What is fibromyalgia?
A chronic illness characterized by immense physical pain and debilitating fatigue, fibromyalgia means “pain in the muscles and fibers.” Fibromyalgia has many different symptoms associated with it. However, not all symptoms are present in every person with fibromyalgia. This syndrome can affect all parts of the body.
How common is fibromyalgia?
It is thought that fibromyalgia affects about 5% of the population, with the majority of sufferers being female. Approximately 20% of those diagnosed with fibromyalgia are men. Children may also be affected with fibromyalgia syndrome. Diagnosis typically occurs between the ages of 20 and 55, though people younger or older may also be diagnosed.
What causes fibromyalgia?
The exact reason why fibromyalgia occurs is unknown. However, a few theories have been proposed including the possibility that an injury or trauma affecting the central nervous system, an infectious agent, sleep disorders, immune system abnormalities, an autonomic nervous system dysfunction or a genetic disposition may trigger the syndrome.
What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?
There is a long list of symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. Some people with fibromyalgia may experience all of them while others may only have to deal with a few. Fibromyalgia Symptoms may also be aggravated by other factors, such as stress and the weather. Some of the common fibromyalgia symptoms include: fatigue, widespread pain; sleep disorders; myofascial pain; fibrofog; and chronic headaches.
Is fibromyalgia the same as chronic fatigue syndrome?
While fatigue is a symptom of fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a different disorder. Unfortunately, symptoms of CFS are often quite similar to fibromyalgia and, as a result, many fibromyalgia patients are mistakenly diagnosed with CFS. However, CFS and fibromyalgia do seem to be closely linked, with as much as 30% of people with fibromyalgia also suffering from CFS.
How is fibromyalgia diagnosed?
It is not easy to diagnose fibromyalgia mainly because symptoms of the syndrome are similar to those of other disorders. Even diagnostic testing is not helpful since laboratory tests and x-rays almost always come back normal. In general, fibromyalgia is diagnosed only after other diseases and disorders are eliminated. Additionally, a person with fibromyalgia will need to have experienced pain for 3 or more months and have at least 11 tender points.
What are tender points?
Tender points are areas that cause pain but do not display the typical signs of discomfort, such as heat, redness, or swelling. In order for a tender point to be deemed “positive,” you will need to experience pain when the point is pressed on with a finger or medical device equivalent to 4kg of pressure.
What type of medical treatments are available?
Numerous types of treatment are available to help with fibromyalgia relief. Although fibromyalgia treatment won’t cure the syndrome, it will offer respite from your symptoms. Typically, a variety of fibromyalgia treatments are used for the best results and may include physiotherapy, trigger point injections, nerve blocks, brain mapping, and occupation therapy.
Should I use medication?
While there are many different types of medications available to those with fibromyalgia, not everyone feels equally comfortable using them. The decision to use over-the-counter and prescription drugs is an entirely personal one and should only be made after careful consideration and thorough discussion with your prescribing doctor. Some of the medications that may be used include opioids, muscle relaxants, sleeping pills, and anti-depressants.
What kind of natural treatments are available?
Many people with fibromyalgia have found effective relief from their symptoms through the use of natural, at-home, and alternative treatments. These treatments can be used on their own or in combination with medical therapies. In some cases, though, it is a good idea to first speak with your prescribing doctor to ensure that your alternative remedy, such as herbs, won’t affect your medical one. Common alternative and self-care treatments include acupuncture, light therapy, meditation, dietary changes, exercise, and osteopathy.