What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes widespread musculoskeletal pain and stiffness (muscles, tendons, and ligaments) and adversely affects sleep, mood, and memory.
Fibromyalgia is classified as an autoimmune condition, although it does not seem to progress over time. While the symptoms may wax and wane, and even present acute flareups, individuals diagnosed with fibromyalgia will not become permanently disabled or develop muscle atrophy.
Fibromyalgia causes tender points throughout the body, which are usually found bilaterally. These on the chest wall, lower back, arms, legs, and both sides of the neck.
Research has indicated that fibromyalgia causes the brain to amplify painful sensations. People with fibromyalgia often have headaches, TMJ issues, anxiety, and depression. While there is no cure for fibromyalgia, there are a variety of pain-relieving treatment options that can help control and relieve symptoms. Learn more in the video below.
Fibromyalgia Treatment Options
Treatment options may include:
- Physical therapy
- Medications (pain relievers, opioids, antidepressants, antiseizure drugs)
- Occupational therapy
- weight management
- Constant, dull pain
- Muscle stiffness
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Sleep disorders (insomnia, restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea)
- Cognitive difficulties (a.k.a. “Fibro fog”, impaired focus, attention, concentration)
- Widespread (occurring on both sides of body, above and below the waist)
Some individuals with fibromyalgia may also experience sleep disturbances. These can include insomnia, repeated waking throughout the night and the inability to go into a deep sleep.
Diagnosis / Tests
There is no specific lab test that can confirm a diagnosis. However, a physician can review medical history and perform a physical examination among other blood tests to rule out conditions with similar symptoms. These tests include:
- Complete blood count
- Cyclic citrullinated peptide test
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate
- Rheumatoid factor
- Thyroid function tests
It is important to note that because fibromyalgia can mimic the symptomatology of more serious medical conditions, receiving a proper diagnosis is imperative. Several autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and Lupus, often have similar symptoms to fibromyalgia. As such, individuals suffering from ongoing fibromyalgia symptoms should have other medical conditions ruled out.
Types of Fibromyalgia Pain
Common forms of Fibromyalgia pain include:
- Abdominal pain
- Joint pain
- Muscle pain
Causes of Fibromyalgia
There is no known specific cause, but it is likely that fibromyalgia is related to several factors working in conjunction. These include:
- Anxiety or depression
- Complex regional pain syndrome
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Physical trauma
- Tension headaches
- Fibromyalgia is chronic and often lasts a lifetime.
- More women are diagnosed with fibromyalgia than men.
- The risk of developing fibromyalgia is higher if a family member has it.
- There is no specific lab test that can confirm a diagnosis.
- People with osteoarthritis, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis are more likely to have fibromyalgia.
While there is no documented evidence of long-term sequela, fibromyalgia can negatively someone’s physical and mental well-being. Flare-ups, while often times mild, can also be severe, causing sufferers to lose time from work and activities they once enjoyed.
How Is Fibromyalgia Diagnosed?
There is no one specific test to diagnose fibromyalgia. A diagnosis can be made by ruling out other autoimmune disorders and through physical examination.
Can Fibromyalgia Be Cured?
No, there is no definitive cure for fibromyalgia. However, there are ways to manage symptoms and minimize flares. These include proper stress management, eating a healthy diet, regular exercise, and possibly oral medication.
How Can I Manage Fibromyalgia Flares?
Fibromyalgia can be managed by understanding what triggers flare-ups. Some individuals find that their symptoms worsen when they are under a lot of stress, while others may see an increase in symptoms when they have not slept well.