Fibromyalgia syndrome poses unique challenges for seniors; in fact, the diagnosis of fibromyalgia in seniors is different than that of younger patients. Also, seniors experience different degrees of fibromyalgia symptoms than do individuals under the age of 60 who also have fibromyalgia. As such, fibromyalgia treatments for seniors must be tailored to meet the unique needs and requirements of senior health.
Fibromyalgia Diagnosis in Seniors
A recent study found that the average age at which an individual is diagnosed with fibromyalgia is 45. While the diagnosis of fibromyalgia in older patients (over the age of 60) is not believed to be common, more research needs to be conducted with regard to this subject.
One troubling finding is that fibromyalgia syndrome in seniors is often misdiagnosed. In fact, a study that compared 31 participants in which the onset of fibromyalgia occurred after 60 years of age to 63 participants in which the onset of fibromyalgia syndrome occurred prior to 60 years of age, found that 40% of participants belonging to the former group had been misdiagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis or polymyalgia rheumatica. These individuals had all undergone a minimum of one course of oral steroids as required treatment.
Fibromyalgia Symptoms in Elderly Patients
Compared to patients under the age of 60, seniors with fibromyalgia syndrome experience unique symptoms. While younger fibromyalgia patients cite pain as the most severe of their fibromyalgia symptoms, seniors are most affected by fatigue, soft tissue swelling, as well as fibromyalgia-related depression.
In addition, the above study found that while participants over the age of 60 experienced similar symptoms of fibromyalgia as participants under the age of 60, the former group were more likely to complain of headaches, anxiety, tension and symptoms aggravated by external factors, such as physical activity (i.e. fatigue).
Fibromyalgia Treatment in Seniors
Low impact exercises can be a beneficial form of treatment for fibromyalgia syndrome in elderly patients. In addition to medicated care, these alternative types of fibromyalgia treatment can help to minimize fibromyalgia symptoms while improving overall health and quality of life:
- tai chi: this low impact form of exercise seeks to restore the connection between the body and the earth. Some of its benefits include improved blood and energy circulation, the strengthening of the muscles of the pelvis and increased flexibility in the hip region. It can also help to reduce pain, fatigue, depression and anxiety.
- Qi gong: an ancient Chinese practice that combines exercise and meditation which aims to improve immune system health and promote the bodily flow of energy. Other benefits of Qi gong include improved muscle flexibility, improved skeletal alignment, and the strengthening of deep muscles, tendons and ligaments.
- meditation: meditation seeks to restore the naturally harmonious connection between mind and body through a state of mindfulness and through the practice of correct breathing. Some of the benefits of this alternative form of therapy include improved relaxation and memory. Meditation can also minimize fibromyalgia symptoms such as depression, pain and anxiety.
Always be sure to consult your doctor before beginning any form of fibromyalgia treatment.