromyalgia.
I AM NOT A DOCTOR
Please note I am not a doctor. I don't have medical training. I was for a time a psychology major in college but graduated in the field of computers. What I do have though is an analytical mind that for my entire life has had the ability to evaluate data and "think outside the box". My family, friends, co-workers and employers have regularly commented on this for as long as I can remember. During the Star Trek years I was often referred to as "Spock". To put it simply: I observe and draw conclusions and those conclusions are more often than not spot-on. As a result I worked almost all my career as a consultant in the computer field, helping people solve business problems via computerized solutions. I especially worked in the area of computerized psychology, using computers to evaluate psychological responses.
In this case I have observed Fibromyalgia for quite some time and spoken with a number of sufferers. As I myself have suffered from physical-manifestation PTSD since my heart surgery, I know how severely debilitating such can be, and understand the patient has very little (if any) control over the situation. Once the biochemical system in our bodies gets out of whack, it can be very difficult or even impossible to put it right again.
The realization that there is now a very feasible and evident physical cause for Fibromyalgia gives us hope for potential treatment. In my opinion it would seem this disease is closely related to PTSD but has the additional physical reality of increased nerve endings present in tissue... which makes Fibromyalgia now a recognizable and diagnosable disease. That is certainly good news to those who have suffered from this debilitating illness, especially those who have had their symptoms discarded by their doctor as psychosomatic illness. Psychosomatic it may be in part... but with very real trigger mechanisms.
Knowing that, I believe those who suffer from Fibro now have a fighting chance.
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