Who Is Affected By Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes widepsread muscle pain and fatigue in affected individuals. Patients who suffer from fibromyalgia have pain and tenderness throughout the body. These tender points are specific places on the neck, shoulders, back, hips, arms, and legs that hurt when pressure is put on them. Additionally, other symptoms may accompany their pain and tenderness, including:
- Sleep disturbances
- Morning stiffness
- Painful menstruation
- Numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
- Difficulty with memory and thinking
It has been estimated that approximately five million adults in the United States suffer from fibromyalgia. Although anyone can suffer from this condition, the majority (80 to 90%) of patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia are women, and most patients are diagnosed during middle age.
Many patients with fibromyalgia have other conditions such as tension headaches, temporomandibular joint dysfunction, anxiety and depression, and irritable bowel syndrome. Additionally, fibromyalgia has been linked to rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematous, and ankylosing spondylitis. Furthermore, women who have a family member that suffers from this condition are more likely to develop it.
What Are The Risk Factors And Causes Of Fibromyalgia?
The cause of fibromyalgia remains unknown; however, there may be several factors involved in the disease process. Fibromyalgia is associated with traumatic and stressful events, repetitive injuries, illness, and certain diseases. Fibromyalgia can also develop over time with no specific trigger.
There are some scientists who believe that certain genes may be involved in fibromyalgia, whereby the affected genes could make one patient respond strongly to things that other patients would not find painful.
Fibromyalgia is often difficult to diagnose because the symptoms of the disorder are similar to those of various other conditions. Physicians must rule out all potential causes of the patient’s symptoms before making a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. There is no laboratory test to diagnose fibromyalgia; however, physicians may order a number of lab tests to rule out other conditions that have similar symptoms. These lab tests may include a complete blood count (CBC), erythrocyte sedimentation rate, and thyroid function tests.
Physicians who are familiar with fibromyalgia generally make a diagnosis based on two criteria:
- Widespread pain that has lasted longer than three months. The pain that a patient experiences must be found on both sides of the body, as well as above and below the waist.
- Presence of tender points: there are 18 sites located on the body that are potential tender points. The points must be tender when pressure is put on them. A minimum of 11 tender points must be found in order to make a fibromyalgia diagnosis.
Lifestyle Changes To Manage Fibromyalgia
Making simple lifestyle modifications can have a significant impact on fibromyalgia symptoms. These changes include:
- Getting enough sleep
- Managing stress
- Regularly exercising
- Eating a healthy diet
- Making work changes, if needed
Getting enough sleep can help to reduce the pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia. Research has shown that most adults need approximately seven to eight hours of restorative sleep each night. This type of sleep helps you feel well rested when you wake. Patients with fibromyalgia often have difficulty sleeping; it is therefore important to discuss sleep concerns with your physician.
Managing stress levels by engaging in activities such as yoga and meditation may help patients to cope with their fibromyalgia symptoms.
The pain and fatigue associated with fibromyalgia may make exercise difficult, but it is essential to maintain an active lifestyle. Research has consistently shown that regular physical activity is one of the most effective treatment options for fibromyalgia patients.
No particular diet has been shown to influence fibromyalgia symptoms; however, eating a healthy, balanced diet will give patients proper nutrition, giving them more energy and helping them feel better.
Making changes at work may be necessary for some patients with fibromyalgia. This may mean cutting back on the number of hours worked, switching to a less demanding job, or changing the work environment to make it more comfortable.
Treatments For Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia can be a difficult condition to treat. It is important that patients consult with a physician who is familiar with the condition and the treatment options that are available. There is no cure for fibromyalgia, rather treatment focuses to relieve pain, improve function, and enhance quality of life. This condition often requires a team approach to treatment.
The first component to fibromyalgia treatment is pain management. The FDA has approved three drugs for the treatment of fibromyalgia: duloxetine (Cymbalta), pregabalin (Lyrica), and milnacipran (Savella). Some physicians may also recommend pain medications, or low-dose antidepressants.
Other components of fibromyalgia treatment include sleep management and psychological support. Sleep management involves learning and engaging in healthy sleep habits to improve sleep patterns. Psychological support involves attending support groups or counseling sessions with a trained counselor. These activities will help you understand your condition better and help to improve your mental health.
Additionally, there are numerous alternative therapies that may help to control fibromyalgia symptoms, including:
- Physical therapy
- Osteopathic treatment
- Chiropractic care
- Massage therapy (including active release technique)
- Water therapy
- Low-impact aerobics
- Acupressure or acupuncture
- Heat and cold packs
- Cognitive therapy
If you suffer from fibromyalgia and would like more information about this condition, please review the links to the literature below. If you have additional questions or concerns, you are encouraged to speak to your physician.