It’s estimated that around 100 million Americans deal with some form of chronic pain. As you can imagine, doctors spend a lot of time trying to find ways to treat that pain. That’s why they’ve created a system that allows them to categorize pain.
Basically, there are three major categories of pain: nociceptive, neuropathic, and idiopathic. But there are also many sub-categories, including one that will be especially interesting to people with fibromyalgia, somatic pain.
So, what is somatic pain? Why is it relevant to fibromyalgia? And what can you do to treat it?
What Is Somatic Pain?
Somatic pain is classified under the broader category of nociceptive pain. Nociceptive pain is caused by small receptors in the skin and the tissue underneath called nociceptors. When the nociceptors are injured, like when you cut yourself, they send electrical signals along the nerves to the brain.
The brain then interprets these signals as pain and sends signals back down the nerves to the area where the nociceptors are located. That’s why when you cut your arm it hurts where the skin was injured, even though the pain really starts in the brain.
Somatic pain also triggers these nociceptors, but the term “somatic pain” specifically refers to pain that comes from the soft tissues of the body like the skin, connective tissues, and muscles.
And there are two different types of somatic pain: superficial and deep. Superficial somatic pain is pain that comes from the skin and mucous membranes. Any injury to this tissue like a cut, burn, or infection leads to somatic pain.
Deep somatic pain occurs in the tissue underneath the skin like the joints, bones, or tendons. If you pull a muscle in your leg, you’re experiencing deep somatic pain. The same applies to conditions like arthritis, which leads to swelling of the connective tissue of the joints.
Superficial pain is usually more like a sharp stabbing or burning sensation, whereas deep pain seems to be more like a throbbing or aching pain.
Obviously, it’s a very broad category. And there a number of conditions that can lead to somatic pain.
While the pain of fibromyalgia is classified as idiopathic pain, people who suffer from fibromyalgia are also more likely to develop a number of these conditions.
Somatic Pain And Fibromyalgia
Having fibromyalgia raises your risk of developing a wide number of conditions. Some of the most common ones are autoimmune conditions.
Autoimmune conditions include things like arthritis, lupus, or Sjogren’s syndrome. These conditions are caused when the immune system begins to attack the tissue, leading to inflammation. In arthritis, the connective tissue of the joints, or the synovium, begins to swell.
When you have lupus, the immune system attacks tissue all over the body, including the skin. People with lupus sometimes develop large rashes on the skin. These rashes are very sensitive to light, and exposure to UV rays can cause somatic pain.
And Sjogren’s syndrome attacks the mucous membranes. As a result, they swell and the membranes lose their ability to produce moisture. This can lead to significant pain as the membranes are gradually damaged.
Luckily, there are things you can do to treat the pain.
What Can You Do To Treat It?
What sort of treatment you need obviously depends on what the condition is that’s causing it. The most common forms of pain management are simple, over-the-counter painkillers. These work by blocking the enzymes that produce inflammation, which makes them great for treating autoimmune disorders.
They’re’ also great for minor injuries along with some basic first aid. For deep pain, icing the affected area is often helpful for reducing the amount of pain you feel.
For more serious pain, doctors often prescribe physical therapy or opioid pain relievers. Opioids are one of the most effective tools we have for treating severe pain. But they also carry some serious risks. Opioid overdose deaths are a major concern in many countries. The CDC estimates that around 91 Americans die every day from opioids.
And they carry a serious risk of physical dependency, where your body needs the medication to function. That’s not to say that opioids can’t be useful for managing pain. But it’s extremely important to take them responsibly and always follow a doctors recommendation.
If you’re experiencing pain, it’s always best to see a doctor. They should be able to give you a diagnosis and treatment recommendations.
One thought on “Fibromyalgia and Somatic Pain”
Good article, Felicia.
I don’t know the rules in US about medication, but fx Ibuprofen, it is possible to buy over the counter here. This work well for many, but I can’t use them too much, because they are tough to the stomach, why I do get something more strong and effective, even if this also only are able to take the top of the pain. I do have respect for this medication, but I don’t know, what else to do.