If you are one of the many who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome then these symptoms will be familiar to you. Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS is much more common than many may thing.
People with IBS will often have to think twice before going to someone’s home or a restaurant to enjoy a meal. A constant tug-of-war between constipation and diarrhea means frequent and urgent trips to the bathroom. The abdominal craps, pelvic pains, gas and bloating can mean severe pain for someone who has been diagnosed with IBS.
Those who have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia may recognize some of these symptoms themselves. That’s because Irritable Bowel Syndrome and IBS often do cross each other’s paths. In fact, it is believed that up to 70 percent of people who have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia will also suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, and as many as 60 percent of those who were diagnosed with IBS will also see some symptoms of fibromyalgia. Researchers believe that irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia may be branches of the same tree.
It is understandable why fibromyalgia and IBS are thought to co-exist among each other. There are many similarities between the two. For example, both conditions are very unpredictable and both condition can cause chronic pain. It is difficult to pinpoint the cause and triggers of either condition to an exact science. The cause of developing either condition is still not fully understood.
Anyone can be susceptible to either IBS or fibromyalgia. No one group of people is more at risk than another. That being said, research has shown that women between the ages of 30 to 50 make up a large portion of the IBS and fibromyalgia population. This may have to do with chemical and hormonal changes, as it is thought that menstruation can be one trigger of an IBS flaring up.
Another similarity and probably the most convincing is that both fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome have to do with the nervous system being over stimulated, as well as changes to how the brain manages pain.
With fibromyalgia, there is a change in the brain that causes a malfunction to the way the nervous system manages and process pain stimulus. The part of the brain that is responsible for surprising pain does not function the way it should in people diagnosed with fibromyalgia. This leads an amplified sense of pain that, for the most part can exceed the common pain threshold in relation to the stimuli. For example, someone who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia may experience a more intense pain to their skin following “touch” as opposed to their counterpart.
These changes in the brain are very similar to the changes happening to someone who has been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome. People who suffer with IBS have a similarly overactive nervous system and pain magnification. The part of the brain responsible for surprising pain also does not function the way it should, leaving only the part of the brain that facilitates pain working. This leads to an increase in pain sensitivity.
The defining difference between the two conditions would be in the part of the body that the hypersensitivity affects. The hypersensitivity that is the result of fibromyalgia is focused on the skin and the muscle tissue of the body. Fibromyalgia pain is most typical in the face, arms, back, and the legs, although anywhere on the body can be affected.
With irritable bowel syndrome, the hypersensitivity affects the internal organs, specifically the intestines. This causes severe abdominal and pelvic pains.
In both cases, the overlapping symptom is chronic and unpredictable pain. The treatments for both fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome focus on treating the symptoms rather that the condition itself. The reason for this being that the root cause of both fibromyalgia and IBS is still not clearly understood.
We do know that stress is a known trigger for both fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome. By learning how to better manage your stress, you may be able to minimize the frequency of an IBS or fibromyalgia flair up. Talk with your primary care physician about possible treatments to help ease the symptoms of your condition. Keeping a positive outlook on life is key to living with and managing your chronic pain.