FASCIA’S RELATIONSHIP TO FIBROMYALGIA: NEW STUDY EXPLORES THE LINK
“This fascial continuum is crucial for proper motor coordination and the final movement to take place. Everyday movements of the body are possible thanks to the presence of the fascial tissues and their inseparable interconnection, which allows the sliding of the muscular framework and the sliding of nerves and vessels between/around contractile fields and joints, the same way all the organs can slide and move among each other, influenced by the position of the body. An alteration of the bodily movements would have a negative influence on neural, peripheral, and central processes, which would induce modifications in the motor patterns. An alteration of the function and structure of the lumbar fascia could cause disturbances to the whole back, shoulders, neck, and motor imbalances of the muscular area of the abdomen and thorax.” From the study being discussed today (BTW, the authors are talking about the THORACOLUMBAR FASCIA that you can actually watch move HERE)
Although there are not a lot of things we know for sure about FIBROMYALGIA (it’s heavily associated with both CHRONIC PAIN and SMALL FIBRE NEUROPATHY), a team of Italian researchers, once again led by DR. BRUNO BORDONI, hit the nail on the head with a study linking fibro to the most abundant connective tissue in the body; FASCIA. The study (Fascial Preadipocytes: Another Missing Piece of the Puzzle to Understand Fibromyalgia?) published in this month’s issue of Open Access Rheumatology, concluded that “The fibromyalgia patient has many myofascial system abnormalities, such as pain and fatigue. This paper revises the myopathic compensations, highlighting the possible role of the fascia in generating symptoms, being aware of the new information about the fascia’s activity in stimulating inflammation and fat cell production.” Let’s begin by talking about some things we already know.
Firstly, fascia has a number of unique qualities, including the fact that it acts as a SECOND NERVOUS SYSTEM. Secondly, there are many experts who believe that fascia is the most potentially pain-sensitive tissue in the body (HERE). Furthermore, it is extremely difficult to image with standard testing procedures (see link at top of page). As you can imagine, this combination can be trouble if things start going wrong. After mentioning that fibromyalgia affects a whopping 2% of the world’s population or 152,000,000 people, Bordoni talked about fibromyalgia’s symptom profile.
“Fibromyalgia is characterized by various symptomatological manifestations such as widespread chronic pain (allodynia), hyperalgesia, morning stiffness, altered sensory perception (light, sounds, temperature, touch, smell), sleep disorders, mood disturbances (anxiety and depression), general fatigue, memory loss, irritable bowel, restless leg, migraine, cognitive difficulties, dysmenorrhea, and temporomandibular joint disorder”
What does this mean in English and why is it important to be able to recognize this cluster of symptoms? Because other than symptoms, there is not a definitive method of diagnosing Fibromyalgia. “Despite the large amount of scientific literature available, fibromyalgia etiology is still uncertain. The diagnosis is based on the clinical presentation and the severity of the symptomatology.” While some are self-explanatory, allow me to take you through them quickly.
- FIBROMYALGIA AND ALLODYNIA / HYPERALGIA: Allodynia is defined as an exaggerated perception of pain, while hyperalgia is characterized by the sensation of pain when there should be no pain. As you might expect, most experts now believe that fibromyalgia involves some degree of CENTRAL SENSITIZATION and GLIAL CELL activation.
- FIBROMYALGIA AND ALTERED SENSORY PERCEPTION: This is one of the myriad of symptoms that could fall under the umbrella of SYMPATHETIC DOMINANCE. Quite often there is a heightened sense of smell (this is often related to MCS or Multiple Chemical Syndrome). When the body becomes saturated with TOXICITY to the point it cannot detox (BIOTRANFORMATION) quickly enough, numerous symptoms, many of which are listed here, begin showing up. This bullet is also where I put dizziness / VERTIGO / abnormal gait or movement patterns — common problems in those with fibromyalgia thanks to something known as CEREBELLAR ATAXIA, which interestingly enough, is highly related to GLUTEN SENSITIVITY, whether celiac or non-celiac.
- FIBROMYALGIA AND SLEEP DISORDERS: These are also a function of Sympathetic Dominance and are characterized by people who are exhausted all the time, but have trouble sleeping, particularly at night. You’ll have to decide for yourself if SLEEPING PILLS are right for you.
- FIBROMYALGIA AND MOOD DISTURBANCES: Interestingly enough, if you really dig into the research you’ll see that both ANXIETY and DEPRESSION are caused by inflammation.
- FIBROMYALGIA AND GENERAL FATIGUE: This can’t be surprising considering that when I first heard of Fibromyalgia back in the early 1990’s, it was referred to as Fibromyalgia / CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME.
- FIBROMYALGIA AND MEMORY LOSS / COGNITIVE DIFFICULTIES: This is usually referred to as “Fibro Fog” and goes way beyond generalized forgetfulness or an inability to concentrate.
- FIBROMYALGIA AND DYSMENORRHEA: Fibromyalgia is mostly found in females, with this bullet referring to a wide range of female issues (HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE are a few of them).
- FIBROMYALGIA AND IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME: IBS is an autoimmune disease characterized by both CONSTIPATION and diarrhea, not to mention SIBO.
- FIBROMYALGIA AND RESTLESS LEG SYNDROME: RLS is another autoimmune disease that’s a form of NEUROPATHY. Be aware that many experts believe that fibromyalgia is itself an AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE (“The origin could be immune-mediated“).
- FIBROMYALGIA AND TMJ PROBLEMS: If there is any problem I like to deal with less than TMJ, I’m not sure what it would be. This probably has to do with the fact that a significant amount of TMJ is not mechanical but neurological.
- FIBROMYALGIA AND OTHERS: When it comes to severe fibro, there are any number of other symptoms that are common. For example, show me a woman with fibro who does not have a HARDCORE SUGAR / CARB ADDICTION, and I’ll show you a hundred that do.
The authors went on to say that, “The fibromyalgia patient is characterized by peripheral abnormalities affecting the myofascial system.” What I would like to do now is explore some of those abnormalities. When it comes to FASCIA, Bordoni’s team mentioned its four layers — the superficial fascia that makes up part of the FATTY LAYER OF YOUR SKIN, the myofascia that covers the muscles themselves (as well as nerves, blood vessels, bones, tendons, etc, etc), the meningeal fascia that surrounds the spinal cord, and the visceral fascia that covers the organs.
After mentioning that both muscle and fascia share the same embryonic origins, Bordoni revealed some of the muscular problems seen in patients with fibro that go beyond simple muscular incordination. Muscle lysing (the individual cells are broken and then eaten by scavenger cells), muscle atrophy, deposits of fat or sugar (glycogen) where they shouldn’t be, muscles turning to fat, degradation due to OXIDATIVE STRESS, MITOCHONDRIAL DYSFUNCTION, mineral imbalances that cause muscular contraction (SPASM / TRIGGER POINTS), spasms of the smooth muscle walls of blood vessels causing low blood / OXYGEN perfusion and ischemia to muscles and fascia, low capillary density, and finally, THICKENED AND SWOLLEN tissues that decrease cellular permeability, also causing ischemia.
Interestingly, the authors revealed that “ischemia seems to produce an inflammatory systemic response.” The authors also talked at length about the ways that “fascial remodeling could alter the muscles afferent-related [sensory] response.“
As far as the neurological responses to fibromyalgia are concerned that at least had the potential to affect fascia (or vise versa), Bordini listed several, including morphological remodeling (the nerve actually changing its structure), altered electrical activity of motor neurons (also causes muscle spasm), restricted ability of nerves to glide normally (this is frequently seen in CUTANEOUS NERVE ENTRAPMENTS and can be seen in the links at the very top of the page) causing movement-related pain. They also said that a nerve axon simply running through an area of inflammation tends to inflame the entire nerve.
Finally, they discussed activation of the nervi nervorum — the tiny nerve fibers in the fascial sheath that surrounds nerves. Not only can this cause pain, but has the ability to affect the nerve’s metabolism, potentially leading to a, “build-up of connective tissue on the nerve pathways crossing the muscles.“
Earlier I mentioned adipose tissue’s relationship to superficial fascia. Adipocytes are the cells that store fat. I’ve seen studies that say that fat cells will grow to about four times their normal size before they divide. And while WEIGHT LOSS will result in a decreased volume of fat stored in individual adipocytes, their number never diminishes — one of the many reasons it’s easier to maintain a healthy weight than GAINING WEIGHT and then trying to lose it. With this in mind, Bordoni’s team went on to discuss that fact that “scientific evidence has shown an existing link between FM patients and overweight/obesity….” Obesity is the number one cause of the number one form of sleep dysfunction — APNEA.
Also mentioned were disorders of the HPA-Axis (HERE), as well as the fact that fat is itself a cause of inflammation. Beyond that, fibromyalgia is known to affect leptin — the hormone responsible for inhibiting hunger / giving you the feeling of fullness (SOLVE IT WITH LIGHT). When you add it all together, what do you get? Listen to these author’s conclusions…..
“It is known that there is central sensitization and peripheral neurological alterations with fibromyalgia. Evidences link fibromyalgia with overweight/obesity, which is associated with greater peripheral pain perception. Recently, in animal models, the adipogenic capacity of the subcutaneous superficial fascia has been uncovered. This paper discussed the possible involvement of the fascial system in this chronic pathology. The fascial system can produce inflammatory substances which could negatively influence the inflammatory environment.”
In other words, Fibromyalgia is thought to cause a malfunction of the central nervous system, causing pain to play on a loop in the brain, even in the absence of any physical reason for said pain (ie. tissue damage). Beyond that, fascia is known to turn to fat (adipose) in people with fibro, which has the consequence of perpetuating the cycle of INFLAMMATION. All of this raises a simple question with a difficult answer; what the heck can be done to solve it?
While there are any number of approaches that are at least somewhat effective, when it comes to Central Sensitization, it’s sort of a crapshoot. And while exercise has been shown by numerous studies to be effective at helping those with fibromyalgia lessen pain and increase function, allow me to show you why exercise alone is usually not the entire answer. “The spinal cord and brain pathway sensitivity is increased by the action of the peripheral system whose afferent nerve fibers detect noxious stimuli and movement (mechanoreceptors) in patients with fibromyalgia.” This means that while it’s critical to do things to fire off the INCREDIBLE PROPRIOCEPTIVE ABILITY OF FASCIA, it does have the potential to induce pain.
If you want to see a protocol that could potentially diminish symptoms of fibromyalgia — hopefully dramatically — HERE it is. And for those of you who think this information should be in everyone’s hands (after all, it helps explain why many people far smarter than I believe that fascia holds the key to all sickness and disease, let alone pain — HERE), be sure to like, share, or follow us on FACEBOOK. After all, it really is the best way to reach those you love and care about most with life-changing (free) information. Oh; and don’t forget to take a quick peek at my FASCIA SUPER-POST, where all 160+ of my articles on fascia are organized into one massive post.