Just what is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a disorder that is characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain. Many people can get confused about the actual meaning of a fibromyalgia diagnosis, thinking it is simply a ‘catchall’ type of diagnosis. This is not actually true. For example, rheumatoid arthritis is distinguished from other types of arthritis because of its specific symptoms. Fibromyalgia, however, is a syndrome, which means it has a specific set of symptoms that the person experiences as well as specific signs that a health care practitioner can identify. Learn from top health experts about the key factors behind fibromyalgia, the disorders
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potentially linked to it and more with these resources today:
Fibromyalgia is a specific, non-degenerative, chronic, non-inflammatory, non-progressive, true systemic pain condition. Disorders potentially linked to fibromyalgia include depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Women are more likely to develop fibromyalgia and symptoms than are men. The symptoms of fibromyalgia frequently begin following a physical trauma, infection, surgery or a significant psychological stress. In some situations, the symptoms gradually accumulate over time and do not have a single triggering event. Many people who are diagnosed with fibromyalgia also have temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ), tension headaches, anxiety, depression and/or irritable bowel syndrome. The symptoms of fibromyalgia include: widespread pain, which is typically described as a continuous, dull ache that has lasted for three months. In order for the pain to be considered widespread, it must occur on both sides of the body as well as above and below the waist. Fatigue is a common symptom for those diagnosed with fibromyalgia. People with fibromyalgia often wake up tired, even after sleeping for long periods of time and their sleep is frequently disrupted by pain. Other sleep disorders have been noted as well, such as sleep apnea and/or restless legs syndrome. Another significant symptom is cognitive difficulties, which is often referred to as “fibro fog” as it impairs the ability to pay attention, focus and concentrate on mental tasks. Also depression, headaches, cramping and pain in their lower abdomen have been known to occur.
It has not been determined what the exact cause of fibromyalgia is, but many health professionals believe it involves a variety of different factors working together. Some of the factors include; genetics, because fibromyalgia often runs in families, an infection may trigger or aggravate fibromyalgia and/or a physical or emotional trauma, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, which is been linked to fibromyalgia. There are number of theories relating to why fibromyalgia causes pain. For example, some researchers have reported that repeated nerve stimulations cause the brain of someone with fibromyalgia to change. The change involves an abnormal increase in the level of the neurotransmitters that signal pain to the brain. Also, the pain receptors in the brain appear to develop a type of memory of the pain, which it becomes more sensitive to, meaning it can lead to an overreaction of pain signals.
Key Factors Behind Fibromyalgia
The risk factors for fibromyalgia typically include; being a woman, having a relative also diagnosed with fibromyalgia and if you have a rheumatic disease, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. It is often difficult to diagnose fibromyalgia and many people often go years before a diagnosis is made. Doctors previously checked 18 specific points on your body to see how many points were painful when firm pressure was applied. The current guidelines for diagnosing fibromyalgia no longer require this type of exam, instead the diagnosis can be made if you have had widespread pain for greater than three months and without an underlying medical condition that may be the cause of your pain. There are no specific lab tests that can be done to confirm the diagnosis of fibromyalgia, however, your doctor may run a variety of tests to rule out any other conditions that may have similar symptoms. For example, a blood test is typically done to check your complete blood count, erythrocyte sedimentation rate and thyroid function.
In general, treatments for fibromyalgia include both medication and self-care. The emphasis is on minimizing symptoms and improving general health. No one treatment works for all symptoms.
There are a variety of medications that may be prescribed to help relieve the pain associated with fibromyalgia and to help improve sleep patterns. Some of the common types of medications include: over-the-counter pain relievers or your physician may prescribe pain relievers, such as tramadol. A narcotic is not usually prescribed for alleviating the pain of fibromyalgia because they can often lead to a dependence on the medication and may worsen the pain over time. Antidepressants are sometimes prescribed to help lower the fatigue and pain that is associated with fibromyalgia and anti-seizure medications may occasionally be prescribed to help reduce certain types of pain.
Many people who suffer with fibromyalgia find relieve for the pain as well as management for their stress, through alternative therapies. Some of the most common alternative therapies used to treat the symptoms of fibromyalgia include; massage therapy, meditation and or yoga. One of the most important things you can do to help relieve the symptoms of fibromyalgia is self-care. Self-care is essential to help avoid stress, overexertion and fatigue. It is critical that you get enough sleep, because fatigue is one of the primary symptoms of fibromyalgia. Regular exercise will help to decrease the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Daily exercise, such as stretching, walking, bicycling and swimming are excellent ways to help reduce your pain as well as help you sleep better at night. Although it is important to avoid overexertion, it is important to remain at least moderately active. You should also maintain a healthy lifestyle, which includes eating healthy, limiting your daily intake of caffeine and avoiding tobacco and alcohol.
For those suffering with fibromyalgia, the lack of sleep and the pain often interferes with the ability to function while at home or at work. Along with the fatigue and pain associated with fibromyalgia, you may also have to deal with the frustration that accompanies the disorder, because it is such a misunderstood diagnosis. This frustration many people feel may lead to anxiety and/or depression. So, it is essential to educate yourself on the disorder, which makes it helpful to provide your friends and family with more information about your diagnosis. There is currently no cure for fibromyalgia, but certain medications are often beneficial in helping to control the symptoms. It is also beneficial to recognize the fact that you are not alone. There are a number of organizations, such as the American Chronic Pain Association and the National Fibromyalgia Association that can help connect you with others who are experiencing the same problems and that will understand what you are going through.
I have fibro and its not easy to live with, specially since Doctor’s treat you like you are crazy, Somedays I feel like I have been hit by a semi truck, a dull ache everywhere, just keeps moving around, its hurt’s to be touched, poked or tickled. It’s not easy living with this disease, and I don’t want to take pain medications because they can do more harm than good, so for me, I have to be careful how much I do, know my limits, I found a 3 foot heating pad that is my best friend, hot baths every day with Epson salt. Try to not get my legs cold, not stand on hard surfaces for any length of time. changed all my shoes out. No more heals! Even certain fabric can hurt my skin, I have to be careful with that. So basically this disease really sucks, But I have tried to find ways to make it livable since it’s not curable. Kelly