You probably haven’t heard of central sensitivity syndrome, but it actually plays a pretty significant role in fibromyalgia. And understanding the relationship between central sensitivity syndrome and fibromyalgia can help you understand what’s going on in your body when it comes to your fibromyalgia.
So what exactly is central sensitivity syndrome? And what’s the relationship between central sensitivity syndrome and fibromyalgia?
WHAT IS CENTRAL SENSITIVITY SYNDROME?
Central sensitivity syndrome is a condition where your nervous system becomes sensitized to pain. You see, every sensation travels through the central nervous system. What we think of as touch or pain are actually signals in the nervous system which travel through the spine to the brain and back.
But in someone with central sensitivity syndrome, the nervous system over-reacts to every source of stimulation. So where someone with a normal central nervous system might bump their elbow and feel fine after a few minutes, someone with central sensitivity syndrome will be reduced to writhing in pain.
Essentially, your body becomes overly-sensitized to pain. That’s why doctors believe that central sensitivity syndrome plays a role in chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia. And if you feel like you are overly sensitive to pain then you likely have a form of central sensitivity syndrome.
WHAT CAUSES CENTRAL SENSITIVITY SYNDROME?
No one is sure exactly what causes central sensitivity syndrome, but there are some theories. First, doctors believe that the nerve receptors themselves are to blame. The receptors are clearly becoming more reactive in patients with central sensitivity syndrome. The react to normal stimuli as if they were a source of extreme pain. Some doctors suggest that some people are just more likely to develop this kind of nerve receptor sensitivity to others.
And it seems like there is also some relationship between the pain receptors and injuries to the nervous system, which could be an explanation for what causes central sensitivity disorder.
Things like strokes and spinal cord injuries make patients vulnerable to central sensitivity syndrome, which suggests there’s a direct relationship between nerve damage and central sensitivity syndrome. But there are also a number of factors that make people predisposed to developing central sensitivity syndrome.
A history of feeling anxiety, depression, or psychological trauma makes a patient more likely to develop central sensitivity syndrome. That suggests that there is some relationship between the brain and becoming sensitized to pain, but no one is sure what it is at the moment.
HOW ARE CENTRAL SENSITIVITY SYNDROME AND FIBROMYALGIA LINKED?
In the same way, chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia are closely linked to central sensitivity syndrome. Central sensitivity syndrome can make your fibromyalgia worse by increasing the amount of pain you feel. But fibromyalgia can also make you more likely to develop central sensitivity disorder.
The constant stress on your nerve endings makes them more likely to become sensitized. And there seems to be a link between people who develop fibromyalgia and central sensitivity syndrome. That suggests that both conditions are the result of the same underlying problems with the nervous system.
Finally, that heightened sensitivity to pain could explain a lot of why fibromyalgia causes generalized pain and fatigue. It might turn out that fibromyalgia is the result of an over-sensitivity in the nervous system. Unfortunately, doctors don’t totally understand the link between central sensitivity syndrome and fibromyalgia. When they do, it will likely be possible to treat both conditions, as well as other nervous system disorders more effectively.
IS THERE A WAY TO TREAT CENTRAL SENSITIVITY SYNDROME?
Right now, there isn’t a totally effective treatment for central sensitivity syndrome. But the methods that doctors use to treat it are similar to the ones doctors use to treat fibromyalgia.
Typically, doctors prescribe drugs that are designed to target the central nervous system. Things like anticonvulsants and antidepressants are the most common. Both classes of drugs make the nervous system less sensitive and prevent the interaction between nerve receptors and the chemicals in the brain.
And the fact that both are also prescribed for fibromyalgia further demonstrates how closely related the two conditions are.
Besides medication, the most common treatments for central sensitivity syndrome are more holistic approaches. For example, doctors recommend that people with central sensitivity syndrome get as much exercise and sleep as possible. Sleep helps to regulate the nervous system and reduce the effects of central sensitivity syndrome. And exercise helps your body manage and reduce pain.
And of course, all of these are also very helpful for managing fibromyalgia. So obviously, doing things that protect the central nervous system is effective in treating both central sensitivity disorder and fibromyalgia.
But while we don’t fully understand the relationship between the two disorders, the study of one offers hope for the other. And there may come a time when research into central sensitivity disorder offers new, effective treatments for fibromyalgia as well.