Fibromyalgia is a common disorder. Nearly 1 in 20 people may have fibromyalgia to some degree. Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes pain all over the body. It is also called fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS). The condition is long-term can greatly affect your daily life. People with fibromyalgia often face problems such as fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. They might experience other conditions such as tension headaches, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, and depression.

What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?

Symptoms of fibromyalgia sometimes occur after a physical trauma, surgery, infection or significant psychological stress. In some cases, symptoms can gradually get worse with no triggering event at all.

Symptoms of fibromyalgia may include:

  • Widespread pain that is described as a constant dull ache that can last at least 3 months. Widespread pain means it occurs on both sides of your body and above and below your waist.
  • Fatigue often occur in people with fibromyalgia. This can be caused by lack of sleep for a long period. People with fibromyalgia is often woken up from sleep from the pain.
  • Cognitive difficulties. A symptom commonly referred to as “fibro fog” impairs the ability to focus, pay attention and concentrate on mental tasks.

The pain and lack of sleep will impair your ability to function at home and at work. Many people develop a headache, depression, and anxiety, and cramping in the stomach. Lack of sleep might lead to disorders such as restless legs syndrome and sleep apnea.

What are the causes of fibromyalgia?

Some scientists believed that a change in the brain chemical is responsible for fibromyalgia. These changes affect the central nervous system that process pain signals in the body and amplify the pain.

Others suggest that there are factors leading to fibromyalgia:

  • Genetics. Fibromyalgia often run in the family. This suggests that the condition is inherited from the parents. There might be a genetic mutation that increases the risk for fibromyalgia.
  • Infections. Some illnesses appear to trigger or aggravate fibromyalgia.
  • Physical or emotional trauma. In many cases, the condition appears to be triggered by a physically or emotionally stressful event, such as:
    • An injury or infection;
    • Giving birth;
    • Having an operation;
    • The breakdown of a relationship;

You are more likely to develop fibromyalgia if you have these risk factors:

  • Women are diagnosed with fibromyalgia more than men are.
  • Family history of fibromyalgia.
  • If you have a rheumatic disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.

Repeated nerve stimulation is thought to cause fibromyalgia. The increase in some certain chemicals in the brain can trigger the pain transmitters. In addition, the brain’s pain receptors seem to develop a sort of memory of the pain and become more sensitive, meaning they can overreact to pain signals.

How do you diagnose fibromyalgia?

Before diagnosis for fibromyalgia is difficult as you need to test all 18 tender points before the diagnosis can be confirmed. Nowadays, a fibromyalgia diagnosis can be made if a person has had widespread pain for more than three months – with no underlying medical condition that could cause the pain.

There is no lab test to diagnose fibromyalgia yet. However, your doctor might request blood tests to rule out other conditions that can cause pain. Blood test can include:

  • Complete blood count;
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate;
  • Thyroid function tests.

Anyone can develop fibromyalgia, although it affects around seven times as many women as men. The condition typically develops between the ages of 30 and 50, but can occur in people of any age, including children and the elderly.

One of the main reasons it is not clear how many people are affected is because fibromyalgia can be a difficult condition to diagnose. There is no specific test for the condition, and the symptoms can be similar to a number of other conditions.

What are treatments for fibromyalgia?

Although there is currently no cure for fibromyalgia, a variety of medications can help control symptoms. Exercise, relaxation and stress-reduction measures also may help. Treatment options may include a combination of the following:

  • Medication
    • Pain relievers. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as paracetamol (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve, others) may be helpful. Your doctor might suggest a prescription pain reliever such as tramadol (Ultram, Conzip). Narcotics are not advised because they can lead to dependence and may even worsen the pain over time.
    • Antidepressants. Duloxetine (Cymbalta) and milnacipran (Savella) may help ease the pain and fatigue associated with fibromyalgia. Your doctor may prescribe amitriptyline or fluoxetine (Prozac) to help promote sleep.
    • Anti-seizure drugs. Medications designed to treat epilepsy are often useful in reducing certain types of pain. Gabapentin (Neurontin, Gralise) is sometimes helpful in reducing fibromyalgia symptoms, while pregabalin (Lyrica) was the first drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat fibromyalgia.
  • Taking therapies – such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and counselling. Talking with a counsellor can help strengthen your belief in your abilities and teach you strategies for dealing with stressful situations. Therapy such as acupuncture, chiropractic manipulation, and myofascial release can bring temporary relief for patients. However, it is hard to get long-term therapy treatment as it might not be covered by insurance.
  • Lifestyle changes – such as exercise programmes and relaxation techniques.

How to manage fibromyalgia?

Many people with fibromyalgia find that support groups provide an important network where they can talk to others living with the condition. Having a counselor can help strengthen your belief in treatment and teach you how to cope better. Support groups have shown the great result in helping people living with fibromyalgia.

When you are diagnosed with fibromyalgia, you should learn as much as you can about this condition. Understanding the condition may help you find a way to cope. This extends to your family and friends as well. Fibromyalgia patients often get less sympathy and support because other people don’t understand the pain these patients are going through because there are no physical symptoms.

Exercise regularly.

Exercise, in particular, has been found to have a number of important benefits for people with fibromyalgia. At first, exercise may increase your pain. However, doing it gradually and regularly often decreases symptoms. One of the best things you can do is low-impact aerobic exercise. When you are used to lowing level intensity exercise, you can move to walking, jogging, and tennis. Appropriate exercises may include swimming or water exercise, stationary bicycling and exercising on ski-type machines. A physical therapist can help you develop a home exercise program. Stretching, good posture, and relaxation exercises also are helpful.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Eat healthy foods. Limit your caffeine intake, quit smoking and alcohol. Do something that you find enjoyable and fulfilling every day.

Get enough sleep.

Poor sleep often goes together with fibromyalgia and it can make the pain worse and can lead to fatigue and depression. You can find techniques to fall asleep easier at night while limiting daytime napping. Practice good sleep habits, such as going to bed and wake up at the same time, to train your body to a certain schedule of sleep.

Reduce stress.

Give yourself time to relax throughout the day, but try not to change your daily routine. You should have a plan for relaxation and reduce emotional stress. Try stress management techniques, such as deep-breathing exercises or meditation.

Take it easy.

Divide your activity throughout the day. You will have a bad day and you will have a good day. If you try to do too much on one day you might feel tired by the next. You shouldn’t overexert and learn ways to care for yourself.

If you have any problem dealing with pain or lack of sleep, you can consult with your doctor on how to deal with it. Remember to follow your doctor’ prescription and contact your doctor if you have any side effects.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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