Here’s a topic people ask me about pretty frequently these days, so I thought I’d get the word out!
So many of you are going to your doctor, asking for help with SI joint issues, only to be told the problem is in your nervous system. That you have an increased sensitivity to pain.
This is absolutely something that can happen. The nervous system can change the way it functions (the scientific term for this is neuroplasticity).
Sometimes, when you’ve had an illness, injury, or trauma, the nervous system can actually become more sensitive to pain– meaning you feel more pain and sensations of discomfort, in response to small things, that the average person wouldn’t necessarily feel.
The way I like to think of it is that it’s like your brain is turning up the “volume” on your pain signals. The original signal is there– your nervous system is amplifying it.
The scientific term for this is central sensitization— meaning the central nervous system (aka brain and spinal cord) have become sensitized to pain.
Research has shown this is likely the common mechanism behind fibromyalgia, as well as many other “mysterious” conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, multiple chemical sensitivity, and complex regional pain syndrome.
Just because you have central sensitization, aka fibromyalgia, it doesn’t mean that you can’t also have SI joint dysfunction.
This is a very common misconception I see floating around.
We are really talking about two separate problems, which can exist in the same person. If anything, people are likely to develop fibromyalgia and other central sensitization symptoms after some kind of injury or trauma to the body.
You can have an SI joint that’s out of alignment , and you can also have a nervous system that’s giving you an increased sensitivity to pain.
What to do about it?
If you think you have SI joint dysfunction, and/or an SI joint that’s out of alignment, don’t let anyone tell you the problem is “just” in your nervous system.
Instead, I recommend that you continue to look for providers who will properly address and treat the SI joint.
With that being said, you can also seek out treatments for fibromyalgia/central sensitization! It doesn’t have to be either/or.
My personal experience
Something you may not know about me is that I personally developed fibromyalgia/central sensitization symptoms long before I injured my SI joints. So this is why I 100% believe they are separate problems.
For me, my nervous system changed following a series of events around age 19 or 20, including a surgery I had for a running injury on both of my lower legs.
This was actually the first experience that caused me to become interested in the health sciences/physical therapy as a career.
Central sensitization treatment
There is a specific approach to treatment for central sensitization, and it’s known as pain neurophysiology education.
This is what really helped me overcome my central sensitization symptoms when I first developed them, and I also strongly believe it’s why I was able to remain so functional during my sacroiliac joint saga.
Pain neurophysiology education is a process where you learn to work with your nervous system, rather than against it– and this can make all the difference in the world.
If you’re experiencing central sensitization/fibromyalgia, there’s absolutely so much you can do!
To learn more about how I overcame central sensitization, you can check out my other site Sunlight in Winter for more!