Fibromyalgia is one of the most common chronic pain conditions as it affects more than 5 million people in the United States.
Most people feel the symptoms of fibromyalgia when they are middle aged. Typically, fibromyalgia affects more women than men. Like most pain conditions, many people experience the pain long before it is diagnosed. Routine lab tests do not detect the widespread pain of fibromyalgia. As a result, treating this pain has become a challenge for patients and their caregivers.
Fibromyalgia is a common syndrome in which a person has long-term, widespread pain and tenderness in the joints, muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues. Fibromyalgia has also been linked to fatigue, sleep problems, headaches, depression, and anxiety.
Fibromyalgia is not a psychological condition. While the exact cause is still not known, it is believed to have a biological cause. Recent research suggests that changes in the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and nerves) may be responsible.
Factors That May Work Together
It is believed that there may be a number of factors working together:
Trauma—physical and emotional trauma have been linked to fibromyalgia
Family history—the genes you inherit from your parents may increase the likelihood of developing fibromyalgia
Infections—there is some evidence to suggest that certain illnesses can act as a trigger
Autoimmune diseases—people with disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis are more likely to develop fibromyalgia
People with fibromyalgia often describe their symptoms as a flu-like infection that doesn’t go away. It leaves you exhausted and unable to think or find the right words (symptoms of fibro fog). With fibromyalgia, you have trouble sleeping and wake up stiff and achy. Your symptoms can be debilitating and you probably feel as though you have to push yourself to get anything done.
Affects 3 to 5 percent of the general population
Occurs in people of all ages, even children
Men develop fibromyalgia too, although more women are diagnosed with it
Symptoms are chronic but may fluctuate throughout the day
Roughly one-quarter of people with fibro-myalgia are work-disabled
Three drugs are FDA-approved for fibro-myalgia treatment
Pain all over
Deep muscle pain and soreness
Muscle knots, cramping, weakness
Sensitivity to touch
Stress and anxiety
There are guidelines that can be very helpful in the diagnosis of fibromyalgia. In 1990, the American College of Rheumatology published the following criteria:
. Widespread pain above and below the waist, on both the right and left sides of your body, and in the axial skeleton (your skull, spine, rib cage, and the bones in your throat and ears) for at least 3 months
. Tenderness or pain in 11 of the 18 “tender points” on your body
Based on these guidelines, your doctor may perform a tender points exam. Your doctor will do this by applying pressure to these 18 points and counting how many you find tender.
In 2010, the American College of Rheumatology published a new set of preliminary guidelines. These guidelines include a widespread pain index that assesses the number of painful body regions, and a scale that assesses the severity of symptoms such as fatigue, sleep problems, comprehension problems, and others in the body.
Research consistently shows that a multi-disciplinary approach to fibromyalgia is the most productive for the physician and patient. Treatment may include alternative treatment approaches to manage this painful condition. Treatment options may include:
Compounded topical creams
Overall Health and Wellness Plan (nutrition, exercise, physical therapy, yoga, hydro-therapy, sleep therapy)
Your physician should work with you to provide a holistic approach in treating and helping you manage the many debilitating symptoms of fibromyalgia.