The cause of this disorder is unknown. Physical or emotional trauma may play a role in development of the syndrome. Some evidence suggests that fibromyalgia patients have abnormal pain transmission responses.
It has been suggested that sleep disturbances, which are common in fibromyalgia patients, may actually cause the condition. Another theory suggests that the disorder may be associated with changes in skeletal muscle metabolism, possibly caused by decreased blood flow, which could cause chronic fatigue and weakness.
Others have suggested that an infectious microbe, such as a virus, triggers the illness. At this point, no such virus or microbe has been identified.
Pilot studies have shown a possible inherited tendency toward the disease, though evidence is very preliminary.
Could this be any more vague and tentative? We're only about a decade away from dismissing the whole thing as 'crazy woman syndrome.'
Fibromyalgia is one of the reasons I became a bodyworker. I saw people close to me suffering from it, and I saw the medical establishment making their suffering worse through ignorance, indifference and judgement. I may not be able to cure people's pain, but at least I can do someone the honor of taking it seriously.
People with chronic pain, for the most part, cope with it by coping. That's not a tautology. Coping is a fluid process, different for every person and at every time. Exercise may help, or not. Pain medication, ditto. Massage, sometimes. Acupuncture, heat therapy, yoga may work, then stop working. It never ends.
One thing I have observed, in over a decade of giving and receiving bodywork, is that there seems to be a powerful and complex relationship between fascia and the nervous system. I have noticed that often the subtlest forms of bodywork can have the most profound affects. I don't pretend to understand the mechanism behind it, but there are a couple of areas where I'd like to see some research done.
One is network spinal analysis. The theory behind it is that by stimulating the spinal cord in areas where it attaches to the spine, you enable the body to release spinal tension and adjust itself. After one treatment by an NSA chiropractor, I found my hips releasing the turn-out stress of twelve years of ballet training, and re-aligning in their natural forward-facing stance. This chiropractor reported that many of her clients saw significant improvement from conditions as serious as MS, from treatment over time.
The other is the M.E.L.T Method, a simple self-care technique that uses balls and rollers to rebalance and hydrate connective tissue. It is now primarily used by athletes and personal trainers, but the results I've seen have been so dramatic that I'd like to see more research into its effectiveness on fibromyalgia and other chronic pain syndromes.
The more bodywork I do, the more it seems to me that the mind/body dichotomy is meaningless. I'd describe it as a mind/body continuum. At the very least there is a constant feedback loop going in both directions, both consciously and unconsciously. An adjustment at any point in the loop can have wide-reaching effects; my interest is in finding the most efficient points of intervention.