What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by extensive musculoskeletal pain, as well as fatigue, sleep, cognitive, and mood problems. Fibromyalgia patients may be more sensitive to pain than non-fibromyalgia patients.
Causes of Fibromyalgia
The exact causes of fibromyalgia are unknown. The factors that trigger fibromyalgia include:
- Stressful traumatic physical or emotional events, such as a car accident
- Repetitive injuries
- Rheumatoid arthritis or other autoimmune diseases
- Central nervous system (CNS) problems
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Signs and symptoms of fibromyalgia include:
- Widespread pain
- Chronic fatigue
- Cognitive difficulties
- Jaw pain and stiffness
- Tingling and numbness in the hands and feet
- Irregular sleep patterns
- Depression and anxiety
- Pelvic and urinary problems
- Sensitivity to cold or heat
- Restless leg syndrome (RLS)
Diagnosis of Fibromyalgia
Your doctor will review your medical history and symptoms and based on this a physical examination will be performed. The main 0indicator of a fibromyalgia diagnosis is 3 months of widespread pain throughout your body in at least 4 of the following 5 regions:
- The left arm, shoulder, and jaw
- The right arm shoulder and jaw
- The left hip, buttock, and leg
- The right hip, buttock, and leg
- The chest, abdomen, back, and neck
To rule out other conditions with similar symptoms, your doctor may order tests such as a complete blood count, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, cyclic citrullinated peptide test, and antinuclear antibody test.
Treatment for Fibromyalgia
Medication and self-care practices are used to treat fibromyalgia. The focus is on reducing symptoms and improving overall health. Although no single treatment is effective for all symptoms, a combination of treatment options can have a cumulative effect. Treatment includes:
Your doctor will recommend over-the-counter medications to reduce pain and improve sleep. Common medications include:
- Pain-Relievers: Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen sodium may be helpful. Opioid drugs are not advised since they can cause serious adverse effects and addiction.
- Antidepressants: Milnacipran (Savella) and duloxetine (Cymbalta) may help to reduce pain and exhaustion associated with fibromyalgia. These medications may also help to improve sleep quality and neurotransmitter balance.
- Anti-Seizure Drugs: Epilepsy medications such as pregabalin and gabapentin are frequently effective in reducing fibromyalgia symptoms.
A range of therapy can help you manage the effects of fibromyalgia on your body and life. Examples include:
- Physical Therapy: Your doctor may recommend special exercises with a physical therapist such as water-based exercises to improve your strength, flexibility, and stamina.
- Occupational Therapy: An occupational therapist can help you overcome fibromyalgia symptoms and promote your participation in daily activities.
- Counseling: Speaking with a counselor can help you gain confidence in your abilities and learn strategies to handle stressful situations.
- Behavior Modification Therapy: This is a type of psychotherapy that helps you reduce pain-inducing behaviors, stress, and anxiety while developing effective coping mechanisms and positive, mindful behaviors.
Fibromyalgia can be prevented by:
- Stress-management techniques, such as deep-breathing exercises or meditation.
- Getting good-quality sleep
- Exercising regularly
- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle