Fair warning: I might be writing about fibromyalgia frequently as I process, gripe, and try to track my progress (or lack thereof, but I’m actually pretty hopeful) with the “chronic health problem.”
So what causes fibromyalgia? The official answer—right now at least—is that no one really knows. But there are doctors and researchers interested in finding answers. According to the American College of Rheumatology:
The causes of fibromyalgia are unclear. They may be different in different people. Fibromyalgia may run in families. There likely are certain genes that can make people more prone to getting fibromyalgia and the other health problems that can occur with it. Genes alone, though, do not cause fibromyalgia.
No one in my family has ever been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, but that’s not the same as having a family history that’s completely clear of fibromyalgia. The disease itself has a pretty short history, and it is sometimes still pooh-poohed by people who don’t understand it. And because it’s more prevalent in women, I’m inclined to believe doctors were horribly dismissive of FM-related complaints in the not-too-distant past.
Hell, in my own family there’s at least one story of a woman being unjustifiably committed to a mental institution by her husband. Who knows what went undiagnosed when women weren’t so much people as they were worrywarts, hypochondriacs, and bored, lazy housewives?
So, there may be some genetic link for me that I don’t know about. I can’t really say any more about it than that.
But I’m still interested in speculating on the possible triggers. After all, I haven’t always felt this way. I had 33 pretty damn healthy years before the sky began to fall. Again, quoting the American College of Rheumatology:
There is most often some triggering factor that sets off fibromyalgia. It may be spine problems, arthritis, injury, or other type of physical stress. Emotional stress also may trigger this illness. The result is a change in the way the body “talks” with the spinal cord and brain. Levels of brain chemicals and proteins may change. For the person with fibromyalgia, it is as though the “volume control” is turned up too high in the brain’s pain processing centers.
Injury & Physical Stress
As I mentioned in my post about the diagnosis, I fell on the ice last winter. On February 14, 2014, I hit my head hard enough to briefly lose consciousness. It also knocked the wind out of me. I played it tough for a day or two, but finally went to the doctor when the headache wouldn’t subside and I was willing to admit that something very serious had just happened to me.
I went on cyclobenzaprine (a muscle relaxer my doc prescribed for wicked muscle pain and tension in my head and shoulders) but stopped taking it well before the Rx ran out because it seemed like it was all side effects, no benefits. I have never really felt normal since this injury. Maybe this was my trigger?
Then there was that whole gallbladder thing. The attacks, which started in November 2013 and culminated in the removal of my gallbladder in April 2014, certainly qualified as physical stress. I was given narcotic pain meds post surgery but was quite torn about taking them.
On the one hand the surgical pain was pretty severe, and the pills knocked me out for an hour or so each time I took one, giving me time to rest. On the other hand, they wore off quickly after, making me feel worse in a lot of ways. In the ACR literature, I read that doctors do not suggest using opioid narcotics for fibromyalgia pain because they aren’t much benefit. In fact, they can increase sensitivity and make pain persist.
So I wonder, did taking that shit mess up my brain chemistry? Or—and this seems more likely to me—did I already have fibromyalgia and that’s why I found the Vicodin intolerable? Did taking those pills actually exacerbate my pain?
Also mentioned in my last post, the last year has been difficult. No need in rehashing all that here, but if one day someone said to me that death, debt, and upheaval are triggers for fibromyalgia, I’d be inclined to believe it.