Everything you need to know about fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a name given to a group of common symptoms that affect one’s bones and muscles. Muscular aches and pains all over the body characterize it. While the cause is not known, research suggests an overactive pain system causes the body to become especially sensitive to pain. Given that the cause is not known, fibromyalgia is prone to misdiagnosis and is often misunderstood.
Despite no cure being known, fibromyalgia sufferers can still live a relatively normal life with a steady routine of exercise, stress management and healthy lifestyle.
What are the causes of fibromyalgia?
Though doctors aren’t sure about the exact cause, many suspect the problem is due to how the spinal cord and brain perceive or process nerve signals.
The following factors may contribute to fibromyalgia:
- Being a woman (statistics show more woman than men experience fibromyalgia syndrome)
- You’ve got depression, anxiety or similar mood disorders
- A family history of fibromyalgia
- You’ve got another painful condition like arthritis
- You don’t exercise much
- You were abused emotionally, physically or suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder
What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?
To keep it simple – your body aches, everywhere! More specifically, common symptoms may include:
- Extreme fatigue
- Feeling depressed, anxious or nervous
- Tender points and reduce pain threshold
- Lack of sleep or insomnia
- “Fibro fog” or inability to concentrate or remember
- Muscle tightness, pain, twitching or burning
Other possible symptoms may include (these symptoms are of a more general nature however fit the fibromyalgia syndrome criteria):
- Diarrhea (IBS)
- Bellyache or pain
- Dry nose, mouth and eyes
- Tingling or numbness in your extremities
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on the management of fibromyalgia, comments there are treatments available that have clinical benefits (in addressing symptoms, not the cause, which is still unknown). These include a program emphasizing education, some medications, exercise, cognitive therapy, or a combination of all 4.
This study also reports that between 10-12% of the population report chronic musculoskeletal pains that cannot be traced to one inflammatory or structural cause. These pains most likely fit the fibromyalgia syndrome criteria.
What does a fibromyalgia diagnosis involve?
Your physician will question you about your medical issues and that of your family. He or should would also examine you physically.
There are no diagnostics tests for fibromyalgia. Since the symptoms are similar to other conditions, doctors would want to rule out possibilities like hypothyroidism, lupus, arthritis or its types, etc. X-rays and blood tests may be performed to check inflammation levels.
When doctors don’t see any other reason for your health complaint, they use a two-step scoring system to determine your symptoms and overall pain, along with how much they affect you (your quality of life). Using the results they will come up with a way to manage your symptoms.
What are the treatment options for fibromyalgia?
Based on the symptoms, antidepressants, painkillers, muscle relaxers and medicines may provide some relief.
The three commonly suggested drugs for fibromyalgia pain include:
- Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
- Pregabalin (Lyrica)
- Milnacipran (Savella)
Common painkillers may help, though stronger medicines such as opioids may lead to other problems such as addiction and overdose.
Consistent and moderate activity is the key to managing fibromyalgia. Also, low-impact exercises that improve strength and endurance like Tai Chi, yoga, walking or Pilates recommended.
You could try complementary therapies, like chiropractic manipulation, massage or even acupuncture to curb aches, stress and pains. These manual therapies aim to keep your body balanced and free from excess stress and pressure.
Hopefully this article has shed some light on the painful fibromyalgia syndrome. Despite no known cause, treatment options are available to help reduce symptoms. Given that between 10-12% of those people who experience musculoskeletal pains fit the fibromyalgia syndrome criteria, more research is needed to identify the cause and therefore the cure.