Abuse is the main cause of fibromyalgia – study

Abuse is Fibromyalgia is a pain condition with signs in the extremities ranging from muscle pain and numbness to sleep disorders. Inflammation and the reaction of the body to stress through the complex brain-to-other organs interactions play a role in fibromyalgia. It may be difficult to avoid the stresses that modern living puts on us, but we certainly have a lot to control that can help relieve the symptoms of this condition, including lifestyle habit and dietary choices.

Abuse is the main cause of fibromyalgia

There is no clear or straightforward explanation to why fibromyalgia can be caused by emotional abuse or depression. Emotional stress can impair the ability to prevent various diseases of chronic pain such as FMS. It is also known that there is a link between emotional trauma, sleeplessness, depression, pain and other symptoms. Early-age victimization can have serious long-term effects.

Emotional abuse appears to have been taken less seriously than physical abuse because it has no outward signs such as bruises and broken bones. Nevertheless, the higher levels of emotional abuse associated with individuals with fibromyalgia, especially in childhood but also in adulthood, suggest the need to be aware of the potential for fibromyalgia.

Trauma to kids

Traumatic memories and childhood stress have traditionally been underestimated as predisposing factors in the development of numerous psychological and chronic pain conditions, including fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, insomnia, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and chronic fatigue syndrome. The tide is turning, however, as research reveals a significant correlation between abuse in childhood and adult health.

In infancy, the central nervous system grows rapidly and is conditioned to respond to various stimuli and pressure in life. New connections are formed between the cells of the brain in response to each stimulus as an array of environmental stimuli are encountered.

For example, a pleasurable experience such as a parent’s hug or a sweet food creates pathways that teach the brain to respond to those stimuli pleasurably. A scary experience will also build and exercise pathways that react in fear.

In response to stimuli, this process of creating new pathways is called neuroplasticity. When we age, neuroplasticity declines, which means that developing new pathways and changing the responses of our brain to stimuli are more difficult. By having a high degree of neuroplasticity, children have a distinct advantage.

Nonetheless, this also highlights the importance of providing the developing brain with appropriate stimuli to ensure healthy pathways are established.

Traumatic fibromyalgia-related experiences include:

  • Accident
  • Emotional Trauma
  • Several viruses, for example, hepatitis or HIV
  • A separation from your mother’s childhood and it lasted more than six months.
  • Living through a war.
More about the trauma:

Various types of trauma or traumatic events may lead to the onset of fibromyalgia, such as:

Major injuries–

the types of injuries referred to above are neck and/or upper back / body injury that can be sustained as a result of an accident involving a motor vehicle. In fact, it has been found that people who have had motor vehicle accidents and sustained whiplash type injuries are 10-13% more likely to develop fibromyalgia after their injuries. This can happen from weeks to months after the trauma everywhere.


People who are genetically predisposed to fibromyalgia that develop fibromyalgia symptoms following infections such as hepatitis, infections with HIV, other strains of flu, or other respiratory infections. Those with fibromyalgia also appear to have a flare-up during infections.

Emotional trauma-

PTSD may cause symptoms of fibromyalgia, or even mild stressors. This can occur because of the rise in serotonin in the brain and substance P in the liver. For patients with fibromyalgia, this chemical reaction or improvement was seen. Again, people genetically predisposed to fibromyalgia are more likely to see a connection between emotional trauma and fibromyalgia development.

When a person is undergoing physical trauma in the form of major injury or injuries of the muscle sort, such as whiplash, this can affect the body’s nerves and small muscles. When these small muscles get badly enough wounded or even broken, they can cause the body’s soft tissues to form what we know as trigger points.

Such trigger points are what doctors assess in the fibromyalgia process of treatment and when stimulated, the trigger points become very painful and reactive due to the injuries of those muscles. Researchers have found that people who develop fibromyalgia after physical injury or trauma are more likely to develop symptoms of the form that are more physically disabling.

So how does trauma in childhood or anger activate fibromyalgia when there is no existing “injury mechanism” that can cause symptoms? I mentioned earlier the difference in serotonin and substance P levels in the brain, which are the chemicals which trigger pain and increase pain response, and that fibromyalgia is a shift in the response of the brain to pain? Okay, childhood traumas, neglect, severe illness, or other medically stressful events can be so emotionally painful and mentally unpleasant that it can begin to cause changes in the central nervous system that is the organ involved in pain response.

This may also cause emotional pain responses that may occur in experiences of physical pain that do not have the symptoms of tissue injury. And essentially when a person is told that “it’s all in your head,” it’s not totally wrong. Nonetheless, it indicates that due to emotional circumstances there is a real physical trigger.

Other Types of Trauma

Other types of trauma or stressful type events that may also be associated with the onset of symptoms of fibromyalgia that may not include neck / head injury or trauma may include major surgery, childbirth, wartime deployment, or any other highly stressful event that may occur in your life.

Genetic disposition and psychological stress can also cause symptoms to develop. So with this information, there seems to be some possibility of treatment to help relieve pain, and if your fibromyalgia has been caused by physical injury, it seems reasonable that the treatment of the original injury should bring some relief. This is true for some patients, and treatments ranging from chiropractic care to acupuncture, spinal traction, or any other treatment to help heal the original injury may result in a significant decrease in pain and symptoms.

It is best to make sure that your doctor is aware of any accident or physical trauma that occurred prior to your diagnosis of fibromyalgia, so that you can consult with them and look at the medications that you might try to help with the original injury. If your fibromyalgia is caused by a psychological or emotional trauma, along with any medication you could try to help ease your physical pain, seeing a mental health professional can prove to be very helpful as well.

Trying to relieve some of the emotional pain can help ease some of the physical pain, as there is a strong link between mental health and physical health. And as we all know in coping with this disease, there is no one “cure all” or miracle drug or medication that will get rid of fibromyalgia, but trying to treat various symptoms, whether clinically or psychologically, will hopefully lead to a less painful life.

Sexual Abuse

According to studies, about 30-40 per cent of adults were physically, emotionally, or sexually abused at some point in their childhood. Many studies suggest that actual statistics may be much lower or underreported. Several studies have specifically looked at the role of sexual abuse and fibromyalgia, and the results are shocking. About 65 percent of women with fibromyalgia reported sexual abuse in several studies.

While researchers do not know how or why childhood abuse is related to fibromyalgia, it is important to consider the role of abuse in the treatment and management of symptoms of fibromyalgia. Much of the work on trauma and fibromyalgia has developed over the last 5-10 years. It suggests that there is little evidence to show that trauma can affect the effects of fibromyalgia in the future.

A 1995 study by McGill University in Canada found that 37% of women in the fibromyalgia group experienced sexual harassment in childhood in 83 people with fibromyalgia and 161 women in the control group.

Only 22 per cent of women in the control group reported sexual abuse in childhood. Women in the fibromyalgia group also reported higher levels of physical abuse (18 per cent vs. 4 per cent), drug abuse (16 per cent vs. 3 per cent) and lifelong sexual abuse (17 per cent vs. 6 per cent).

Of particular interest is a study conducted in Birmingham, Alabama, that suggested that people with fibromyalgia were statistically more likely to have had a history of past sexual or physical violence, although other research seemed to disprove these results.

The results of a study released by the American College of Rheumatology in its journal Arthritis and Rheumatism found that 65 per cent of female fibromyalgia patients reported past sexual harassment compared to 52 per cent of healthy control participants. This study found that fibromyalgia patients with a history of abuse reported more symptoms than those of fibromyalgia patients with a history of childhood.

The authors thought that the analysis also revealed that the history of abuse had increased the severity of the symptoms of fibromyalgia, although such abuse did not appear to be the cause of the condition itself.

Fibromyalgia patients with a history of such past abuse would do well to address this with their health care providers. Therapy is always prescribed as a treatment for abuse, and patients with fibromyalgia are no exception to the law. No one can say for sure, but it makes sense that coping with the effects of such trauma can only help patients with fibromyalgia to achieve a better quality of life.

Treatment suggested

Supported therapies include counselling, cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnotherapy, post-traumatic stress disorder therapy, and antidepressant drugs such as Cymbalta (duloxetine) and Effexor (venlafaxine).

Above all, if you are caring for someone who has pain without specific tissue diagnosis or who has experienced elevated emotional pain care, reassure the person that the pain sensation is not in his or her brain, but in his or her nervous system.



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