If you have fibromyalgia, there’s a good chance you’ve heard the phrase “musculoskeletal disorder.” After all, that’s what fibromyalgia is: a musculoskeletal disorder. But unless you’re a doctor the term is probably a little opaque. So, what is a musculoskeletal disorder? What causes it? And how can they be treated?
So, what exactly is a musculoskeletal disorder? And how can they be treated?
What Is A Musculoskeletal Disorder?
Put simply, a musculoskeletal disorder is any condition that affects the musculoskeletal system. And to simplify it a bit more, the musculoskeletal system is basically just the system of connections between your bones, tendons, nerves, and muscles. It’s how we are able to move.The bones support our bodies and provide an
The bones support our bodies and provide an anchor for the muscles, which allow us to move our skeletons by expanding and contracting. The tendons tie the muscles and joints together, and the nerves allow our brains to tell our bodies what to do. It’s sort of the core of how our bodies work physically, which is why a disorder affecting it, like fibromyalgia, can be so devastating.
Usually, a musculoskeletal disorder is caused by repetitive stress to the body. This is evident in something like carpal tunnel syndrome, where repetitive use and compression of the nerve leads to chronic pain. But this definition of a musculoskeletal disorder as an injury caused by damage to the muscles and nerves is a bit misleading.
That’s because the term is actually broader than that, encompassing any condition that seriously affects the relation between nerves, skeleton, and muscles, like fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia isn’t a repetitive-stress injury like carpal tunnel, and it isn’t entirely clear that it’s related to nerve damage, but it absolutely affects the musculoskeletal system. That’s what separates a musculoskeletal disorder from a simple injury like a bone fracture.
How Are Musculoskeletal Disorders Treated?
The treatment for any given musculoskeletal disorder depends largely on what exactly the disorder is. Obviously, a condition like carpal tunnel syndrome requires very different treatment than something like fibromyalgia.
For some of the more basic disorders that are repetitive stress injuries, resting the affected area and stabilizing it with some sort of brace is usually enough. And in more severe cases, there is usually a surgical option.
But for things like fibromyalgia, that are caused by a generalized disorder that we don’t fully understand, treatment gets more complicated. Fibromyalgia is usually treated with medications designed to help manage pain since there is currently no effective cure. What’s interesting about the way fibromyalgia is treated is that it reveals how musculoskeletal disorders can be created by something outside the musculoskeletal system itself.
Fibromyalgia And Musculoskeletal Disorders
No one knows what causes fibromyalgia, but there must be at least some relation to chemicals in the brain. And the most common treatment for fibromyalgia demonstrates this fact clearly.
Savella is the first drug created and approved specifically to treat fibromyalgia. And it works in the same way as antidepressants, increasing the amount of free serotonin in your brain. Serotonin is a chemical called a neurotransmitter and its role is to keep nerve signals running smoothly from the brain to the body. And low levels of serotonin increase the severity of fibromyalgia pain in people with the condition, which is why Savella is effective for some fibromyalgia sufferers.
And the fact that fibromyalgia is, on some level, caused by the chemical functions of the brain shows how complicated musculoskeletal disorders can be. You would expect most conditions affecting the muscles and skeleton to be injuries. After all, it’s hard to imagine how a chemical imbalance in your brain would leave you in actual, physical pain. Yet, that chemical imbalance is clearly contributing to the physical pain of people with fibromyalgia.
It just goes to show how, in spite of all our medical advances, we really are a long way from completely understanding the complicated organic machine that is our body. And that means that for now at least, people with fibromyalgia and other musculoskeletal disorders will continue to suffer.
But the good news is that the more we focus on researching how to cure one musculoskeletal disorder, the more we understand about how to cure others. And it’s quite possible that one day research into the musculoskeletal system may yield a breakthrough in how we treat fibromyalgia.