When your body is in pain, your brain’s the first to know it. Nerve signals travel from the painful spot on your body through your spinal cord to your brain, which interprets these signals as pain. This is a warning sign that something’s wrong. As you heal, the pain gets better, and in time it goes away. But if you have fibromyalgia, you experience this pain even without injury, this pain does not go away and has a lasting impact on your life.
Some doctors believe this is caused by the way your brain and spinal cord handle and interpret pain signals. When you have fibromyalgia you may have more cells that carry pain signals than normal. And you may have fewer cells that slow pain signals down. This means your pain volume is always turned up, like music blasting on a radio. The result is that minor bumps and bruises hurt more than they should. And you may feel pain from things that shouldn’t hurt at all.
Doctors aren’t sure why some people get fibromyalgia. There are many contributing factors that could cause your pain signals to be affected. Different people report different things that seemed to trigger their condition and you can even have more than one cause.
- Genetic factors
Fibromyalgia tends to run in families. Your parents may pass on genes that make you more sensitive to pain. Other genes can also make you more likely to feel anxious or depressed, which makes pain worse.
- Other conditions
A painful disease like arthritis or an infection raises your chances of getting fibromyalgia.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Experiencing traumatic events is also linked to developing fibromyalgia.
The condition is much more prominent in women than in men. Doctors think this could be related to differences in the way men and women feel and react to pain, as well as how society expects them to respond to pain.
- Anxiety and depression
These and other mental health disorders seem to be linked to fibromyalgia, though there’s no proof that they actually cause the condition.
- Lack of physical activity
The condition is much more common in people who aren’t physically active. Low impact exercise is one of the best treatments for fibromyalgia to help control the condition and improves symptoms for some patients.