Fibromyalgia (FM), also called fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), is the second most common disorder affecting the muscle and soft tissue. Despite this fact, it is misdiagnosed and misunderstood too often. It is also classified as a type of juvenile arthritis and is found to be more common in girls.
This chronic condition is characterized by widespread musculoskeletal and joint pain accompanied by fatigue and memory, sleeping and mood issues. The researchers believe that it intensifies the painful sensations by affecting the way brain processes brain signals.
Though it has no cure, various medications along with exercise, healthy habits and stress-reduction can help in controlling the symptoms so that you can live a normal, active life. Read on here to know about the symptoms, causes, complications, diagnosis and treatment of fibromyalgia syndrome.
Causes & Risk Factors Of Fibromyalgia
The exact cause of fibromyalgia is not known but is believed to be caused due to several factors including:
Infections: Some diseases likely trigger or aggravate fibromyalgia.
Genetics: Certain genetic mutations could be making you more vulnerable to this disease. It can occur if your other family members have it too.
Physical or emotional trauma: This disease may be triggered by psychological stress, depression, and anxiety or a physical trauma like car accident.
Your gender: Women are diagnosed with the disease more often than men.
The researchers believe that recurrent nerve stimulation causes changes in brain of the people having fibromyalgia. This change involves abnormal increase in levels of some chemicals in the brain which signal pain (neurotransmitters). Moreover, the pain receptors in brain likely develop a kind of memory of the pain and turn more sensitive. This may cause them to overreact to pain signals.
Signs & Symptoms
The most common signs and symptoms of fibromyalgia are:
Fatigue: The people suffering from fibromyalgia often wake up with tiredness despite being asleep for several hours. Their sleep gets interrupted by pain and mayu of them have sleep disorders like sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome.
Widespread pain: The pain that happens in fibromyalgia is a constant, dull one lasting for about 3 months or more. It occurs on both sides of the body and above and below waist.
Cognitive problems: A symptom that is commonly known as “fibro fog” affects the ability to focus and concentrate on mental tasks.
Fibromyalgia also occurs often with other painful conditions like anxiety and depression, temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ), migraine and other kinds of headaches, irritable bowel syndrome and interstitial cystitis or painful bladder syndrome.
The sleep deficit and pain linked with fibromyalgia can hamper your ability to function at home or at work. The frustration of having a condition that is often misunderstood can also lead to depression and health-related anxiety.
A doctor may ask you about your medical history and about your other close relatives’ health issues. Earlier, the doctors used to check 18 specific points on the body of a person to find out how many of them were painful when firmly pressed. The latest guidelines do not require a tender point examination. Instead of that, the doctor can carry out a fibromyalgia diagnosis if an individual has had widespread pain for over 3 months and no other disease is present that could be causing the pain.
No specific test can tell if you have fibromyalgia as its symptoms are similar to those in other conditions such as underactive thyroid, different types of arthritis and lupus. So blood tests may be done to check the complete blood count, rheumatoid factor, thyroid function tests, erythrocyte sedimentation rate and cyclic citrullinated peptide test in order to see if there are any signs of inflammation and unbalanced hormone levels. X-rays may be carried out as well. This will help in ruling out other conditions.
If your doctor is unable to find the reason for the way you feel, a two-part scoring system will be used for measuring how widespread the pain has been and what impact have the symptoms had on your day-to-day life. Through these results, a plan can be created for managing the condition.
The treatments for fibromyalgia include medication, therapy as well as self-care. As no single treatment works for all symptoms, the focus is on reducing the symptoms and improving health.
The common medications that are effective in reducing pain of fibromyalgia and improving sleep are:
- Pain relievers
The over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen sodium may help. Your doctor might prescribe a pain reliever like tramadol.
- Anti-seizure drugs
The medications designed for treating epilepsy are also helpful in alleviating some kinds of pain. Gabapentin is sometimes helpful in relieving its symptoms. Also, the first FDA approved for treating fibromyalgia is pregabalin.
Duloxetine and milnacipran may help in easing the pain and fatigue linked with fibromyalgia. Amitriptyline or the muscle relaxant cyclobenzaprine can be prescribed to aid in sleep problems.
Different therapies that can reduce the effect of fibromyalgia on your body and your life include:
- Physical therapy
Consult a physical therapist and practise the exercises that he recommends to improve your strength, flexibility and stamina. Water-based exercises might be vene more helpful.
- Occupational therapy
An occupational therapist can help you in making adjustments to your work area or the way you carry out certain tasks to reduce stress on your body.
Speaking with a counselor can help in strengthening your self-belief. You will be taught strategies for dealing with stressful situations and redevelop the belief in your abilities.
Moreover, daily moderate exercise is definitely key for controlling fibromyalgia symptoms. Other physical activities like yoga, tai chi, pilates and walking improve your strength, flexibility, endurance and ability to move easily. Stretching, relaxation and good posture exercises are also effective.
And not to forget, exercise also releases endorphins which fight pain, stress, and depression. It also helps you in getting better sleep.
You can even try complementary therapies such as massage, acupuncture, meditation, deep breathing exercises and chiropractic manipulation for easing aches as well as stress. Keeping a healthy lifestyle, eating right, limiting caffeine, and maintaining good sleep habits.