Fibromyalgia and Trigger Points
Fibromyalgia is a serious chronic illnesses that has specific criteria for diagnosis, but may be overlooked because blood tests are usually normal. Also, the difference between fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome is blurred, with up to 70 percent of patients meeting the diagnosis for both. Routine lab tests do not detect the widespread pain of fibromyalgia. Instead, the diagnosis is made by a physical exam of pressure points located on specific places of the body. When light pressure is applied to the surface of the muscles among these specific points, patients with fibromyalgia find this painful, especially at the specific tender point areas used for diagnosis.
Criteria for Diagnosis
A. Widespread pain in all four quadrants of the body for a minimum of three months.
B. At least 11 of the 18 specified tender points are identified.
The 18 sites used for the fibromyalgia diagnosis cluster around the neck, shoulder, chest, hip, knee, and elbow regions. While many chronic pain syndromes mimic certain aspects of fibromyalgia, the 1990 American College of Rheumatology criteria identifies patients with an 88 percent accuracy. This is just as accurate as blood tests for other medical conditions, so you and your health care provider should not view fibromyalgia as a “bogus” diagnosis.
Tender Points vs. Trigger Points
What is the difference between tender points and trigger points, and how will it affect your treatment? For starters, 90 percent of the 18 predetermined tender points are actually myofascial trigger points. Trigger points are firm nodules that you can often feel in your tight, rope-like muscles. Pressing on a trigger point hurts in the area and also shoots pain to other regions, while pressing on a tender point is believed to only cause discomfort to the local area. The finding that most of your tender points are actually trigger points is positive because it widens your treatment options. There are therapies for relieving the painful knots in the muscles where the trigger points are located, and research shows that relieving the pain of just one trigger point can have a huge impact on reducing your widespread pain. One of the more popular approaches is therapeutic massage, which involves working out the trigger points to try to get the muscles to relax.
Fibromyalgia and Stress
The significant connections between fibromyalgia and stress have been well established. While the exact relationship is not fully understood, the research has made it very clear that stress influences fibromyalgia in a number of different ways. However, when fibromyalgia patients learn to relax and manage stress they can expect to see immediate and long-lasting benefits.
Stress and Fibromyalgia Susceptibility
Researchers believe that stress can play a key role in patients’ susceptibility to fibromyalgia. In fact, many fibromyalgia patients have a history of chronic stress. Additionally, a high number of fibromyalgia patients are traditionally young women who have “Type A” personalities and who lead ambitious, busy, stressful lives. Men with fibromyalgia often have worked in jobs that have resulted in physical job-related stress.
The Role of Stress in the Onset of Fibromyalgia
Some researchers believe that the onset of fibromyalgia is triggered by an extremely stressful or traumatic experience. While this stress may be associated with physical trauma, such as an auto accident, it also may be associated with psychological stress, such as emotional or physical abuse. Most scientists believe that stress is not the primary cause of fibromyalgia. However, there is evidence to suggest that both chronic stress and post-traumatic stress disorder may be significant factors in the onset of fibromyalgia.
How Stress Can Aggravate Fibromyalgia
For fibromyalgia patients, stress can also make the condition worse and can trigger particular physical symptoms. People who suffer from fibromyalgia often have trouble knowing their personal limitations, which can make it hard for them to know when they are in danger of overexerting themselves. When fibromyalgia patients physically overexert themselves, this can often lead to increased stress, which results in increased pain.
Ways to Relieve Stress
A fibromyalgia patient’s level of stress can directly influence their ability to deal with pain and other symptoms of the condition. In general, the more relaxed a patient becomes, the better they will be able to deal with the physical discomfort of fibromyalgia. If you suffer from fibromyalgia, you can relieve stress and relax through exercise, relaxation techniques, taking a warm bath, getting a good night’s sleep, and limiting your stress level by obtaining balance in your life.