By Ginevra Liptan, MD
You may have heard from your doctor or a TV ad that fibromyalgia is caused by over-activity of pain sensing nerves. It’s true, this is one important source of fibromyalgia pain, but there are other even more important triggers of pain that must be addressed in order to get significant pain reduction. And unfortunately your doctor may not be aware of them.
Many studies have shown that the fibromyalgia nervous system has become sensitized and therefore has overactive responses resulting in pain. This is the target of the three FDA approved medications for this illness, and these medications can indeed be helpful—usually resulting in about 30 percent reduction of pain.
In my experience, both as someone with the illness personally and as a physician treating fibromyalgia, utilizing these medications alone is inadequate. For me, I didn’t find any relief from that deep, burning ache in my neck and upper back muscles until I found a treatment that addressed my pain in a different way. It turns out there is another huge factor that may be the missing piece of the pain puzzle.
The massive connective tissue network that surrounds all of our muscles—think of the shiny outer coating on a raw chicken breast—plays a key role in generating the pain and muscle tenderness of fibromyalgia. In order to get more effective pain relief, both patients and providers need to understand exactly how this connective tissue (also called fascia) contributes to fibromyalgia pain, and use this information to target treatment.
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