Does Autonomic Nerve Dysfunction Cause Fibromyalgia?

BY WYATT REDD

Your nervous system is the system that is responsible for making sure that essential messages get from your brain to various parts of your body and back again. These messages to the parts of your body help you to see, taste, act and react, feel, and touch. When these messages become interrupted for any reason, it can cause lots of problems. Difficulties and interruptions in your nervous system could be one of the primary causes for the condition of fibromyalgia.

What Exactly is the Autonomic Nervous System?

Your autonomic nervous system, also known as ANS, is a vital part of your central nervous system, or CNS. It works on auto-pilot to help you to get on with your daily life. Your autonomic nervous system works with your neurotransmitters and hormones in order to make sure that your body is functioning properly. Your autonomic nervous system has lots of responsibilities, including the following:

  • Body temperature regulation
  • Functioning of bladder and bowels
  • Heart rate maintenance

Two Branches of Your Autonomic Nervous System

Your autonomic nervous system has two parts, which are called branches. These two parts work together by sending messages, or signals, using neurotransmitters. These are specialized chemicals in your body that carry messages back and forth from your brain to your body parts. These two branches are:

  • Sympathetic Nervous System: this is the nervous system that causes you to respond to stressful conditions, such as an emergency.
  • Parasympathetic Nervous System: this is the nervous system that is responsible for regulating your sleep and digestive processes.

What are Neurotransmitters?

In order to facilitate communication between the two branches of your autonomic nervous system, a specialized hormone- called a neurotransmitter is used. These neurotransmitters are vehicles that carry information from your brain to your body parts and back again.

If something malfunctions with these neurotransmitters, it’s possible for the messages between the two to get confused or scrambled. There are a few specific neurotransmitters that are believed to play a vital role in the condition of fibromyalgia. They are as follows:

Substance P

This is a neurotransmitter that is located in your spinal fluid. It communicates pain sensations to your brain as well as the rest of your body. There have been numerous studies that have revealed that individuals with fibromyalgia typically have around three times more of this neurotransmitter in their spinal fluid than healthy individuals do. This results in an increased perception of pain, which makes what would normally be a mild stimulus extremely painful.

Endorphins

This is a hormone that is secreted by your body as a reaction to physical stressors such as fear or exercise. They are considered to be a natural opioid, and are there to help your body better deal with fatigue and pain. Beta-endorphins are very involved in the suppression of pain. However, there is only about 50 percent of this endorphin in individuals suffering from fibromyalgia, which could be an explanation as to why they experience so much pain.

Serotonin

This is a neurotransmitter that serves to regulate your moods. Serotonin keeps you from getting overly excited or becoming overly depressed. There have been numerous studies that have shown that individuals with fibromyalgia tend to have low serotonin levels. These low serotonin levels lead to anxiety, chronic headaches, and depression. Anti-depressants can be used to manipulate these levels of serotonin in the brain to regulate the symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Hormones

In addition to the neurotransmitters, your autonomic nervous system also needs hormones in order to stimulate and regulate specific body functions. These are specialized chemicals that are secreted by various glands in your body, stimulating growth, fertility, and many other functions. Some of the hormones that are necessary for your autonomic nervous system are:

Cortisol

This hormone is secreted by your adrenal glands. When your body is physically stressed or threatened, this chemical is released. It is most commonly called the “stress hormone.” When it comes to individuals with fibromyalgia, the functioning of this hormone seems to be abnormal. This means that when you’re suffering from fibromyalgia, your body automatically considers itself to be in a state of stress. Due to this fact, you release more cortisol than most healthy individuals- which leaves you in a constant state of tiredness and fatigue.

Growth Hormone

This hormone is released while you’re exercising and in deep sleep. it is there to control and regulate your metabolism as well as control your tissue and muscle growth. It repairs wounds and injuries you sustain during the day. Individuals with fibromyalgia tend to have extremely low levels of this hormone in their bodies. This means that their autonomic nervous system isn’t releasing enough of this hormone to repair their tissues and muscles. In addition, individuals with fibromyalgia typically don’t get enough quality sleep, which also keeps this hormone from being released like it should.

Norepinephrine

This is a hormone that is also released by your adrenal glands and is controlled by your sympathetic nervous system. This particular hormone has control over your body’s responses to stress such as: increased heart rate, muscle contraction, and even sweating. Individuals suffering from fibromyalgia tend to have lowered levels of this hormone, which contributes to their pain and fatigue.

Autonomic Nervous System Dysfunction and Fibromyalgia

Due to the above reasons, it is highly possible that a dysfunction with your autonomic nervous system could very well be causing- or at least contributing to- your fibromyalgia.

 Further reading:

Autonomic Nervous System Dysfunction as a Fibromyalgia Cause: www.fibromyalgia-symptoms.org/fibromyalgia_ans.html

Biology and therapy of fibromyalgia. Stress, the stress response system, and fibromyalgia: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2206360/

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