THOUGHTS ON FIBROMYALGIA
Fibro (meaning fibrous tissue), myalgia (meaning muscle pain) describes this painful disorder as a condition attacking the fibrous connective tissues of the joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments. This syndrome often occurs in women more than men and more so in older individuals than children or teens. The symptoms of fibromyalgia usually develop around 30 to 55 years of age. It can be most debilitating and there is no cure for it. Some medical professionals used to think fibromyalgia was not genuine and perhaps a figment of the imagination, however, it has been proven to be a real disease, much to their embarrassment.
Pain seems to be the number one annoyance of this disorder. Usually, people waking up in the morning experience stiffness in getting up and moving around. Stiffness in the joints and muscles generally ease up as the day goes on. Fibromyalgia has been known to delay people from going to work and school because of the pain involved.
Besides the stiffness, pain emanates from about 9 pairs of sensitive or “trigger” points on both sides of the body. These points are located in the front and back of the neck as well as the area where the neck joins the shoulders, the knees, elbows, shoulders, sternum (breastbone), hips and lower back. When these areas are touched or pressed upon, pain becomes rather sharp or achy and worsens if aggravated or manipulated as done in some treatments involving massage. Depending on the pain intensity and location, care must be taken to ensure that the patient is relieved of the discomfort as much as possible. Pain can really suck the life out of you and diminish strength and sometimes in severe cases cause depression. It will put your life on hold. Relieving the pain is first in treating this disorder.
Along with the pain, fibromyalgia exhibits other symptoms as well.
- Severe fatigue, which is not your normal “tiredness” but clearly extreme tiredness and the feeling of not wanting to do anything.
- The inability to sleep well. Sometimes the pain will wake people up and they won’t be able to go back to sleep. This pattern starts the “always tired and can’t sleep cycle”.
- Headaches and sometimes migraines are included along with cognitive problems affecting memory and thinking.
- Overactive bladder and gastrointestinal problems such as irritable bowel syndrome also are affected by fibromyalgia.
- Tingling and numbness feeling in the fingers and up towards the facial muscles. TMJ, better known as temporomandibular syndrome, is characterized by pain in the jaw muscles with a difficulty in chewing accompanied with pops and cracks heard when the jaws move.
- Muscle spasms and crippling pain in the arms and legs making it hard to tolerate any type of exercise.
- Anxiety often brought on by tiredness and worry of an oncoming bout of fibromyalgia.
- Muscular tenderness especially when there is a weather change.
- The loss of balance sometimes is present.
Fibromyalgia is an illness that has always been mysterious and often misunderstood. On occasion it has been associated with other conditions or diseases such as:
- Both rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus diseases share a common characteristic of pain in the joints, however, with the arthritis there is swelling and inflammation present in the joints, whereas, there isn’t any inflammation with fibromyalgia and as for lupus, there are multiple organ abnormalities and a rash present, but not with fibromyalgia.
- Osteoarthritis has also been diagnosed in place of fibromyalgia. Only when the degeneration joint changes noticed in ex-rays during an examination would osteoarthritis be differentiated from fibromyalgia. It has also been noted that fibromyalgia can be found in people with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, thus making it ever increasingly harder to diagnose properly.
- Hypothyroidism and other endocrine disorders have also been mistakenly diagnosed because of the generalized aches and pains similar to those of fibromyalgia coupled with the loss of sleep and fatigue. Thyroid tests, however, are routinely made during exams and would quickly find out if the thyroid is the underlying cause. The parathyroid glands also mimic symptoms of fibromyalgia.
- Myositis, commonly known as muscle inflammation, causes muscle fatigue and weakness compared to the widespread pain experienced with fibromyalgia. Patients having myositis show abnormal levels of muscle enzymes generally not found with fibromyalgia.
When dealing with fibromyalgia one must keep in mind that it is not life threatening and not curable. It is also not a deforming or degenerative disorder. One must have a positive attitude and seek all the different types of treatment available. By doing this a person is more likely to have a healthy outlook on life and improve their response to treatment.