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What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia (fi-bro-my-al-ja) (FM or FMS) is a chronic disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and tenderness in localized areas. Fibromyalgia is the most common musculoskeletal condition after osteoarthritis. Still, it is often misdiagnosed and misunderstood. Its characteristics include widespread muscle and joint pain and fatigue as well as other symptoms. Fibromyalgia can lead to depression and social isolation.

Fibromyalgia is a condition where pain signals are not processed normally and hence the patient is always in chronic pain and fatigue. It is sometimes considered a psychological issue rather than a disease since it is connected to depression also. Sleep disorder, stress and psychological trauma can also result in Fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia can also occur due to neurobiological issues and hence the International Classification of Diseases (IDC-10) has listed Fibromyalgia as a diagnosable functional somatic disease rather than a mental disorder.

Since mental conditions such as stress, depression, anxiety and psychological trauma can also result in Fibromyalgia, for more clarity, it can be classified into 4 types:

  • Extreme pain but no related stress or anxiety problems
  • Fibromyalgia along with depression due to resulting pain
  • Depression accompanied by fibromyalgia syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia purely due to psychological problems

Each of these conditions should be treaded separately using different methods though anti-depressants are widely used for the 2nd and 3rd conditions.

Symptoms

Extreme and widespread pain and fatigue without any solid reason are the most common symptoms most patients complain of.

Sleep disorders, changes in bowel movement patterns, headaches, problem in concentration and memory loss are also commonly complained about.

Since the patient will not be able to point out the pain areas specifically and may be going through mental stress or depression the condition is generally overlooked as a mere psychological problem.

Facts

Though there is no specific test that can be considered the ultimate diagnosis point for Fibromyalgia, it can be diagnosed over a period of time based on tests and history of the patient.

Scientists have classified 18 points in our body where pain is usually felt more. Mechanical devices are available that exerts pressure on the said 18 points of the patient, the resulting data alone cannot be considered for concluding the diagnosis.

A physician’s subjective diagnosis based on the medical history and the amount of pressure exerted should also be considered. This along with a record on the psychological condition of the patient should be the basis for diagnosis.

Causes

What causes Fibromyalgia is still a much researched subject. One of the reasons considered is an injury or illness that affects the central nervous system or brain. For non-psychological related fibromyalgia the patient is extremely sensitive to pain because the nervous system controlling pain signals are affected due to an injury, medication or some other disease and do not function properly.

For fibromyalgia related to psychological issues some doctors feel that the pain is not real and it’s just a feeling of the patient. Since there is not accepted testing facility to measure the amount of pain a patient feels, it is not a conclusive diagnosis.

Fibromyalgia produces chronic pain across ones entire body across numerous trigger points.  The pain migrates and can be felt from head to toe. Other symptoms include persistent fatigue, headaches, cognitive or memory impairment, morning stiffness and non-restorative sleep. The pain can move from day to day. Recent scientific research studies have shown that the central nervous system is involved in people with FMS.

The word fibromyalgia is derived from the Greek word as follows:

  • fibro meaning fiber-like
  • mya meaning muscle
  • algia meaning pain

How widespread is Fibromyalgia?

The American College of Rheumatology estimate that between three (3) and six (6) million Americans suffer from Fibromyalgia.  

Who is affected by Fibromyalgia?

Primarily, fibromyalgia affects women of child bearing age, but cases in children, elderly and men occur.

Fibromyalgia Treatments

The doctor, therapist, and patient all play an active role in dealing with fibromyalgia.

Treatment requires a comprehensive approach.

Studies have shown that aerobic exercise like walking, swimming and biking improve muscle fitness and reduce tenderness, and chronic muscle pain. Heat, massage and gentle touch can also give short term relief.  Antidepressant medications help elevate mood, improve quality of sleep, and relax muscles.

Patients with fibromyalgia also benefit from a combination of exercise, medication, relaxation, meditation and physical therapy.

Visit our treatment page for more information about fibromyalgia treatments.

Comments

aydajcifuentes's picture

Thanks for sharing! it is brave to do so. You are not alone and I am proud of you although I do not know you. 

 

Petal's picture

Hi all, this is my first time on this forum and a forum on this subject. I'm 47 yoa female. Have had anxiety since a child. Weird illnesses as a child, some intolerances to meds and food. Caught a virus coming back from OS some years ago, developed chronic fatigue, suspected fibromyalgia but Drs put me down to neuropathy and ever since, didn't bother investigating, just put it down to that. Naturopath treated me for CFS and fibromyalgia. Found a fabulous Physio, and I was rid of CFS and fibromyalgia symptoms reduced to 60%. Unfortunately, something has increased the fibro symptoms and getting worse. Fatigue is returning. Am better with the AD's for anxiety and sleep, but the pain is taking over in a lot of places. Have recently changed Dr who brought fibromyalgia up in conversation to which I answered "no one believes in that". He put me straight. Whether I have it or not, he's at least given me hope that we'll find out one way or another and that it's not just health anxiety aka hypochondria, and we'll work out a management plan. Blood test results next week will guide where to next.

Anonymous's picture

I found going completely vegan with my diet and taking energy supplements like ginseng and gingko biloba has really helped as well as light exercising and not sitting for too long. I have to keep moving. The is stuff called DMSO which works wonders on joint pain that I put on topically when it gets too bad. It tingles for a half hour or so at first but it works for a day or two and it's relatively inexpensive. Don't sit inactive, keep moving!

 

 

Anonymous's picture

Some of the best medicine is validation....hearing people like myself struggling and sharing their experiences....ive had fibro for a few years...the best that i ever have felt during this difficult journey is eating gluten free...ginger...no or minimal sugar intake....will be starting again tomorrow as I'm in an elevated flare

Anonymous's picture

 I recently visited new doctor to get established after not seeing doctor in years.  I told him I had fibromyalgia and Restless Leg Syndrome RLS) and Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD).  He dismissed and reduced everything by either ignoring what I said and reducing my RLS and PLMD as nothing more than iron defeceincy.  I tried to explain that an iron defeciency can be a direct result of having RLS and PLMD and that it is a neurological disease.  He was not going to hear any of that.

 

This is the second doctor that has pretty much treated me the same way.  Both were new doctors right out of residency.Anyone who suffers severe RLS symptoms like I do know that this disease is totally disruptive to your life and leaves me with sleep deprivation and back and leg pain from the constant thrashing and kicking of legs.  It is truly horrible.  You would think this was nothing more than a hard to reach itch! 

Anyone else out there have similar experiences.  This is not in my head!  My husband can vouche for that.

Anonymous's picture

Hi , i have just read your post and good few months on now and hope you have got sorted and sorry to hear that you have been ignored by doctor as also was in my case , my heart goes out to you . I had the restless leg symptom and is horrible trying to get to sleep , fortunately it has subsided and hope will subside for you also . I have had all other symptoms of fybromalgia , blankets of pain all over body , legs , arms , shoulders , neck , feet, all over back , headaches , memory loss and confusion , fatigue , weakness in muscles and joints ,depression etc. same as yourself , complaining to doctor and actually asked is it possible that i have fybromalgia and he didn't give me an answer , don't go to young doctors they ain't got a clue ! . I have had for 7 years , have just changed my doctor and he done more for me in 2 appointments than other done in years . It is not phycological as some are making out , my muscles are sore to the touch . Problem is the condition is just starting to be recognised and doctor s are reluctant to diagnose you with this for some reason . Problem is there is no specific test for fybromalgia , they have to rule out everything first , lot of blood tests etc. Your best bet is to be referred to neurology as part is to do with brain and nerves in muscles , doctors are no good , you need a specialist Keep fighting and don't take NO for an answer . The prob is like so many other things is there are other conditions similar , but with what you are saying it is a service it's fybromalgia . A Physiotherapist is also more qualified to diagnose also . I found Amytripteline tablets are quite good cos they loosen muscles , i get tightening of muscles , however i have heart disease and took me off them as bad for that condition Doctor has upped my pain killers and not even looked at it , searching for tablets relating to fybromalgia . I would search a good site relating to the condition and print out and take to your doctor, i know how frustrating it is , i used to come out of doctors angry and frustrated and that should not be the case . Hope i have been a bit of help . We are the best judge of what goes on in our bodies , keep fighting ........ All the best ..... John