Fibromyalgia is a disorder which is accompanied by intense musculoskeletal pain. Patients with fibromyalgia may also experience fatigue, sleeping disorders, trouble remembering certain things and mood swings. It usually occurs after physical or psychological trauma, surgery or infection. Fibromyalgia affects more women than men.
Most people with this disorder may have tension headaches, temporomandibular joint disorders, irritable bowel syndrom, anxiety and depression. Although fibromyalgia cannot be cured, it can be treated effectively to relieve symptoms. Lifestyle changes like exercising regularly can also be helpful.
The symptoms of fibromyalgia include the following:
Widespread, constant and dull pain
Persisting pain lasting more than three months and affecting both sides of the body
Menstrual pain due to cramps will vary in severity depending on the woman. The National Fibromyalgia Association reported that women with this condition developed more painful periods compared to their healthy counterparts. In some, the pain undulated with their menstrual cycle. A higher percentage of women with fibromyalgia are above 40, and research implied that symptoms of fibromyalgia may worsen in post menopause or women going through menopause.
Menopause with fibromyalgia may increase the sensations of:
During and after menopause, less estrogen is produced influencing the release of serotonin, which drives pain and mood. Some fibromyalgia patients exhibit near-menopause symptoms which include:
Sensitivity to touch
Troubled with memory or thinking though procedures
Some women develop endometriosis where there may be growth of uterus tissues in abnormal parts of the pelvis. The bodily distress caused by endometriosis can be magnified when with fibromyalgia, and the doctor should be informed when the symptoms of fibromyalgia still persist after menopause.
Intense fibromyalgia pain
Such intense fibromyalgia pain is illustrated as pain radiating to other body parts from a muscle. A feeling of pins and needles may also be common among some people. For diagnosis to be successful, the pain must have been felt in the entire body, in both the upper and lower body. Pain can be intense on some days and absent during some days, making it hard to plan for daily activities. Generally, men experience less severe pain compared to women who ache in almost the whole body for a longer duration. This difference in pain experienced among the two genders is caused by the presence of estrogen in women, which reduces their resistance to pain.
Increased bladder pain and bowel complications
Fibromyalgia tends to worsen issues relating to CPPD, which include irritable bowel syndrome and bladder complications. Studies show that people who have both fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome are more likely to develop diseases such as internal cystitis or painful bladder syndrome. Approximately 32% of people with irritable bowel syndrome also have painful bowel syndrome. It is also estimated that about 12 to 14% of ladies have irritable bowel syndrome compared to 9% of males. Both irritable bowel syndrome and painful bowel syndrome can lead to:
Abdominal cramps in the lower quadrants
Uneasy sensation during intercourse
Pain when urinating
Increased pressure on the bladder
An increased urge to urinate
A concise link has not yet been found, but studies show that both irritable bowel syndrome and painful bowel syndrome have almost the same causes as fibromyalgia.
Increased exhaustion and depression
A published report by the Oxford University Press, found that women with fibromyalgia are more susceptible to develop depression than men, with the intensity being marginally higher.
There may also be some complications which occur alongside fibromyalgia, or are caused by fibromyalgia, leading to a deficiency in sleep. Some of the conditions include restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea. Sleeplessness can contribute to fatigue, depression and increased pain to touch. Even after getting adequate sleep during the night, you can find it rather difficult to focus your thoughts or attention.
4 Fibromyalgia in men
There is a possibility that this disorder is more prevalent in men than in women. It is less severe in men, and less pain in men is generally considered not reason enough to go for checkup. Fibromyalgia is also assumed by most general practitioners to be a ‘women only’ condition, and men might not want to be diagnosed for such syndromes. Also, men tend not to go for checkups if the pain is mild.
More recently, awareness has been raised, especially among men, and more of them are being diagnosed by doctors for fibromyalgia symptoms increasingly. Also, there are much more effective treatment plans for both genders and if accurately diagnosed, which can be a relief for sufferers.
5 When to visit a doctor
Only one examination will not be sufficient to diagnose fibromyalgia. It is advised to visit a doctor if you experience multiple symptoms of fibromyalgia, or if the symptoms proceed to become severe. The symptoms may be similar to other conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, but in contrast with rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation is not a symptom of fibromyalgia. The doctor may have to recommend for more physical examination tests to eliminate other conditions if there are not any conclusive results to arrive at a diagnosis.
6 Fibromyalgia trigger points
Trigger or tender points are specific parts surrounding a joint that are painful when pressed or touched. These parts are normally below the skin surface and not as deep as they are thought to be.
Size of trigger points
Trigger points are rather small and are almost the size of a penny. These areas have a heightened sensitivity to touch compared to neighboring areas, and can even cause a jerking reflex when touched. Mostly, trigger points are located at joints such as the elbow or knee joint.
Causes of trigger points
The exact cause of trigger points is unknown. Researchers had linked it to inflammation of these areas, but upon examination there was no sign of inflamed tissue. What has been discovered is that these tender points do not occur at random patterns within the body parts and can be foreseen. This also shows that people with fibromyalgia may also experience symptoms which are similar to tender points.
Can trigger points be used in the diagnosis of fibromyalgia?
When diagnosing fibromyalgia, your doctor will compare the results obtained in trigger points and compare them to non-trigger points to ascertain that you are not suffering in these points as well. It is also important to tell the doctor of the precise pain and symptoms of fibromyalgia which you experience. They may include:
Although the exact cause of fibromyalgia remains unknown, doctors believe it may be caused by the following factors:
Genetic factors since it tends to run in families
Physical or psychological trauma
Many researchers believe that fibromyalgia is caused by the repeated stimulation of the brain. This leads to an increase in chemical in the brain that help in sending pain signals. This causes the patient to be more sensitive to pain.
8 Diagnosing fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia can be diagnosed if a person experiences widespread pain for more than three months without an underlying condition that would cause pain.
Blood tests can also be carried it to check for other diseases.
9 How to cope with fibromyalgia
About five million people currently living in the US are presumed to suffer from fibromyalgia symptoms. There is no medication for the disease, but only ways of controlling symptoms. Knowing how to cope with fibromyalgia symptoms by exercising and a change of lifestyle improves sleep, moods, and is also a great relief from pain. People with fibromyalgia can take care of affected elderly persons and also put aside some time for their own upkeep. Chronic fibromyalgia is hard to manage since its complications include; tender points, chronic fatigue, persistent pain and extreme muscle tension. Learning about the symptoms and seeking the latest information about treatment and other lifestyle habits can help level the effects of fibromyalgia. Be interested in knowing how to modify several treatment plans to suit your daily routine.
The following are effective methods used to adapt living with fibromyalgia:
Having regular exercise
The arthritis foundation stated that exercise is essential in comforting the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Pain, tender points, unending exhaustion and extreme muscle tension experienced by people with fibromyalgia has rendered most of them unfit in an attempt to avoid the discomfort. Mild aerobic exercises like swimming and cycling tend to keep the body fit as well as have an antidepressant and analgesic effect. Aerobic exercises can boost your general health and put you in control of your situation.
Improve communication techniques
Enhancing your communication abilities will aid in decreasing friction you may develop between your friends and family or work mates. This can come in handy especially when you have unending pain, anger or stress which becomes an obstacle to effective communication. If it becomes difficult to cope, psychological counselling can help to come up with efficient communication strategies to deal with your disease.
Keep a daily record of activities
A record of your daily activities can come in handy some time later in identifying when the symptoms of fibromyalgia commenced. A detailed series of events can identify the circumstances under which the symptoms developed. If you track your management strategies, you can later study them and come up with an effective treatment plan and relate some of the symptoms with some actions. For example, you might notice that when you get less sleep you get aggravated fibromyalgia pain. This can help you to avoid some lifestyle practices which worsen your symptoms.
Evading emotionally stressful states
Instead of viewing every challenging situation on your path as a colossal problem which cannot be overcome, teach yourself to perceive them as inconvenient but tolerable problems since such conditions are unavoidable. You will come to discover that you can gain more control of your life even in troublesome situations.
Avoid mental and physical stress
Stress has been linked to initiating some of the symptoms of fibromyalgia. It is also common to find that fibromyalgia patients suffer more restlessness, agitation and fear around the time when symptoms shoot above normal. Reduced stress allows for more restful nights and calmness, increasing patients' health and value of life.
Learn to say ‘no’
Failure to learn to say 'no' will cause you to overload on demands and promises expected from you. Willing to help everybody is congratulated, but it may also be the obstacle to your healing, piling unending stress to already uncomfortably high levels of stress. Take a firm stand when saying 'no' after thinking through the situation, consulting with family, checking your calendar and considering all options before giving your answer.
Soak in a warm bath regularly
Soaking in a warm bath or sauna will serve two purposes; First, it helps to calm and relax muscles tension, ease pain and make you move more easily. Secondly, research shows that warm, moist heat raises endorphins and decreases the level of stress hormones. And, additional advantage found by sleep specialists is that warm baths can cause sleep to be more restful.
Make job site modifications
You will need to adjust most of your time and activities at work to make the most out of it, but above all, avoid stressful encounters. If possible, set more time to complete all your duties, maybe by coming in early and leaving late. Whatever decisions you arrive to, do not postpone or delay any task. Allocate enough time to allow accomplishment of all that’s going on. Also remember to get enough rest after and before work.
10 Fibromyalgia treatment
Treatment for fibromyalgia largely consists of administering medications that relieve pain. Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) and naproxen sodium (Aleve) can be very effective.
Other drugs that can help relieve pain and fatigue are antidepressants like duloxetine (Cymbalta) and milnacipran (Savella) and anti-seizure drugs like Gabapentin (Neurontin, Gralise).
11 Home remedies for fibromyalgia
There are several alternative remedies that help to relieve pain and stress associated with fibromyalgia. They include:
Acupuncture is a Chinese medical method in which needles are inserted into the skin at different depths. The needles cause changes in the blood flow and levels of neurotransmitters in the central nervous system.
Massage therapy can help to reduce the heart rate, relax muscles, improve the range of motion in the joints and increase the levels of natural painkillers (endorphins).
Yoga and tai chi can also alleviate fibromyalgia symptoms.
12 Fibromyalgia diet
Up to now, there is no specific diet plan which best suits people with fibromyalgia. However, there have been some reports of people who seemed to recover after dropping or taking in certain foods.
Nevertheless, it is best to always take a well-balanced diet and eat healthy. A healthy diet keeps the body in good condition with enough energy. Unhealthy eating may aggravate symptoms.
Dietary considerations that can be made include:
Taking plenty of fruits and vegetables
Minimizing on sugar
Having more plant based meals
Keeping a healthy body mass
Keep track of the foods you eat, eliminating those which worsen symptoms regularly. Show your findings to a doctor and the two of you will find a diet which best suits you. It is vital to remember that there is still no definite diet yet that works for all people with fibromyalgia and what works for you may not necessarily work for another person.
Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables helps keep any diet healthy and balanced, and this is especially important for people with fibromyalgia. People with fibromyalgia experience pain regularly, and keeping the body healthy will help reduce that pain.
People with fibromyalgia should stay away from sugar as much as possible. Added sugar isn't good for anyone, but it is certainly not good for people with fibromyalgia. Added sugar has a lot of negative effects on the brain and body, including weight gain. Extra weight makes fibromyalgia symptoms worse.
Being overweight can put extra stress and pressure on anyone's body, but people with fibromyalgia will feel the negative effects of extra weight even more as it will increase their body aches.
13 Fibromyalgia cure
Since the cause of fibromyalgia has not been discovered, there is no effective cure for the condition other than managing its symptoms. Work hand-in-hand with your doctor to come up with a treatment plan which may include changing lifestyle and medication, or a combination of both. It is vital to find other non-medical methods to avoid worsening the symptoms like using a lukewarm shower. The ways in which you manage your symptoms may need to change as time progresses.
14 Risks and complications
Women are at a higher risk of developing fibromyalgia as compared to men. Certain diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus can increase the risk of having this disorder. One more risk factor is having a family history of fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia can be annoying and uncomfortable, especially since the pain can affect a person's day-to-day activities. Some people may become depressed because of this condition.
15 Fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia may present in a similar manner, but there are clear-cut differences telling apart the two conditions.
Inflamed joints is the main symptom of rheumatoid arthritis, but is absent in fibromyalgia. Rheumatoid arthritis causes damage to the joint, evidenced by the presence of an inflammation, which is entirely absent in fibromyalgia
Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis tend to worsen and become more severe as the joints become more damaged. Fibromyalgia does not progress since it does not cause damage and the instances of pain are similar to the last instances that occurred.
Finally, a person riddled with rheumatoid arthritis will have pain in one part of the body followed by another. For instance, if the left leg hurts, the right will follow. This is due to an unusual immune reaction which results in inflammation. Pain in fibromyalgia is evenly spread around the body, but is not caused by an immune response.
16 Difference between fibromyalgia and lupus
Just like autoimmune arthritis, lupus may be confused for fibromyalgia if there is pain, fatigue and antinuclear factors detected in blood.
Lupus and fibromyalgia are not the same and can be told apart if there is a rash or if lupus nephritis disease is present. Sleeplessness, exhaustion and inadequate concentration is the major cause of pain due to fibromyalgia.
Treatment of lupus and fibromyalgia is also not similar. Fibromyalgia is treated using drugs that counteract depression and relieve nerve pain plus musculoskeletal relaxers, while lupus is treated by pathologic medication.
The most explicit difference between the two conditions is that lupus majorly affects internal organs and can be hazardous to life with constant pain, however, rheumatoid arthritis is not much of a threat and joint pain is usually severe in the morning but lessens as the day progresses.
17 Other conditions misdiagnosed for fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia shares many symptoms, such as pain and fatigue, with many other conditions, making diagnosis a difficult task since it also has no definite confirmatory medical test. Some people may also have underlying conditions which coexist with fibromyalgia and mask it. Several tests must be done to rule out some of these conditions.
There are currently no diagnostic tests which can confirm the presence of fibromyalgia. It can’t be shown in blood tests or x-ray scans. The only used method is to know how it affects the brain and the spinal cord in remitting pain signals.
Diagnosis is made entirely dependent on the symptoms. In the American College of Fibromyalgia, one criteria is radiating pain for at least three months on both sides of the body, both above and below the waist.
X-rays of painful areas cannot be depended upon to confirm fibromyalgia since they may show no abnormalities. If there are abnormalities, they may not be necessarily due to fibromyalgia and can indicate another underlying condition such as arthritis.
Be open to the doctor and talk widely on overall diagnostic results. Ask for explanations for the findings from both physical tests, x-rays and the laboratory tests. This will help to know your condition and its treatment options.
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