To this day, the origin of fibromyalgia remains a mystery.
Despite being an increasingly diagnosed disease (although, unfortunately, often misdiagnosed), fibromyalgia still has an unclear cause. There have been several investigations that have hypothesized as a malfunction of the nervous system, or even that fibromyalgia is somewhat more secondary to other diseases, such as anxiety and depression, a type of somatization.
On the other hand, last year 2014 it was suggested that blood vessels could be the real cause of fibromyalgia, since its malfunction could alter the processing of pain by indirectly altering the nervous system. Now, a recent study published in PloS ONE It directly puts the superficial nervous system back in the spotlight as the origin of fibromyalgia, specifically, due to the A-Delta fibers.
What is fibromyalgia?
To update us, remember: Fibromyalgia is a disease that consists of a chronic muscle and joint pain, which usually affects women more than men (in a 9: 1 ratio), and to which other diseases such as intestinal upset, anxiety-depression syndrome, trouble sleeping among others.
Currently, its origin is unknown, and many medical professionals believe that it is the anxiety-depression syndrome that causes fibromyalgia and not the other way around. There is also research that suggests that much remains to be studied in this regard, and that its origin may be biological and not psychological.
The origin of fibromyalgia could be in the A-Delta fibers
The work, carried out by the Byung-Jo Kim and their colleagues from the Korea University, analyzed the call period of skin silence, a spinal nervous reflex that allows us to analyze how our nervous system processes pain centrally and peripherally. They compared this period of cutaneous silence between individuals suffering from fibromyalgia and those without suffering from the disease.
According to their results, the average duration of this period was significantly longer in those who suffered from fibromyalgia, something that would suggest that the duration of the period of skin silence could reflect a malfunction of the supraspinal control. In other words, that the spinal neurons in charge of processing pain and informing the brain will not do it correctly, thus increasing the sensation of pain in the long term.
In this regard, until now, research has been able to clarify that the pain threshold of patients with fibromyalgia is lower, in addition to presenting a chemical alteration at the level of the spinal cord and in the brain areas responsible for regulating, controlling and integrating the pain.
A-Delta fibers and the period of skin silence
Let’s go by parts. First of all, what is that of the period of cutaneous silence?
As we have already mentioned, it is a spinal reflex produced by nerve fibers called A-Delta fibers. The neurons responsible for these fibers evaluate and control the pain process, both at the level of the central nervous system and at the level of the peripheral nervous system. And, surprise!, Our whole body (skin, joints, muscles) is covered by receptors and nerve endings for pain and other stimuli, and the A-Delta fibers are the ones that collect information on the mechanical and thermal stimuli of these receptors. Ultimately at the level of the central nervous system.
In short, A-Delta fibers will be the interpreters of pain, and if your interpretation does not work correctly, we have a problem.
Interestingly, in previous investigations where this period of cutaneous silence was used, A-Delta fibers were not considered as interesting or as a possible origin of fibromyalgia. Still, the same researchers indicate that more research will be needed, but it is a good first step.