Healthy Living

Fibromyalgia: The Mysterious Chronic Pain

Fibromyalgia: The Mysterious Chronic Pain

A loving husband wants nothing less than to make his wife, Christine Lynch, happy. To show this, he provides for her needs, compliments her, makes her feel loved and occasionally pampers her, especially if she is suffering from any form of discomfort. Christine Lynch’s partner in life is one best example of a loving husband. There was once a time when Christine’s husband surprised her with a day at the spa as a birthday treat. The beauty of the place, the sophistication of the chandeliers and furnishings, and the soothing effect of the classical music would have made the entire day perfect, if not for her fibromyalgia.

Christine’s illness prevented her from enjoying the luxury of the spa. She refrained from availing herself of the spa’s specially formulated body wash, its signature green tea, its exquisite pedicure services, foot massage, facial treatment and total body massage, and the spa’s secluded bamboo-inspired setting for lunch. She had practically missed every good thing in it. Nevertheless, Christine tolerated the formaldehyde-containing toe polishes because she wanted a remembrance for her day at the spa and the softer version of the body massage minus the whole selection of oils and creams. However, Instead of fully enjoying the special day, Christine was actually stressed because of the day-long alertness she had to keep. Worse, Christine’s body was ravaged from the ‘soft’ body massage by the next day.

Fibromyalgia: One of the most common rheumatology clinic diagnoses

Fibromyalgia is the term of Christine’s disorder. Dr. Zinovy Meyler, a doctor of osteopathic medicine in Princeton Spine and Joint Center, describes Fibromyalgia as ‘a widespread musculoskeletal pain that is usually accompanied by fatigue, memory and mood issues.' Yes! You are right to think of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis which are similar conditions. In fact, Fibromyalgia is ranked second or third, alongside the disorders mentioned above, as the most common rheumatology clinics diagnosis.

According to studies, the disease is rather common and affects two to eight percent of the population worldwide. Surprisingly, it is not a degenerative disease and is most common in the young, healthy-looking individuals, especially women like Christine.

Signs and symptoms of fibromyalgia

Symptoms of irritability, depression, and anxiety resemble common everyday illnesses and are thus neglected. Nevertheless, one has to know that these may manifest a serious condition. The four cardinal features of Fibromyalgia symptoms include pain, stiffness, fatigue, and nonrestorative sleep.

  • Fibromyalgia involves pain in the bone and muscle structures that persist in the four quadrants of the body. When pressed or touched lightly, patients may experience a sore feeling. The tender-points test tells us that when there are eleven to eighteen pain points in the body, the patient most probably suffers from the disease.
  • Fibromyalgia patients also report stiffness in the body which typically occurs after getting out of bed. This stiffness, however, is less severe than the ones experienced by patients with other rheumatic diseases as their conditions improve through exercise or simple physical movements.
  • Fatigue is another key symptom but receives less attention. The patient may start out having the normal energy level and end up lacking all energy requirement for even a simple daily task.
  • Finally, the patients suffer from disordered sleep. They have trouble falling asleep, maintaining sound sleep, or waking up feeling refreshed or energetic. Although not all of these symptoms are observable to all fibromyalgia patients, they are all quite common.

Why is fibromyalgia a mysterious disease?

Fibromyalgia has been around for a long time. However, the diagnosis was historically given to conditions that did not qualify for any known disorder. At one point, it was even considered a fictitious disease that only occurs in the patient’s mind. Studies have shown, however, that Fibromyalgia is real and serious as it affects the very life of the patient.

So, why is the disease considered a mystery? It is simply because nobody knows why people get it. Some experts say it may be a genetic disorder, but a conclusive finding is yet to put certainly to this claim and, in truth, to many other facts about the disease. This includes finding a treatment that would work for most, if not all, Fibromyalgia patients. Nowadays, experts are specifically looking into the possibility that pain in Fibromyalgia originates either from the muscles or the brain, but both still have no conclusive findings.

One study which may offer a step forward was a recent MRI investigation conducted by the Michigan Medicine of the University of Michigan. In this study, experts opted to compare the clinical diagnosis of fibromyalgia patients to chronic pelvic pain syndrome patients and pain-free control patients. In summary, it was found that both fibromyalgia and chronic pelvic pain patients had identical brain changes. Expectedly, these changes were not seen in the control group patients. Thus, the two pain-illnesses were indistinguishable regarding the severity of pain and how widespread they are. This finding is important because it can aid in the treatment process of both pelvic pain and fibromyalgia patients.

Experts continue to conduct tests and studies that would identify the underlying causes of fibromyalgia because through this the disease may be halted, and the conditions of patients may be improved. Nonetheless, Roland Staud of the University of Florida explains that there is still no decisive understanding of the disease.

How to get better? Medications and alternative treatments

Stress, trauma, and fatigue are common conditions in fibromyalgia; thus, muscle relaxants and antidepressants are some effective medications. However, some previously identified medicines, like anti-inflammatories, sleeping pills, and narcotics, do not prove to work and may even worsen your condition.

In addition to the available medications, patients themselves can do things to better their conditions. Some experts suggest that fibromyalgia is a sleep disorder, so your doctor will probably suggest improving your sleep hygiene if you have sleep apnea (sleep disorder). It is also important to lose weight if you are obese as obesity may induce muscle pain. Another suggestion is to stop smoking. Studies show that people who smoke experience more pain as there is no proper oxygen flow in the muscles. Next, exercise regularly and properly pace it. Do not exert too much as it can elevate the symptoms. Lastly, rid your mind of stress. Cognitive therapy and meditation may help tone down your anxieties.

It is important to remember that patients vary in symptoms and medication needs. That is why it is always best to see a doctor for a complete diagnosis or to enroll yourself in some treatment training programs for fibromyalgia patients.

The future of fibromyalgia patients

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain disorder whose causes and treatment remain a mystery. But the future of fibromyalgia patients remains bright! Why is this so? There are many medical advances and helpful research findings which shed light on the questions regarding the illness. To mention some, experts have started introducing anti-narcotic medicines in small doses for patients who smoke or who had history smoking and using magnetic pulses to alter the patient’s brain processing. Both were unavailable in earlier years.

Doctors, researchers, and experts alike look forward to a future wherein people have a full understanding of fibromyalgia. However, one known fact cannot be neglected, that is, patients who are mentally and physically healthy can significantly improve their conditions.