Fibromyalgia: New Theory on What Causes the Disorder

Author: Donna Schwontkowski

Recent research suggests a potential new cause for fibromyalgia: it’s in your skin. If their theory is further validated in future studies, the results could lead to new treatments for this chronic conditions that currently has no known cure.

For years the causes of fibromyalgia have remained elusive, but one of the main theories blames a process called central sensitization. In this theory, the central nervous system is responsible for causing the pain. For example, when someone suffers from a traumatic injury such as whiplash, they may develop fibromyalgia because the central nervous system overreacts to the pain. This doesn’t happen right away, but rather takes a bit of time – after the condition doesn’t heal. This is why these whiplash patients end up with pain throughout the entire body.

But now some researchers from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor are saying there’s evidence that those who have fibromyalgia have lower nerve fiber density compared to people who don’t have fibromyalgia. They believe that this type of symptom is evidence of small nerve fiber neuropathy, reported Medpage Today.

And when the same researchers also found evidence that there may be an immune system influence that is related to the appearance of fibromyalgia, as higher amounts of interleukin-2R (a marker of T cells and macrophages) were found as well. This study adds to another study from the Massachusetts General Hospital, which also used biopsies to demonstrate small nerve fiber neuropathy in patients with fibromyalgia.

Of course, there’s conflicting evidence that the scientists at the University of Michigan are still trying to piecemeal together. In other people when there’s shriveling of the small nerve fibers (called small fiber neuropathy), the patients lose sensation of the skin. But in fibromyalgia, the patients are hyperexcitable. When you touch them gently, they jump away with pain.

Certainly the researchers have their work cut out for them for the next 10 years.

So what do all these theories mean to you if you have fibromyalgia?

In one simple way, both these two studies are pointing to the importance of the nervous system in fibromyalgia. And who is the best health care professional to go to when the nervous system is off kilter?

It’s your chiropractor! When you get a chiropractic manipulation, you are restoring the nervous system connection between your spine and the rest of your body. Without that connection, you can’t experience any sense of wellness. Your body can’t work properly when you don’t have the nerve fibers restored.

Chiropractors also know that fibromyalgia could be a buildup of chemicals and toxins that are overwhelming the body’s detoxification systems. Many chiropractors also work with patients to help them start detoxification programs.

You can only go right with chiropractic treatment for fibromyalgia.


Caro X, Winter E. Evidence of abnormal epidermal nerve fiber density in fibromyalgia: clinical and immunologic implications” Arthritis & Rheumatology  2014; DOI: 10.1002/art.38662.

Walsh, N. Fibromyalgia: A New Paradigm? Medpage Today. April 28, 2014.