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What is Fibromyalgia?

What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a syndrome that causes chronic fatigue, painful pressure points and generalized muscle pain.  While the syndrome does not cause damage to joints or tissue it does cause significant pain.  This can make living with fibromyalgia very difficult.  Even though it is not truly a form of arthritis it is considered a rheumatic condition.

Causes of Fibromyalgia

The causes of fibromyalgia are not fully understood.  Most agree that the theory of central sensitization comes closest to explaining the illness.  This theory states that people who have fibromyalgia have a lower threshold for pain due to an increased sensitivity in the brain to pain signals.  This causes the sufferer to experience an amplification of pain and other senses. 

Recent studies suggest that individuals may have a genetic predisposition for fibromyalgia.  Though for some the onset of the disorder is slow, for most people the onset is sudden and triggered by an illness or trauma. 

Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

The symptoms of fibromyalgia often mimic other illnesses or disorders.  Only a doctor can properly diagnose the condition.  Some of the more common signs and symptoms are:

  • Chronic muscle pain, spasms or tightness
  • Leg cramps
  • Increased fatigue and decreased energy
  • Insomnia or waking up feeling very tired
  • Stiffness upon walking or after staying in one position
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering and performing simple tasks
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Tension or migraine headaches
  • Jaw or facial tenderness
  • Sensitivity to certain smells, tastes, noises, or bright lights
  • Feeling anxious or depressed
  • Numbness or tingling in the face, arms, hands, legs or feet
  • Irritable bladder
  • Muscle pain after exercising and inability to exercise at normal levels
  • A feeling of swelling without actual swelling
  • Painful menstrual periods
  • Dizziness
  • Symptoms that seem worse depending on the time of day

Fibromyalgia Treatments

A typical course of treatment for fibromyalgia includes both medication and self-care.  Be sure to check with your physician before beginning any new activities or treatments.  The primary ways that fibromyalgia are treated are:

  • Medications
  • Analgesics (pain relief)
  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-seizure drugs
  • Therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Counseling (cognitive behavioral therapy)
  • Lifestyle changes and home remedies
  • Reduce stress
  • Get enough sleep
  • Exercise regularly
  • Keep activities at a steady pace (don’t overdo it on good days)
  • Eat healthy foods and participate in pleasant activities daily
  • Alternative Medicine
  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic care
  • Massage therapy

Fibromyalgia Resources

Fortunately, if you suffer from fibromyalgia there are many resources available to help you and your family.  We hope that the following links will help you better understand and manage your pain.

FAQ’s from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Sink Diseases:

http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Fibromyalgia/default.asp

Current articles and chat rooms to connect with others living with fibromyalgia:

http://www.healingwell.com/fibro/