What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a syndrome that causes pain on both sides of your body, as well as the upper half and lower half of your body. Areas called “tender points” may be especially painful when pressure is put on them. Common tender points are the back of the head, the elbows, the shoulders, the knees, the hip joints and around the neck.
Fibromyalgia affects about 6 million people in the United States. It is most common among people between 35 and 60 years of age. Women are more likely than men to have fibromyalgia. This syndrome might be hereditary (which means it runs in families). You may have family members with similar symptoms.
Fibromyalgia is real
Fibromyalgia is a condition that is often misunderstood. But your symptoms aren’t “all in your head.” Scientific research has shown that fibromyalgia is a real syndrome that causes real pain. Don’t let anyone discourage you from getting a diagnosis and treatment for your symptoms.
What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?
Symptoms of fibromyalgia can include the following:
Increased sensitivity to pain; A deep ache or a burning pain that gets worse because of activity, stress, weather changes or other factors; Muscle stiffness or spasms; Pain that moves around your body; Feelings of numbness or tingling in your hands, arms or legs; Feeling very tired or fatigued (out of energy), even when you get enough sleep; Trouble sleeping.
People who have fibromyalgia often also have one or more of the following: Anxiety; Depression; Irritable bowel syndrome; Restless legs syndrome; Increased sensitivity to odors, bright lights, loud noises or medicines; Headaches, migraines or jaw pain; Dry eyes or mouth; Dizziness and problems with balance; Problems with memory or concentration (sometimes called the “fibro fog”); For women, painful menstrual periods.
Why do I feel depressed?
Depression or anxiety may occur as a result of your constant pain and fatigue, or the frustration you feel with the condition. It is also possible that the same chemical imbalances in the brain that cause mood changes also contribute to fibromyalgia.
Does fibromyalgia cause permanent damage?
No. Although fibromyalgia causes symptoms that can be very painful and uncomfortable, your muscles and organs are not being damaged. This condition is not life-threatening, but it is chronic (ongoing). Although there is no cure, there are many things you can do to feel better.
Diagnosis & Tests
How will my doctor diagnose fibromyalgia?
At your appointment, your doctor will ask about your personal and family medical histories. Be sure to tell your doctor whether any members of your immediate family have ever had similar symptoms or have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Your doctor will also need to know what medicines, vitamins or supplements you are taking.
He or she will ask about your symptoms and how long you have had them. It’s very important to give your doctor a clear, detailed description of your symptoms. Before going to your appointment, write down a complete list of the problems you’ve been having. Be sure to describe exactly what type of pain you have (for example, whether the pain is dull or sharp) and where you have been feeling pain. Tell your doctor whether your pain comes and goes, and what makes you feel better or worse.
If you have had any trouble sleeping or fatigue, tell your doctor how long you have had this problem. Your doctor may ask whether you have been feeling anxious or depressed since your symptoms began.
Your doctor will also perform a physical exam. This may include applying pressure to the tender points on your body. Your doctor may run tests (for example, blood tests) to be sure you don’t have one of the other conditions that have symptoms similar to fibromyalgia. Your doctor will also want to be sure that there isn’t anything else causing your pain.
Your physician will use the Widespread Pain Index (WPI) and Symptom Severity Scale (SS). Please see the following: http://rheuminfo.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/FIBROMYALGIA-CRITERIA-2010.pdf
Is it hard to diagnose fibromyalgia?
Unfortunately, it can take years for some people who have fibromyalgia to get a correct diagnosis. This can happen for many reasons. The main symptoms of fibromyalgia are pain and fatigue. These are also common symptoms of many other health problems, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, hypothyroidism and arthritis. Currently, there is no laboratory test or X-ray that can diagnose fibromyalgia.
It may take some time for your doctor to understand all of your symptoms and rule out other health problems so he or she can make an accurate diagnosis. As part of this process, your family doctor may consult with a rheumatologist (a doctor who specializes in pain in the joints and soft tissue).
I’ve been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. What should I do now?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition. This means that it affects you over a long period of time – possibly your entire life. There will be times when your fibromyalgia may “flare up” and your symptoms will be worse. Other times you will feel much better. The good news is that your symptoms can be managed.
It’s important to have a health care team that understands fibromyalgia and has experience treating it. Your team will probably include your family doctor, a rheumatologist, and a physical therapist. Other health care professionals may help you manage other symptoms, such as mood or sleep problems. However, the most important member of your health care team is you. The more active you are in your care, the better you will feel.
Prescribed exercise therapy for fibromyalgia should be started at a mild to moderate intensity and be increased gradually to avoid exacerbating symptoms. Patients should be counseled that the benefits of exercise outweigh the risk of a temporary increase in pain. There is good evidence that aerobic exercise improves well-being and physical function, may improve pain and pressure thresholds, and is superior to resistance training for pain reduction in fibromyalgia. Aquatic physical therapy enhances quality of life, reduces stiffness, and improves physical function as measured by a 6 minutes walk test.
Education, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and exercise are well-studied and effective forms of management. Patients should be informed that meaningful, sustainable improvement in function can be obtained with self-management strategies. Integrative medicine treatments have less evidence but can play a role in fibromyalgia treatment.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact OM MediSpa today.