The enigmatic condition known as fibromyalgia, which is often referred to as “muscle pain”, is a complex syndrome characterized by chronic skeletal and muscle pain, hypersensitivity, and severe sleep disturbances. In addition, this debilitating condition can also manifest as mood swings, such as depression and anxiety, as well as memory issues. It affects between 2 to 4 percent of the population, with women being affected more often than men, making up approximately 80 percent of patients. Although this condition can occur at any age, including in children, it is more commonly seen in those in their 20s and above, with the highest incidence being in individuals in their 50s.
While there is a growing understanding that there are both genetic and environmental risk factors associated with fibromyalgia, research suggests that stress may play a significant role in the development of the condition. However, it is essential to note that the relationship between stress and fibromyalgia is complex, and it is not merely a psychological condition. Indeed, mental stress can be a risk factor, as research has shown that the disease can develop after physical or mental trauma or against the background of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Trauma, whether physical or emotional, can affect how the brain processes pain and stress, leading to an increase in the pain transmission patterns that are characteristic of fibromyalgia. Studies have found that individuals with a history of trauma, such as abused children, military veterans, and survivors of traumatic events like the 2005 Revadim railway accident in Israel, are more likely to develop fibromyalgia later in life.
There are a variety of treatments available to help alleviate the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Due to the significant connection between the body and mind in this condition, many mental therapies have been developed over the years to help patients. One of the most effective and commonly used therapies is short-term cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT works by helping patients change their negative thought patterns and replace them with positive ones, ultimately changing the way the brain processes pain. Other mental therapies include mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), operant behavioral therapy (OBT), and holistic approaches such as yoga, tai chi, and qigong, which have been shown to improve symptoms such as pain, sleep quality, and physical and metabolic function.
In addition to mental therapies, medication can also be used to alleviate the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Antidepressants and anxiety medications from the SNRI family have been found to be effective in treating fibromyalgia by inhibiting the absorption of serotonin and norepinephrine