Fibromyalgia is a very common disorder related to severe musculoskeletal pain all over the body. It can occur at any age, widely affecting middle-aged people and women.
It is estimated that 3.7 million people in America suffer from this disorder. The symptoms include a headache, extreme pain all over the body or at tender points, irritable bowel syndrome, disturbed sleep.
Skin sensitivity, rashes, dry skin, fatigue, stress, stiffness, mood swing, depression, etc.
All these symptoms of fibromyalgia last lifelong and disturbs daily activities. It is a chronic illness.
More and more research is going on worldwide that is coming out with new information about the disease.
In June 2013, Pain Medicine published a report of Integrated Tissue Dynamics, New York that reported that the cause of fibromyalgia is an abnormality in the palms of a sufferer.
A study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research that people with fibromyalgia have more difficulty in sleeping than normal people.
Researchers at the American Pain Society, in May 2015 reported that fibromyalgia is a type of neurological disorder.
It was further stated in the report that fibromyalgia is the second most common rheumatoid disorder and is widely misunderstood.
Researchers at King’s College London found a link between specific alteration in DNA and chronic joint pain in fibromyalgia sufferers.
They stated that three distinct genes have a definite pattern of DNA methylation in individuals with and without chronic joint pain.
This research will help in better understanding fibromyalgia and the painful symptoms associated with it.
Another study published in the Agri Pain (a Turkish Journal) concluded that the prevalence of fibromyalgia may increase with age.
This study was done on Turkish fibromyalgia patients. It stated that elderly people suffering from the disease experience poor quality of life with severe pain, disturbed sleep, and no social being.
A study was published in Semin Arthritis Rheum, December 2016 found that a pattern of gray matter (GM) alterations within the medial pain system, cerebro-cerebellar circuits, and default mode network also support the fact that fibromyalgia is a symptom involving a larger part of the brain areas.
Approximately 50%-80% of patients suffering from fibromyalgia are known to have skin problems. The skin problems are very annoying, frustrating, and embarrassing.
These lead to sleep discomfort, increased pain, and fatigue. Skin sensitivity such as numbness and tingling when touched is common in people suffering from fibromyalgia.
Some may also notice heavy sweating, flushing, and temperature fluctuations. This is why fibromyalgia is also linked to hypersensitivity.
Another type of hypersensitive reaction is also associated with fibromyalgia. Researchers suggest that vitamin or mineral deficiency can be a cause of this problem.
What is Allodynia?
Allodynia means “other pain”. It is associated with a very unusual kind of pain caused by something that is not painful in the normal case. It is a symptom of nerve damage.
Allodynia is yet another symptom of fibromyalgia that can male severe pain even from a simple touch. The sufferer feels like having a sunburn all the time.
It is rare in the general population and commonly goes unnoticed. This is also called tactile allodynia. The sufferer might feel pain even from his/her clothes.
Waistbands, bra straps, tags on shirts, etc can be uncomfortable and give a burning sensation.
Allodynia can get severe or may remain mild. It can affect the whole body or may be localized. It can flare up at the time or may remain constant.
Some people also feel pain when they make a ponytail. This is called ponytail headache syndrome. This is also related to allodynia. It is uncomfortable but not very common.
This condition makes sleeping very uncomfortable and leads to anxiety and depression.
Some people find it difficult to sleep on the bed which was very comfortable to sleep on when they were not suffering from allodynia.
What are the Reasons Behind Allodynia?
Tactile allodynia can be due to malfunctioning of specialized nerves called a nociceptor.
The nociceptor is responsible for sensing information about environmental factors such as temperature and harmful things.
In fibromyalgia, the nociceptors start to perceive all kinds of sensations as painful.
Researchers at Cardiff University (UK-based) explained allodynia as “neuropathic pain caused by damage to or dysfunction of the peripheral and central nervous system, rather than stimulation of pain receptors”.
The relation between fibromyalgia and allodynia is unclear and the symptoms vary from one sufferer to another.
Research published in the National Institutes of Natural Sciences, April 2016 revealed that the cell circuits in a part of the brain can be used to treat chronic pain.
The study published that allodynia is a pain greatly amplified by the slightest sensation such as light, touch, or even warmth.
According to the report, the spinal cord and glial cells provide support, and insulation between neurons plays a crucial role in allodynia.
A finding published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, based on the research carried out at the National Institute for Physiological Sciences (NIPS) stated that a series of events occur in the S1 cortex, the region of the brain that can sustain mechanical allodynia.
Dealing with Fibromyalgia and Allodynia?
It is very stressful to deal with fibromyalgia and allodynia. The sufferer finds it very difficult to decide what to wear and whatnot.
Even the extremely soft fabric cause irritation and hurt. Allodynia makes fibromyalgia even worse. It becomes very difficult and stressful to manage day-to-day activities.
Some people get relieved by using soft gloves while others are not. There is a triggered response to any stimulus that is not painful but causes skin pain. The skin gives a burning sensation when touched, like a sunburn.
Another type of allodynia is called mechanical allodynia where the pain is caused by movement.
Thermal allodynia is caused by an increase or decrease in temperature. Allodynia is common on the scalp with migraines. A person can sufferer from one type or all three types of allodynia at once.
How to Manage Allodynia?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for allodynia. Allodynia can be managed by making some small changes in the lifestyle.
Some of these changes are as follows:
- Clothing is a very common problem associated with tactile allodynia. Avoiding tight clothes and wearing loose clothes can be of great help.
- Thermal allodynia can be initiated by temperature fluctuation. Wearing sunglasses or staying in shade can be helpful when going out. Cooling packs can also keep the body temperature under control.
- Hot showers should be avoided. Showers of any kind can be painful in allodynia so a warm or cool bath should be tried.
- Strong wind should be avoided as hitting winds might be severely painful.
- Massage therapy should also be avoided.
- Wearing minimal clothes with super soft fabric helps fibromyalgia allodynia sufferers.
- Changing the bed to the most comfortable one can improve sleep.
Changing the lifestyle by incorporating healthy habits such as eating healthy, doing regular exercises, maintaining and following bedtime, and reducing stress can also help in dealing with the daily activities along with the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Are there Medicines Available for Allodynia?
There are medications available for allodynia that may suit some people. Some of these are:
- Lyrica (Pregabalin)
- Elavil (Amitriptyline)
- Neurontin (Gabapentin)
Some fibromyalgia patients with allodynia are relieved by applying topical creams such as Tiger Balm and Lidocaine.
Is there any Alternative Therapy Available?
Many people suffering from fibromyalgia find relief with alternative therapies such as yoga, massage therapy, meditation, deep breathing exercises, music therapy, and sometimes even acupuncture.
According to Mayo Clinic, acupuncture can also help relieve pain by targeting specific areas of the body.
Mental health counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy are also beneficial to many sufferers.
Herbal medications have also proven beneficial in fibromyalgia. This is a non-conventional way of treating diseases with the help of herbs, berries, and barks.
The most interesting thing is that these have no side effects. Music therapy and humor therapy are also known to reduce pain, anxiety, and depression.
Fibromyalgia and allodynia go hand in hand. Researchers also relate allodynia with a migraine.
Allodynia is an exaggerated response to events that are normally not painful. Both have not curable and are difficult to handle. Allodynia is very uncomfortable and not easy to deal with.
A positive mind and a calm and relaxed body can deal with this disease and its symptoms in a better way. There is always hope with every disease.
One should not lose hope in any way. Managing food can limit skin allergies due to food to great extent.
Relaxation exercises such as yoga, meditation, etc can help relax the body and mind and thus reducing stress and fatigue.
A restful sleep, a relaxed body, and reduced pain lead to a peaceful mind which is very important for a sufferer of fibromyalgia to deal with the disease.
Making changes in the lifestyle by introducing healthy habits and feeling positive can help the fibromyalgia patient have a happy and stress-free life to a great extent.