This disorder is characterized by a widespread of musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. It’s believed that fibromyalgia amplifies pain by affecting the way the brain processes pain signals.
Sometimes, symptoms may begin after a physical trauma, surgery, infection or significant psychological stress. Other times, symptoms gradually accumulate over time without a triggering event.
Who’s at risk?
Women are much more likely to develop this disorder than men. Many people with this disorder also have tension headaches, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and depression.
There is no cure for this disorder. However, there is a variety of medications can help control symptoms. Exercise, relaxation and stress-reduction may also help to control symptoms.
Fibromyalgia Tender Points
One of the unique aspects of this disorder is the presence of tender points in specific areas on the body. When these areas are pressed, pain is felt by those suffering from this disorder.
What causes Fibromyalgia?
While there are many speculations out there on the causes of this disorder, research has yet to pinpoint a clear culprit. Some doctors believe hormonal or chemical imbalances disrupt the way nerves signal pain. While others believe that a traumatic event or chronic stress may increase a person’s susceptibility. Most experts agree that it’s probably a result from a combination of factors rather than a single cause.
SYMPTOMS OF FIBROMYALGIA
- Widespread pain: A constant dull ache that has lasted for at least 3 months. The pain must occur on both sides of your body and above and below your waist to be considered as widespread.
- Fatigue: Often wake up tired, even though they have slept for long periods of time. Sleep is often disrupted by pain and many patients have other sleep disorders such as restless legs syndrome and sleep apnea.
- Cognitive difficulties: A symptom known as a “fibro fog” impairs the ability to focus, pay attention and concentrate on mental tasks.
- Other problems: Depression, headaches, and pain or cramping in the lower abdomen.
TREATMENT OPTIONS AVAILABLE FOR FIBROMYALGIA
Treatments generally include both medication and self-care. The goal is on minimizing symptoms and improving general health. There isn’t one treatment that works for all symptoms.
Medications can help reduce the pain of fibromyalgia and improve sleep. Common choices are:
- Pain relievers: Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve, others) may be helpful. A prescription pain reliever such as tramadol (Ultram, Conzip) may be recommended. Narcotics are not advised as 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. Your doctor may prescribe amitriptyline at night to help you sleep better.
- Anti-seizure drugs: Epilepsy medication are often useful in reducing certain types of pain. Gabapentin (Neurontin, Gralise) can sometimes be helpful in reducing fibromyalgia symptoms while pregabalin (Lyrica) was the first drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat fibromyalgia.
Speaking to a counsellor can help strengthen your belief in your abilities and teach you strategies for dealing with stressful situations.
- Physical exam: Doctors used to check 18 specific points on a person’s body to see how many of them were painful when pressed. Newer guidelines don’t require a tender point exam. Instead, a diagnosis can be made if a person has had widespread pain for more than 3 months without underlying medical conditions that could cause the pain.
- Blood tests: Your doctor may want to rule out other conditions that may have similar symptoms. Blood tests that may be ordered include complete blood count, erythrocyte sedimentation rate and thyroid function tests.