Fibromyalgia, Trigger Points, and Sexuality
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 Sexuality
If you have fibromyalgia, you may also experience problems in your sex life which can affect your relationships. You could possibly experience a loss of libido or have difficulty with sexual performance. Additionally, it may also be the case that your libido is healthy, but the deep muscle pain and stiffness of fibromyalgia keeps you from enjoying sex the way you used to. No matter what the specific sexual problems are that you may be experiencing, it is important that your sex life gets back on track. Sex not only strengthens an intimate relationship, but sexual intercourse boosts endorphins. Those are the body’s natural pain reliever that help decrease pain and increase well-being. Talking openly with your doctor and following a few practical tips can help you resolve problems associated with fibromyalgia, pain, and sex.
Can Soaking in a Warm Bath Before Sex Help my Fibromyalgia Pain?
Moist heat can help ease fibromyalgia pain and may allow you to enjoy sexual intercourse without added pain. Heat increases blood flow to the site and decreases stiffness. Regular moist heat applications or warm baths may help temporarily to alleviate muscle pain or tender point pain, reduce muscle spasms, and decrease inflammation. When using moist heat, make sure it is not too warm or you can burn your skin. You might soak in a warm bath for at least 15 minutes before and/or after sexual intercourse to get the full benefit. Other popular types of moist heat include a warm shower, warm whirlpool or hot tub, heated swimming pool, and a moist heating pad.
Are There Medications That Can Help My Sex Life?
If you have fibromyalgia, it is important to talk to your health provider in order to discuss medications that can relieve the pain from the trigger points and boost libido and/or sexual performance. Improving your overall health by treating other medical conditions that may contribute to sexual problems may also help.