Fibromyalgia is a medical disorder that is characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain. This pain is usually accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Experts believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals.
Fibromyalgia is a long-term or chronic disorder that is associated with widespread pain in the muscles and bones, areas of tenderness, and general weakness.
Symptoms can’t be determined or measured by tests, because its symptoms are subjective and there isn’t a clear known cause. Fibromyalgia is often misdiagnosed as another disease.
However, Researchers are closer to understanding fibromyalgia, and doctors are now finding that lifestyle changes may be better than medication in treating and managing this condition.
Fast Facts On Fibromyalgia
Here are some key points about fibromyalgia:
- Fibromyalgia causes widespread pain, weakness, and other types of distress.
- Symptoms are similar to those of arthritis, but fibromyalgia affects the soft tissues of the skeletal system, not the joints.
- The cause of fibromyalgia is not known, but risk factors include traumatic injury, rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune disorders.
- There is no cure, but medications, exercise, acupuncture, and behavioral therapy can help relieve symptoms.
- More than 5 million Americans, who are over the age of 18 years, have been diagnosed with the condition.
- Between 80 and 90 percent of people diagnosed with Fibromyalgia are female (women).
- Men and children can also be diagnosed with the disorder, and most people are diagnosed during middle age.
- Fibromyalgia is chronic, and most people suffering from this condition will experience their symptoms for the rest of their lives.
- Some lucky people may experience periods in which their pain and fatigue aren’t so bad.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Symptoms usually manifest after a physical trauma, surgery, infection or significant psychological stress. Symptoms may also gradually accumulate over time with no single triggering event.
Fibromyalgia is often associated with areas of tenderness, which are called trigger points (places on your body where even light pressure can cause pain).
Today, Doctors use a combination of other consistent symptoms, and possibly some medical tests, to help them determine the cause of the condition.
The pain caused by these trigger points can be a consistent ache that may affect many areas of your body, and if you were to experience this pain for at least 90 days, doctors may consider this a symptom of fibromyalgia.
Common symptoms include:
- widespread pain
- jaw pain
- jaw stiffness
- pain and tiredness in the face muscles
- stiff joints and muscles, especially in the morning
- irregular sleep patterns
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- painful menstrual periods
- tingling and lack of feeling in the hands and feet
- restless leg syndrome (RLS)
- more sensitivity to cold or heat
- difficulties with memory and concentration (fibro-fog)
You may also experience the following:
- problems with vision
- pelvic and urinary problems
- weight gain
- cold or flu-like symptoms
- skin problems
- chest symptoms
- breathing problems
Symptoms can appear at any time during a person’s life, but they are most commonly reported around 45 years of age.
Causes of Fibromyalgia
Doctors and health experts don’t know what causes fibromyalgia, but it most likely involves a variety of factors working together.
It appears fibromyalgia tends to run in families, and there may be certain genetic mutations that may make you more susceptible to developing the disorder.
Some illnesses or infections appear to trigger or aggravate fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia can sometimes be triggered by physical trauma, such as a car accident or physical bodily injuries.
Stress or Emotional Trauma
Psychological stress may also trigger the condition by creating a long-reaching effect your body deals with for months and years. Stress has been found to have a link to hormonal disturbances that could contribute to fibromyalgia.
Risk factors for fibromyalgia include:
- Your sex: Fibromyalgia is diagnosed more often in women than in men.
- Family history: you may be more likely to develop fibromyalgia if a family member, like a relative, also has the condition.
- Other medical disorders: If you have osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis etc, you may be more likely to suffer from fibromyalgia.
Unfortunately, the pain and lack of sleep associated with fibromyalgia can interfere with your ability to function at home or on the job, and the frustration of dealing with an often-misunderstood condition also can result in depression and health-related psychological stress.
There are about 18 known trigger points, and doctors would normally check to see how many of these points were painful by pressing firmly on them, during diagnoses.
Common trigger points include back of the head, tops of shoulders, upper chest, hips, knees, outer elbows, etc…
Treatment of Fibromyalgia
The goal of fibromyalgia treatment is to manage pain and improve quality of life, and this is often accomplished through a two-pronged approach of self-care and medication.
Common medications for fibromyalgia include:
Your medical doctor may recommend over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol). Prescription versions, such as tramadol (Ultram), maybe be used in extreme cases, as they’re used sparingly to reduce the risk of side effects and dependence.
Antidepressants, such as duloxetine (Cymbalta) and milnacipran (Savella), are sometimes used to help treat anxiety or depression associated with fibromyalgia and to also help improve sleep quality.
Drugs such as Gabapentin (Neurontin) was originally designed to treat epilepsy, may help reduce symptoms in people with fibromyalgia. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also approved pregabalin (Lyrica) for the treatment of the condition.
Natural And Alternative Treatments For Fibromyalgia may include the following:
- exercise program
- physical therapy
- behavior modification therapy
- chiropractic care
- Low-dose anti-depressants as mentioned already.
You should also keep the following dietary strategies in mind:
- Eat various fruits and vegetables.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Eat more plants than meat, and reduce your intake of sugar.
- Get regular and proper exercise as best as you can, and lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.
As far as fibromyalgia awareness is concerned, there isn’t a cure for fibromyalgia, and treatment mostly focuses on reducing the symptoms of the condition and improving your quality of life. You can improve your quality of life through the use of medications, self-care strategies, and lifestyle changes.