FYBROMYALGIA AND OLDER ADULTS
Fybromyalgia is not classified as an elderly disease. In fact, many patients claim that their symptoms have actually improved over time and are less than when they were younger. However, this condition can affect people well into their older years. Fybromyalgia typically affects people between the ages of 35 and 60 years. The average age is around 45 and is most common among women in the childbearing years.
There haven’t been many studies looking into older adults with fybromyalgia pain syndrome or those who develop pain syndrome during their older years. But according to some studies, 7 percent of people aged 60-79 will have fybromyalgia later in life. In fact, studies in Sweden and Norway concluded that people who have experienced back pain or other chronic pains are prime candidates for chronic pain (fybromyalgia) later in life.
SYMPTOMS OF FYBROMYALGIA IN OLDER ADULTS
Those who develop fybromyalgia in older life generally develop the same symptoms as younger patients of the condition; fatigue, headache, muscle pain and stiffness, insomnia, poor short-term memory, and concentration problems. However, older adults report more functional headaches (mostly tension headaches), tension, anxiety, and also that activity makes their symptoms worse.
FYBROMYALGIA AND OSTEOPOROSIS
Osteoporosis seems to be more prevalent in patients with fybromyalgia. Osteoporosis is a bone disorder where the bones of an individual become brittle and lose their strength. People with osteoporosis tend to have more bone fractures and lose height as the bones in the vertebrae become more compacted. These people may develop back and neck pain. Imagine this type of pain along with fybromyalgia. It would certainly be disheartening.
TREATING FYBROMYALGIA IN OLDER PEOPLE
Diagnosing fybromyalgia in older people may be difficult as there can be much confusion between this syndrome and other disorders such as osteoarthritis or multiple sclerosis.
Prescribing drugs for fybromyalgia may also be difficult in older folks because many older people have other medications for other medical reasons and thus run the risk of drug interactions that may cause additional side effects.
Exercise is another treatment for fybromyalgia. It also keeps the weight down which puts less stress on the joints. Older individuals may find it hard to keep an exercise schedule because of transportation problems. Also, because of other problems like arthritis, they may have a hard time doing the exercise routines. On the other hand, if older people can use a pool, swimming is one of the best exercises for them because it is aerobic without putting high impact on the joints. For those who cannot travel, there are many DVDs with yoga or palates stretches that would be a great alternative. There are many workout programs developed with older folks or people with limited mobility in mind.
Clearly, customizing a treatment program for older adults is the way to go. First, a good diet is essential and taking medications that won’t interfere with any other drugs is paramount. But after that, what else can senior do to help the symptoms of fybromyalgia? Here are some to consider:
THE WHOLE HEALTH APPROACH
Older fybromyalgic patients tend to have more co-morbidities (co-existing health problems) than younger counterparts. For older adults, care must be taken to analyze their health issues carefully. They should get a complete medical examination and discuss any and all medications with their doctor to get a full scope of their medical situation. Knowing current medications can give health care givers clues as to their overall health and what other condition are present beside fybromyalgia. When current health conditions are treated, symptoms that are present with other conditions will not be confused with fybromyalgia and that they are not worsening this syndrome.
SLEEP IS IMPORTANT
People suffering with fybromyalgia already suffer from sleep problems and these problems can get worse as they age. Many older adults have shorter sleep patterns. These sleep patterns, called circadian rhythms, change as people get older. In fact, adults in their 60s and 70s will sleep less than they used to. Poor sleep has been linked to fybromyalgia in women.
There are a number of tips one can do the help promote long, deep sleep. Here are just a few:
- Don’t take naps after 4 p.m.
- Limit naps to 30 minutes
- Limit caffeine
- Eat more protein at night to curb hunger that would normally wake you
- Take a calcium and magnesium supplement before bedtime
Older adults tend to eat less than when they were younger. Because of this, many elderly have nutritional deficiencies that can aggravate fybromyalgia symptoms. Most doctors recommend a good multivitamin supplement that has at least 100% of the B vitamins, magnesium, and zinc, as well as a good vitamin D supplement. These vitamins are well tolerated by fybromyalgia patients.
By taking care of themselves, older adults can live out their days in comfort and have a good quality of life. Diet, sleep, exercise, and taking the proper medications will ensure that they can enjoy life without the frustration of fybromyalgia.