Some scientists believe an unidentified infectious agent, such as a virus, may trigger fibromyalgia in certain people. Extreme stress, injury and trauma are also believed to trigger the syndrome.
When confronted in this way, the brain moves into a defensive posture to protect itself. "A lot of things showing up [in research] are very complex," says Tamara Liller, head of the Fibromyalgia Association of Greater Washington, Inc.
Liller, who has suffered with the condition for 20 years, this is why the average primary care physician still does not have a good handle on the condition. "You're getting into heavy duty brain theorizing."
Some of the most exciting research on fibromyalgia involves the Flexyx Neurotherapy System (FSN). Developed a decade ago by California social psychologist Len Ochs for research on learning disabled kids, FSN uses pulsed radio waves to subtly manipulate brain wave activity and help the brain function normally.
Coping with Fibromyalgia
Coping with fibromyalgia is "like peeling an onion," Liller says. With so many symptoms, "you have to peel away at the layers to get people to feel better. What's tough with fibromyalgia is that not everyone responds the same way [to treatment]."
What works for one fibromyalgia sufferer may not work for another, however, medication and exercise are known widely for helping to manage the condition.
Like many fibromyalgia sufferers, Paduano takes low-level doses of the antidepressant Elavil which helps her relax and break the cycles of disturbed sleep that exacerbate her pain. The same antidepressant also helped Saathoff drop what had become mandatory naps and to feel better overall.