What Is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is the most common musculoskeletal condition after osteoarthritis. This condition is most notably characterized by chronic muscle pain and fatigue. People with fibromyalgia have what are referred to as “tender points” throughout the body, which are used to diagnose the condition. In addition to widespread pain, fibromyalgia can often causes issues with depression and social isolation. This condition is very misunderstood and often misdiagnosed by physicians. A lot of research is still being done on this condition and supports for managing symptoms.
There is no known cause for fibromyalgia, but there are several factors that doctors believe may increase risk of developing this condition such as traumatic injury, illness or infection. Some researchers believe there may be a gene mutation involved in the development of fibromyalgia, as this alteration could possibly make someone more susceptible to pain than others. Women are more likely to be diagnosed with the disease than men. Nearly 80 percent of those suffering with fibromyalgia are women. Others at a higher risk of the disease are those with lupus and various forms of arthritis.
The most common symptom associated with fibromyalgia is overall body pain and fatigue. You may even notice a debilitating pain and muscle exhaustion after a good night’s rest. Some describe muscles as feeling overworked, strained or pulled. Others may notice more of a dull, aching or burning pain in the muscles surrounding the major joints of your neck, shoulders, back, and hips. One of the biggest problems presented by patients with fibromyalgia is sleep disturbances. Due to a sore and achy body, it becomes difficult to relax and settle into a deep sleep cycle. When lack of sleep leave the body fatigued, symptoms only worsen.
Other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia include abdominal pain or cramping, chronic headaches, hot/cold sensitivity, dry mouth, difficulty concentrating (referred to as “fibro fog”), numbness or tingling in limbs, irritable bowel syndrome, and overall stiffness. Even though many of the aches and pain associated with fibromyalgia may mimic those of arthritis, there is no pain or damage done to the joints. All fibromyalgia pain is muscular and sadly not concentrated to just one area, as arthritis often is characterized.
Finding the right treatment plan for your fibromyalgia pain may be difficult and require a group approach. Not all general practitioners are well-versed in the area of fibromyalgia, so you may need to seek assistance from a rheumatologist or a doctor that specializes in arthritic problems, as they might be better equipped to handle your needs. Sadly, there is no cure for fibromyalgia, but proper management and lifestyle changes can make the condition more manageable for your day-to-day life. One of the easiest changes may be those that you can make at home, without the direction of a doctor. Eating a well-balanced diet, committing to a regular workout routine, and maintaining a set sleep cycle will provide huge improvements to your level of discomfort. As for your diet, avoid foods high in sugar, fats, caffeine and added preservatives. Be sure to include all the essential food groups. Working out with achy muscles might sound counter-productive, but it is imperative for fibromyalgia sufferers to stay active and keep tension from building in their muscles encouraging more stiffness. Also, working out will help to maintain muscle strength and tone, which can be weakened by the disease. Lastly, keep a regular and scheduled sleep routine. Doctors recommend going to bed and waking at the same time each day, even on the weekend, to help your body stay consistent and well-rested. You never want to overtire an already fatigued body.
There are also a number of medical and alternative treatment options available. On the medical side, doctors often utilize antidepressants and non-hormoneal anti-inflammatory drugs in assisting with pain management. As for alternative options yoga, massage therapy, relaxation breathing techniques, acupuncture, and even the use of some herbal remedies have some success in easing symptoms.
Regardless of the treatment path you select, it is important to always discuss your plans with your physician to ensure that your body is healthy enough for any change and that any adjustments will not alter the effectiveness of current plan. With proper and consistent treatment of fibromyalgia symptoms, your day-to-day life no longer has to be “a pain.”