The Pain of Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain and spinal cord process signals. (Cherney, 2021).
The musculoskeletal system is made up of our skeleton, muscles, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, joints and other connective tissue that supports and binds tissues and organs together. Its primary functions include supporting the body, allowing motion, and protecting vital organs. There are five functions such as movement, support, protection, heat generation and blood circulation.
Pain represents a sign that the body is in distress. Pain receptors come into contact with a painful stimulus as communication of the body to the brain, as an attempt to cease the activity that’s causing pain. People often think of pain as a physical sensation. However, pain has biological, psychological and emotional factors. Types of pain range from acute pain which begins suddenly and is usually sharp, and stabbing pains. It serves as a warning of disease or a threat to the body. Chronic pain is ongoing and usually lasts longer than six months. This type of pain can continue even after the injury or illness that caused it has healed or gone away. Pain signals remain active in the nervous system for weeks, months or years. All sorts of factors influence our experience and our pain tolerance.
The gate control theory of pain
Developed by Melzack and Wall (1979) Pain is identified as an analogy of a stimulus-response pathway that’s Integrated from physiological and psychological causes and interventions. The gate exists at the spinal cord which receives input from the site of the peripheral nerve ends sending information about pain stimulus to the gate. The brain sends information that’s related to the psychological state of the individual’s behavioural and emotional state such as anxiety, fear, or depression. The reason for the gate to be opened is influenced by the greater pain that’s felt, whether it be physical, emotional or behavioural factors. For the gate to close, it’s influenced by positive reactions to the pain perception of physical, emotional and behavioural factors.
Factors that influence pain
- Physical: an injury or chronic illness.
- Emotional: anxiety, worry, tension and depression
- Behavioural: focusing on the pain and how to manage the pain
Positive reactions that influence pain for the better
- Physical: medication, massages, relaxation exercises or herbal medicines
- Emotional: feelings such as happiness, optimism or feeling relaxed
- Behavioural: concentration, distraction or involvement in activities that are life-giving
Ways to manage pain
- Improving physical and lifestyle functioning: improving muscle tone, self-esteem, self-efficacy, distraction and decreasing boredom like participating in a hobby that you love.
- Decreasing the reliance on drugs and medical services, therefore improving personal control, the sick role (behaviour expected of a person who is physically ill, mentally ill, or injured), and increasing self-efficacy.
- Increasing social support and family life which will increase optimism and distraction from unhealthy thoughts and an unhealthy lifestyle.
- Respondent methods are to help modify the physiological system, by reducing muscle tension.
- Relaxation methods help to decrease pain and biofeedback is used to enable the individual to exert voluntary control over their bodily functions, which will decrease anxiety and tension therefore the pain experience.
- Attention diversion (encouraging the individual not to focus on the pain), imagery (encouraging the individual to have positive, pleasant thoughts).
- Cognitive behavioural therapy: cognitive behavioural therapy focuses on the aspects of pain perception and uses a range of psychological strategies to enable people to unlearn unhelpful practices and learn new ways of thinking and behaviours.
I have fibromyalgia and I understand pain comes with the illness and having other types of illnesses and sometimes nothing diminishes the pain. We have to have the pills if nothing helps. However, I hope you can get something out of this post!
Cherney, K. (2021) Everything You Need to Know about Fibromyalgia. Retrieved from healthline.com
Ogden, J. (2007). Pain. In Health psychology (4th ed., pp. 271–291). New York, NY: Open University Press.