FYBROMYALGIA – WHAT IS IT
Many people demonstrate chronic health symptoms that can appear to be from one cause or another. With fybromyalgia, there are many symptoms that overlap with other ailments. So how can you be sure whether you have this syndrome or not? Today, there are several methods doctors use to help diagnose fybromyalgia. First of all, make sure your primary care physician is up on all the latest news about fybromyalgia. Some doctors are still not educated about this disease and if your doctor is not aware of the complexity of diagnosis with fybromyalgia, you may never get a true diagnosis. You see, fybromyalgia has so many diverse symptoms (depending on the person) that it can very easily be misdiagnosed as some other disease or condition. With that in mind let’s go over some of the major topics like definition, symptoms, causes, and treatments.
Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Research seems to indicate that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals. Sometimes, symptoms begin after a physical trauma, surgery, infection or significant psychological stress. In other cases, symptoms gradually accumulate over time with no single triggering event. Women tend to get fybromyalgia more often than men and those who have the syndrome tend to have tension headaches, temporomandipular joint (TMJ) disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and depression. Although there is no cure for fibromyalgia, a variety of medications can help control symptoms. Exercise, relaxation and stress-reduction measures also may help.
The pain associated with fybromyalgia is described as a constant dull ache arising from the muscles. In order for a diagnosis of fybromyalgia to be made, this ache must be considered widespread, it must be present on both sides of the body and both upper and lower body. There are specific points on the body where the pain seems to be located. Your doctor will perform what is known as a tender point examination. The tender point locations include:
- Back of the head
- Between shoulder blades
- Top of shoulders
- Front sides of neck
- Upper chest
- Outer elbows
- Upper hips
- Sides of hips
- Inner knees
Besides the tender point exam, there are other symptoms that your doctor will look for as he asks you about your pain and discomfort. Fatigue and other conditions may be on the list.
People with fibromyalgia often awaken tired, even though they report sleeping for long periods of time. Sleep is frequently disrupted by pain, and many patients with fibromyalgia have other sleep disorders, such as restless legs syndrome and sleep apnea, that further worsen the symptoms.
Then, too, there may be coexisting conditions that also point to fybromyalgia. Those with this syndrome also tend to have anxiety, depression, endometriosis, headaches, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Doctors are still not sure what causes fybromyalgia and there is a lot of research going on in this area. Most likely, fybromyalgia is a product of a variety of reasons that may include genetics, infections, and physical and emotional trauma. To explain the pain, current thinking revolves around a theory called central sensitization. This theory states that people with fibromyalgia have a lower threshold for pain because of increased sensitivity in the brain to pain signals.
Research seems to indicate that repeated nerve stimulation causes the brains of people with fibromyalgia to change. This change involves an abnormal increase in levels of certain chemicals in the brain that signal pain (neurotransmitters). In addition, the brain’s pain receptors seem to develop a sort of memory of the pain and become more sensitive, meaning they can overreact to pain signals.
Since there is no cure for fybromyalgia yet, the medicines and therapies focus on improving symptoms and general health.
Medications: These can help reduce the pain and improve sleep.
- Analgesics – Tylenol and others may ease the pain and stiffness caused by fibromyalgia. However, its effectiveness varies. Tramadol (pain meds) is a prescription pain reliever that may be taken with or without acetaminophen. Your doctor may recommend non-hormoneal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve, others) in conjunction with other medications.
- Antidepressants – depression meds and Savella may help ease the pain and fatigue associated with fibromyalgia. Your doctor may also prescribe an amitriptyline or fluoxetine like Prozac to help promote sleep.
- Anti-seizure drugs – Medications designed to treat epilepsy are often useful in reducing certain types of pain. anticonvulsant medication is sometimes helpful in reducing fibromyalgia symptoms, while medications was the first drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat fibromyalgia.
Therapies: There are several therapies that may help with pain symptoms and improve overall health. Physical therapists are trained to help you learn how to manipulate and exercise the muscles and other soft tissues to ease pain and gain better overall movements. Occupational therapists help apply these movements and learned skills to the workplace as well as home. Massage therapy is always a good idea to help relax stressed muscles and tissues.
Fybromyalgia is a complex syndrome that can cause undue stress, anxiety, and pain for the patient. A proper diagnosis is essential to finding the help necessary to combat this condition. Once diagnosed, you can use medications and therapy to help ease symptoms and get back to a new normal.