Fibromyalgia causes debilitating pain and fatigue. The illness affects 5 million American adults aged 18 years or older. While anyone can exhibit the disease regardless of age or gender, it affects women disproportionately.
According to WomensHealth.gov, 80 to 90 percent of the people suffering from the disease are women. The disease presents with intense aches and pains throughout the body, however certain “tender” points correspond to increased pain when applying pressure to them.
In addition to pain pressure sensitive tender points in the neck, shoulders, arms, back, legs and hips, other symptoms may manifest:
- Impaired cognitive and memory function
- Sleep disturbances
- Muscle stiffness, particularly in the morning
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Menstrual pain
- Diminished sensation or tingling of hands and feet
- Sensitivity to temperature
- Sensitivity to loud noises or bright lights
- Restless leg syndrome
The cause of fibromyalgia remains unclear. It can be linked to certain diseases and lifestyle circumstances. Fibromyalgia occurs more often in people with various form of arthritis, lupus, or a family history of the disease. It also occurs in the absence of other diseases.
The disease also appears more often in people who sustain repetitive motion injuries, experience traumatic events, spend time in war zone environments and experience infection or illness.
Fibromyalgia is difficult to diagnose sense its symptoms mirror those of many other diseases.
Once other potential diseases have been excluded, fibromyalgia may be diagnosed if the patient exhibits:
- Pain throughout the whole body for a period of 3 months or longer
- A set of 18 prescribed tender points which trigger a pain response when pressure is applied to them
Treating fibromyalgia requires a multilayer approach. As a systemic disease, the kaleidoscope of symptoms it causes must be treated with a synergistic approach. Successful treatment often requires the input of professional from a variety of medical and alternative therapy disciplines.
Several medications are available to treat fibromyalgia. They address different symptoms of the disease with the intent of providing extended relief. Two of these medicines, pregabalin and duloxetine, are FDA approved. Pregabalin, commercially known as Lyrica, is an anticonvulsant; it treats fibromyalgia-related pain and improves the ability to perform daily tasks. It may cause dizziness drowsiness, swelling, and weight gain.
Duloxetine, commercially known as Cymbalta, is an antidepressant. Its side effects include nausea, insomnia, dizziness, and others. These drugs need to be prescribed and should be used with close medical supervision.
Antidepressants are generally recommended to relieve fibromyalgia symptoms, but they do not effectively treat the chronic pain associated with the disease.
Alternative therapies work well with other treatment methods to relieve fibromyalgia symptoms. According the American Pain Society, the objective of these therapies is to relieve chronic pain and improve daily functions for the patient.
Some of these treatments are:
- Myofascial release therapy
- Relaxation exercises
- Breathing techniques
- Cognitive therapy
Several lifestyle choices ease the symptoms of fibromyalgia. They include:
- Exercise – While pain and fatigue may make a regular exercise challenging, it is a proven means to maintain mobility and build functional fitness levels.
- Nutrition – A healthful diet assists with overall health maintenance and helps prevent the onset of other diseases. It supports healthy energy level as well. While no direct link between fibromyalgia and certain foods are documented, you may choose to monitor your diet for foods, which seem to aggravate the condition.
- Sleep Hygiene – Ensuring you get the appropriate amount of restful sleep eases fibromyalgia pain and of course addresses the issue of fatigue. The quality of the sleep is equally important to the length of time a person sleeps; on average, most adults require seven to eight hours of sleep.
- Work-Life Balance – Maintaining a work schedule may be difficult for a person coping with fibromyalgia. They may need to adapt their career choice or work conditions (work hours, equipment, and ergonomics) in order to continue to work while managing the disease.
While fibromyalgia can be very debilitating, it is a manageable disease. If you experience, four or more of the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia for three months or more seek medical attention. It may not be fibromyalgia, however, the symptoms indicate something serious may be amiss with the body.
There are many treatment options, which can be adapted to your needs if you are diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Consult with your medical care provider to determine the appropriate course of treatment for you.