"Fight or Flight Theory" Re: FMS Pain

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by Rockismom, Apr 13, 2009.

  1. Rockismom

    Rockismom New Member

    Will someone please explain the "Fight or Flight Theory" when it comes to FMS pain
    and symptoms and how "they" came about this theory?

    I'm asking because although I feel the usual Fibromyalgia "flu like pain" symptoms on good days and I experience the "run over by a Mac Truck" symptoms on bad days, but I also have had a fractured hip; fractured it on Saturday and went back to work the following Wednesday (after being told by my doctor to "take it easy" for the next few weeks because there was little that could be done.) Also, I took a very nasty fall from my horse and finally went to the doctor after a week because my back "still hurt". My doctor was surprised when he got the MRI results - I had a fractured vertebrae!

    How can I be such "a tough cookie" when it comes to pain from bone fractures and then get physically ill and fatigued when it comes to this over-all flu like pain?

  2. sleepyinlalaland

    sleepyinlalaland New Member

    I can't answer why you feel such general diffuse over-all pain and yet are able to "tough out" more acute pains. I know that in polls on this board in the past, many would state that they actually had a HIGH tolerance for pain! I think one theory was that we are so used to having to function through relentless pain of varying sorts, that having an ACTUAL physical injury was like not such a big deal....maybe even a RELIEF to have something concrete to be responsible.

    As far as the theory of "fight or flight" I think of it mainly as bottled up stress that cannot be acted on and the result is increased physical stress. According to rheumatologist David Dryland it is an assault on the body by stress hormoes produced by the adrenal gland....and if one lives with chronic stress, one can eventually become depleted or rather chemically deranged by improper balance of hormones. Below is a bit of his explanation:


    ..... fibro is caused by an imbalance in the autonomic nervous system, which manages the primitive "fight or flight" reflex. People suffering from fibro seem to lack adequate dopamine, a chemical that transmits signals between nerve cells. Dopamine also functions as an inhibitor, helping the brain filter out extraneous information, allowing us to focus on what's really important. When dopamine levels fall too low, people feel everything more intensely.

    Dopamine can be depleted by too much adrenaline, the chemical associated with the fight-or-flight survival mechanism. Unfortunately, many people live such stressful lives that their adrenaline levels remain unnaturally high much of the time, which depletes their dopamine.
    "The brain has lots and lots of ways to think it needs to produce adrenaline," he says.
    Dryland says restoring dopamine is the key to recovering from fibro. He recommends patients get plenty of sleep, reduce stress in their lives, eat well, and get plenty exercise. Those measures sound almost childishly simple, but they're easier said than done when someone is struggling with an illness that makes it difficult to sleep at all, let alone get ample sleep, and exercise seems out of the question when a walk to the mailbox may be exhausting.

    Note: I recently heard Dryland on a radio program speaking about fibro and I have new respect for him. I used to dismiss him because he does claim to have "had" fibro, and to have CURED it. Automatic turn-off for me. But I will give him a pass on this and think it may be possible that he had a "pre-fibro" or "fibro-like" state while undergoing the rigors of residency, and that he managed to get symptoms under control early. Why I have renewed respect for him is that, his theory makes sense to me and he does seem to recognize the sometimes impossible challenge of long-term sufferers being able to turn it around. From his interview, I did not get that he really thinks he can CURE the typical FMer, but that he may be able to work with individual patients and reach plans that may HELP.

  3. satchya

    satchya New Member

    Sleepyinlalaland, I like your theory about the relief associated with having an obvious, concrete injury. When I had a really bad sinus infection last month I went to a Minute Clinic and the nurse took a look at my ears, throat, nose, etc., and said, "Oh my God, you must be miserable, poor thing." I was almost in tears right there in the office because someone could SEE where and why I hurt. I even saved the print out they gave me with their findings to keep at home. How sick is that? I was so excited to have PROOF that my ear drums were red and swollen, my glands were swollen, etc., etc.

    I've gotten so sick and tired of receiving lab results that say everything is fine.

    Also about the high pain threshold idea, I have given birth naturally with no pain killers at all, and I hurt like hell but I DID it, and felt fine and flooded with feel-good endorphins as soon as it was over. That pain was constructive, explainable, and productive. My fibro pain, on the other hand, feels like a little Monster hanging from my neck and shoulders by its claws, following me around the house, being dragged behind me to the grocery store, poking me in bed when I've finally fallen asleep. It's maddening.
  4. shari1677

    shari1677 New Member

    This "fight or flight theory", this is also true of child abuse, is it not?
  5. AuntTammie

    AuntTammie New Member

    there is a difference between pain threshold and pain tolerance and a lot of people confuse the two......pain threshold is the level of sensation it takes for someone to feel pain (for someone with FM, that is generally extremely low - sometimes things that wouldn't even feel uncomfortable, let alone painful for others, feel very painful for us)....pain tolerance, on the other hand, is how much pain one can take (for someone with FM, that is often very high, probably bc we so constantly feel pain, we get somewhat used to dealing with it, and consequently can put up with a lot more pain than the average person who does not have FM)

    I actually also wonder if some of us had a high level of pain tolerance before getting FM and consequently pushed through a lot that would have stopped others, and as a result possibly contributed to getting sick (or sicker) than we would have if we had listened to our bodies when we felt pain (and fatigue) and slowed down
    [This Message was Edited on 04/13/2009]
  6. Rockismom

    Rockismom New Member

    Thank you for your input. Great responses everyone! All which gives me food for thought.