Fibromyalgia (FMS) is a very debilitating disease that affects millions of people, mostly women. Those who suffer with this syndrome report that their symptoms feel flu-like in nature but they just never go away. Although the main symptom is widespread pain, there are other symptoms as well that are just as bad. People with FMS feel exhausted most of the time and have trouble thinking or finding the right words to say (fibro fog). They also have sleep problems and wake up achy and with muscle stiffness. Many times they feel they have to push themselves in order to get anything accomplished. This is the world of fibromyalgia.
Top Ten Fibromyalgia Symptoms
v Pain All Over: People often describe the pain of FMS as aching, throbbing, shooting, stabbing, or intense burning. The muscle groups that are used most often are usually the sorest.
v Fatigue: Exhaustion is perhaps the most debilitating of the symptoms. People with this one feel like their arms and legs are weighted down by concrete blocks and their bodies so drained of energy that every task requires great effort.
v Sleep Problems: This one doesn’t just mean getting to sleep. It means staying a sleep. Repeat arousals prevent patients from reaching deep, restorative sleep, so they wake up feeling as though they have been broadsided.
v Brain Fog: The pain from FMS can cause patients to become distracted and un-focused. Trouble concentrating, retaining new information, and word-finding are common fibromyalgia symptoms that seriously interfere with daily functioning. The amount of fibro fog usually coincides with the severity of the pain.
v Morning Stiffness: Those with fibromyalgia wake with intense soreness and stiffness. However, warm water and massage can usually help this one subside.
v Muscle Knots, Cramping, and Weakness: Patients with this symptom have trouble relaxing their muscles no matter what they do. Many of the muscles contain rope-like knots called myofascial trigger points, making the patient more susceptible to muscle cramping and weakness.
v Digestive Disorders: About 40 to 70% of fibromyalgia patients suffer from constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, gas and bloating, irritable bowel, and nausea. Acid reflux and slow digestion are also common.
v Headaches and Migraines: Tension headaches or migraines are present in 50 to 70% of fibromyalgia patients. These headache symptoms are usually rated as severe, occur at least two times per week, and often have a migraine component.
v Balance Problems: Those with FMS are not very confident in their balance. Stepping patterns are altered and the chance of falling is increased.
v Itchy, Burning Skin: The skin of fibromyalgia patients may look normal or it may have itchy red bumps similar to hives. Burning pain, similar to bad sunburn, is also common in fibromyalgia patients.
v Other symptoms: Many fibromyalgia patients experience other symptoms like sensitivity to bright lights, sounds, and odors. These may also be part of the syndrome.
There are many other factors that can cause FMS symptom flare-ups. Weather changes, temperature changes, stress, depression, anxiety, over-exertion, and even hormonal changes can cause symptoms to become worse. In fact, fibromyalgia patients may also experience:
v irritable bladder/interstitial cystitis
v profuse sweating
v tingling/numbness sensations
v chemical sensitivities
v chest pain unrelated to the heart
v shortness of breath
v nasal congestion
v painful periods
v difficulty focusing eyes
v the feeling of swollen extremities
v dry/burning eyes and mouth
How to Help Relieve Symptoms
Living with fibromyalgia can be very difficult. In order to succeed, you have to learn some skills that will help you get through each day with some sort of satisfaction. A good plan for treating fibromyalgia should include both drug and nondrug therapies. Diet and exercise are important aspects of a good plan.
v Diet: Though there is no diet that will cure fibromyalgia, a diet full of fruits and vegetables may supply your body with additional antioxidants and nutrients like malic acid found in apples, and calcium found in deep green vegetables. These and other antioxidants are considered to be beneficial for minimizing the destructive effects that can occur in tissues when the body generates certain reactive chemicals, called free radicals. Also, doctors recommend that patients watch how many preservatives they consume. These and other artificial ingredients found in processed foods are bad for anyone, especially those with FMS. Instead, eat whole foods. Check ingredients on package labels.
v Exercise: Doctors agree that aerobic exercise increases blood flow and oxygen to the muscles and surrounding tissues to help nourish them. It also improves circulation, regulates blood pressure and body weight, and strengthens the heart, among other benefits. Exercise will help patients stay functioning and give them that positive mental boost. It is also known to decrease anxiety and depression by the endorphins it creates in the body, which can positively impact the way they cope with their symptoms. The key to exercise is starting slowly and improving over time. Aerobic exercises like walking, swimming, yoga, and tai chi are just a few that seem to work well with FMS patients.
The symptoms of fibromyalgia can be devastating. They are varied and may not always be the same every day. To cope with symptoms, patients should have a balanced plan that includes medications and non-drug therapies. A good diet and exercise will also help to control symptoms and gain a better quality of life with fibromyalgia.