I have no idea why I have FM: I didn’t have an accident resulting in an injury; I didn’t have a traumatic upbringing, or even a traumatic event. It appears to me that so many of you can attribute your FM to a particular incident or trauma.
This is sometimes characterised as primary (idiopathic) FM. In primary FM, the causes are not known whereas in secondary FM, the causes can be identified. According to the American College of Rheumatology, primary FM is the more common form. However, from reading all of your stories, it seems to me that secondary FM is more common.
Many experts believe that primary FM is a dysfunctional disorder caused by a constellation of biologic responses to stress because of negative personal histories or genetic factors such as: family factors, chronic sleep disturbance, abnormalities in the brain, autoimmune disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, hyper-vigilance, muscle cell abnormalities, autonomic nervous system dysfunction, immune or endocrine dysfunction.1
In secondary FM, a specific cause can be identified. The symptoms are identical to those of primary FM, but are harder to treat. Possible causes of secondary FM include: physical injury (secondary FM developed in over 20 per cent of patients who had neck injuries); ankylosing spondylitis; endometriosis; surgery; heavy metal and environmental toxicity; upper spinal cord injury; viral, bacterial or fungal (candida) infection; pregnancy; hormonal imbalance or steroid overuse.
I know that many people blame their FM on an emotional trauma from their pasts; however a new study contradicts the belief that emotional trauma can lead to FM. This study aimed to evaluate the relation of disability and physical and mental health status with potentially traumatic life events before the onset of FM in women diagnosed with this syndrome. Researchers found no such relationship. They found no relationship between the perceived causes of illness and traumatic life events, either in childhood or adulthood.
They looked at potentially traumatic life events in women with FM and compared them to illness severity. They also looked into what the women believed had triggered the illness.
The only correlation they found was that women who’d had a traumatic event in childhood were more likely to attribute their illness to psychological causes. That doesn’t mean the childhood trauma did lead to FM; it means that people with past trauma are more likely to believe it does. This research did not examine the validity of these beliefs. The results raise questions about the importance of psychological aspects in the appraisal of the trauma and its possible relation to the psychological functioning in women with FM.
Do you think you know what caused your FM? Was it a physical trauma? An emotional trauma? Or, like me, do you have no idea?