Possible Link Between Fibromyalgia and PTSD
Although pain has always been part of the human experience, fibromyalgia has only recently been recognized as a medical condition. In fact, the American Medical Association (AMA) introduced this condition as a disease just 30 years ago. Since then, fibromyalgia has been classified under code M-79-7 within the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10).
Due to constant pain and mood swings, people suffering from fibromyalgia often need to take sick days and visit their doctors more frequently, which poses an economic burden for both the health system and society as a whole. On the other hand, this condition has been poorly understood and has fallen under skepticism since its discovery, meaning those suffering from fibromyalgia sometimes struggle with stigmatization.
Recently, fibromyalgia has begun to be seen in a different light since Lady Gaga postponed her European concert tour because of it. She revealed that, due to the chronic, disabling pain, she would be unable to perform during the long-awaited tour.
Fibromyalgia is essentially constant, chronic pain that occurs all over the body, wherein even the simplest touch can lead to excruciating pain in that part of the body. Such individuals also suffer from other symptoms such as tiredness, fatigue, and sleep-related issues like weak memory due to lack of sleep. This medical condition is more commonly seen in women than in men.
Now, let us turn to PTSD and its relation to fibromyalgia. PTSD is a medical disorder that develops after an individual has been exposed to a traumatic event as a victim or a witness, such as refugee crisis, war, a motor vehicle accident, or assault. During the period of acute stress, the body mobilizes its defense mechanisms with the fight-or-flight response, triggering a rush of adrenaline. Even if a month has passed after the traumatic event, if the affected individual still experiences such heightened symptoms or constantly thinks about the incident, feels anxious, has nightmares, or develops an emotional numbness, it is likely the person has developed PTSD. However, PTSD can be managed through medications and counselling therapies.
Even though the symptoms of fibromyalgia and PTSD may seem similar, only an experienced doctor can differentiate between the two. Now, though, there is new evidence that shows a potential link between fibromyalgia and PTSD. In patients with fibromyalgia, the sympathetic nervous system is affected, and in the case of PTSD, the body experiences an overproduction of cortisol and adrenaline. There is a possible connection in that those with fibromyalgia may be at an increased risk of PTSD or vice versa, since both diseases involve the sympathetic nervous system. In addition, the conditions each feature a serotonin imbalance, which can be fixed with the use of antidepressants or changes in lifestyle, such as the inclusion of exercise. Both conditions are known to overlap in most segments, but more research is required to determine if one may actually cause the other.
Those who suffer from either or both of these conditions can still live long, fulfilling lives. Regular appointments with the doctor, counseling sessions, regular use of medications, and making the right lifestyle choices can significantly up the quality of life for people with these disorders.