Childhood trauma and stress lead to fibromyalgia – Dr. David Brady
Traumatic experiences and stressors in childhood have historically been overlooked as predisposing factors in the development of various chronic pain disorders and psychiatric disorders, including fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, insomnia, depression, anxiety, disorder. post-traumatic stress and chronic fatigue syndrome. However, the tide is turning as research reveals a significant correlation between childhood trauma and adult health.
The central nervous system is rapidly developing during childhood and is conditioned to respond to various stimuli and stressors encountered in life. When a variety of environmental stimuli are encountered, new pathways are created between brain cells in response to each stimulus. For example, a pleasurable experience, such as a hug from a parent or a sweet treat, creates pathways that teach the brain to respond pleasurably to those stimuli. Similarly, a terrifying experience will create and exercise pathways that respond with fear. This process of creating new pathways in response to stimuli is known as neuroplasticity. As we age, neuroplasticity decreases, meaning that it is more difficult to develop new pathways and adjust our brain’s responses to stimuli. Children have a clear advantage in possessing a high degree of neuroplasticity. However, this also highlights the importance of providing meaningful stimulation to the developing brain, to ensure the development of positive pathways.
In the presence of a strong support system and normal, short-term stressors, a child’s stress responses are appropriately activated and buffered through supportive relationships. In this way, positive pathways develop in the brain and train the nervous system to respond appropriately to normal life stressors. As the brain encounters various stressors, a healthy resilience is created so that increasingly stressful circumstances can be experienced with normal biological responses.
In the absence of supportive relationships or in the presence of extreme and/or long-lasting stressors, the stress response is activated inappropriately and can negatively affect brain and neurological system development. As brain regions that are responsible for fear, anxiety, and impulsive responses are activated, neural pathways that favor these brain regions develop. Subsequently, brain regions that are responsible for reasoning, planning, and behavioral control may lack adequate pathways, leading to a propensity for negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, panic attacks, and depression.
The human stress response triggers a cascade of events that affect the brain, neurological system, and various glands and endocrine hormones, which explains its wide-ranging influence on health. The stress response begins when neurons experience stressors or environmental stimuli, translate the stimuli into messages, and send them along various pathways in the brain for interpretation and response. During these activities, the production of brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters is activated. Neurotransmitters send messages to other regions of the brain and other organs. These chemicals communicate with the adrenal glands (of the endocrine system), which then produce hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine (adrenaline). These hormones are responsible for the traditional “fight and flight” response to traumatic or dangerous stressors. While these are helpful if we need to dodge a ball or car accident, chronic activation of these hormones can weaken the health of the immune system, gut, energy systems, and pain perception, contributing to various health problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome. chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. When the stress response is activated in excess during childhood, it becomes hyperactive and has difficulty maintaining balance in adulthood. chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. When the stress response is activated in excess during childhood, he becomes hyperactive and has difficulty maintaining his balance in adulthood. chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. When the stress response is activated in excess during childhood, it becomes hyperactive and has difficulty maintaining balance in adulthood.
According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, the most common traumatic stressors affecting children include accidents, physical trauma, abuse, neglect, and exposure to domestic and community violence. Other impactful stressors include the death of a family member, divorce, drug or alcohol abuse, and natural disasters. When encountered during childhood, these traumatic stressors precondition the neurological system and the stress response system to produce exaggerated responses to normal stimuli. Fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome are two examples of hyperactive neurological responses. Normal stimuli, such as wind blowing on the face or clothing rubbing against the skin, can produce painful sensations in people with fibromyalgia, illustrating an exaggerated response to pain. Normal stressors that trigger the neurological system to inappropriately stimulate the muscles of the intestine, leading to alternating constipation and spastic diarrhea, is a classic sign of irritable bowel syndrome. The pain response is also increased in people with irritable bowel syndrome, which causes abdominal pain.
The specific causes of conditions associated with chronic pain and fatigue, such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, are currently unknown; however, nearly two decades of research have strongly pointed to early childhood stressors as significant risk factors for initiating these conditions. While not all children who have been exposed to traumatic stressors will experience emotional and physical health calamities, research shows that children exposed to traumatic events or long-term stressors are 2.7 times more likely to experience somatic conditions functional (functionally debilitating conditions for which they are not distinguished). cause can be determined), such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome and others. Additionally, these conditions commonly exist with psychiatric conditions such as anxiety and depression. The age at which the trauma or stress is experienced, its duration, and even the type of trauma do not seem to change this alarming statistic.
Considering the increasing prevalence of functional somatic conditions, emotional and psychiatric problems, it is important to consider the influence of childhood experiences in the development of these conditions. Dwelling on past trauma is not always helpful in supporting health and healing, and can actually be counterproductive; however, understanding its influence on health is helpful in being able to properly identify elusive health conditions such as fibromyalgia. It is also important to understand the purpose of protecting future generations from the debilitating effects of childhood trauma and stressors. Finally, it serves as a good illustration of the success of a functional medicine approach,