Fibromyalgia and ‘Science’

“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood”, Marie Curie

I recently heard a presentation from a distinguished scientist speaking about fibromyalgia. The audience seemed to be mostly comprised of people with fibromyalgia. He referred to fibromyalgia as a ‘terrible disease’. My immediate reaction was not very positive as I don’t believe that fibromyalgia is a disease, but rather a syndrome, yet he also referred to pain as a disease, which also surprised me. Language is so important to our understanding of this condition and I prefer to use the word dis-ease. If we feed into this idea of a disease, more and more researchers will continue to search for the elusive and non existent virus or bacteria or continue the search for hormonal issues, without an emphasis on psycho-social causation. Furthermore, there was much in the presentation on what the brain looks like after prolonged pain, but it seems to me that this is a chicken and egg dilemma. I would prefer that the focus be on what caused these changes rather than to assume that people with fibromyalgia are born with genetic defects. However, the question about whether or not we are born with unusual brain wiring or we acquire it from our early socialization is one which may never be answered.

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Is Fibromyalgia a ‘Psychosomatic’ Disorder?

” Trust one who has gone through it”, Virgil

Writing that words psychomatic, in fact, even thinking about the title makes me feel uncomfortable! Who wants to be labeled as one whose pain is thought to be “JUST in your head” implying it is not real? But, before we go off into a tailspin about that specific demeaning-sounding word, I should begin by saying what I now believe psychosomatic to mean. It certainly does not suggest that those of us with fibromyalgia  are hysterics who malinger just to get attention. But, maybe, just maybe, our pain is caused by emotions that are unconsciously deep seated, trapped in past trauma and ARE in our head (brain).  Such emotions as anger, sadness, anxiety, fear, rage  and others can be kept in a closed segment of our minds without taking them out to examine and work with consciously. After all, pain perceptions come from our body’s nociceptors, funneled up to the brain. Psychosomatic does not mean the pain is not real, but that pain comes from the brain in the stored memories.

Being female, a person of colour, economically disadvantaged, or of marginalized races or ethnic groups, or a sexual orientation that differs from the majority, is disabled, or anyone who has been victimized/abused in some way, or has been taught to care for others to the exclusion of themselves can usually result in a plethora of thoughts and feelings that eventually evoke painful body experiences. Other types of pain, like that from surgery or an accident also become stored in our brains inciting fear upon recall. What if those thoughts of emotional or physical trauma become lodged in our brain (the amygdala wherein lies the ‘flight or fight’ tendency) and are expressed as pain in various parts of our bodies? That is what I mean by psychosomatic. Our brain has stored those unhappy emotions and feelings and they may manifest themselves through painful bodily sensations. The brain then takes those stored unpleasant memories in the unconscious part of the brain and when stress or excitement occurs, activates the nervous system to take flight or fight because there is perceived danger!

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