Today’s Fibro Flare

Yeah, I am flaring like the flame that burns off waste at your favorite petrochemical plant. Started yesterday, with the IBS, though I honestly didn’t realize it was a fibro flare until today. The overall pain, brain fog, balance issues, disruption of fine motor control all arrived this morning. Yeah, those are all things that happen when my fibro flares. And it flares with weather changes like the cold front we’ve had over the past few days. Days like today, I miss some of the effects of Cymbalta. Not the adverse ones, obviously. I’m not insane, not anymore.

The first symptoms I ever noticed, back around 1987 or so, was pain in the joints of my fingers, along with swelling. When I went to my doctor, he immediately suspected arthritis. He ran the usual blood tests, including RF and ANA. As is common in most people with fibro, they all came back “normal”.

I’ve always had a very high tolerance for acute pain. Chronic pain, though, is a very different story. I’ve often recounted a revelation I had about chronic pain, no matter the source. Just as you can become desensitized to sounds and smells that are always present, so too do we become desensitized, in some important ways, to chronic pain. For me, my body simply stops producing one or more of the neurochemicals that regulate pain response. Turns out, modern medicine is beginning to confirm this as fact.

… In the presence of a significant stressor, the stress response also includes a “stress induced analgesia,” or a decreased sensitivity to further pain … This antinociceptive action of the ANS translates into an inverse relationship between blood pressure and pain sensitivity in animals and humans, and is designed to maintain the integrity of the body’s defense systems. Additionally, the release of CRF by the hypothalamus has known analgesic effects (Okifuji & Turk, 2002). …

See When Stress Hurts: Neurochemistry Cognates

That response apparently doesn’t work for me, and people like me.

But much more frightening is some of the new information about fibro that is recently coming out of the studies. Not only are we not responding with appropriate “stress-induced analgesia”, our bodies are actually overreacting to the pain signals which are present, and we are suffering measurable damage as well. At this juncture, I would remind my reader that correlation is not causation.

… There are much higher concentrations of substance P, which is a transmitter that really, when it gets activated, signals the brain to turn on pain pathways. And, it has inflammatory effects. It is an angry, hot chemical that, if it were injected into our spinal cords, we’d be yelping with pain ourselves, if you were perfectly normal. …

… people with fibromyalgia have very specific losses of volume in the amygdala, in the rostral anterior cingulate cortex, and in the lateral prefrontal cortex. … It is very intriguing, but these areas of the brain that are abnormal in structure in fibromyalgia are also key players in modulating pain, modulating stress, and in controlling, sort of, how the brain controls systems in the body that drive bodily pain. These are key brain areas, so it’s very important and unfortunate that they’re damaged—appear to be damaged—in fibromyalgia.

See Fibromyalgia: What Primary Care Physicians Should Know

Yes, even in the middle of a flare, I cannot turn off the need to better understand my world. That last article? First time you go to it, you may see a quiz before you can read the article. That’s because it is CME material.


About Janet Logan

Well educated woman, transgender / transsexual, lesbian, Reiki practitioner, LGBT activist, polyamorous, and eclectic Pagan.
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