Wednesday, May 12th is Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and fibromyalgia International Awareness Day. If you or someone you love is suffering or was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia, it can be a daunting time with many unanswered questions. Learning more about the causes and treatment options can help ease your concerns and assist in controlling the pain and distress this condition can cause.
Fibromyalgia is one of the most common disorders that affect our bones and muscles. It’s sometimes misunderstood and even misdiagnosed by medical professionals. People diagnosed with fibromyalgia symptoms suffer from muscle and joint pain as well as fatigue.
Although there is no cure for fibromyalgia, there are ways to combat its symptoms. Exercise, stress management, and developing healthy lifestyle habits can improve the condition. These activities may ease symptoms to the point where you can live a normal active life again.
Fatigue: An overall feeling of being run down throughout the day and on a daily basis.
Trouble sleeping: Restlessness or the inability to get to sleep, or sleep soundly through the night. Sleeping for long periods of time without feeling rested: Known as nonrestorative sleep, it’s the feeling of waking up and not being fully refreshed even after a full eight hours of sleep.
Headaches: Fibromyalgia can cause pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulders, and may also lead to headaches. These can vary from mild to severe migraines and could also involve other symptoms, such as nausea.
Depression: Widespread physical pain coupled with lack of sleep may lead to depression and sadness.
Anxiety: Anxiety can be a major trigger to fibromyalgia symptoms. The mental paralysis of anxiety can accelerate the physical discomforts.
Trouble focusing or paying attention: Many patients with fibromyalgia have a higher rate of adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Pain or a dull ache in the lower belly: More than two-thirds of those with fibromyalgia symptoms also have stomach disorders: bloating, gas, and nausea on a regular basis. Constipation and/or diarrhea are also common.
Dry eyes:The mucous membranes in the nose, mouth, and eyes can become arid. Dry eyes can be extremely uncomfortable for those with contact lenses. Using eye drops can help to keep eyes moist and alleviate some of the discomfort.
Bladder problems, such as interstitial cystitis: The most recognizable symptom of this is intense pelvic pain, felt below the naval. This pain often becomes worse during menstruation or after eating certain foods.
Back of the head: In more than half of all fibromyalgia sufferers, one of the accompanying symptoms is headaches. These may range from tension headaches to migraines. Many patients suffering from fibromyalgia also experience intensely painful migraine headaches.
Tops of the shoulders: Many people suffering from fibromyalgia get migraine or tension headaches regularly. This can be the result of pain in the neck and upper back. They're often caused by tense neck muscles. This can create tender points over the back of the head and neck.
Upper chest: This pain can feel like an intense stabbing sensation primarily in the center of the chest, around the breastbone and rib cage. Fibromyalgia chest pains can be a frightening experience because the sensation resembles the symptoms of a heart attack.
Hips, knees, and outer elbows: When you apply pressure on any of these spots, they may feel tender. There are up to 18 possible tender points throughout the body.
Fibromyalgia symptoms may occur on a regular basis, but there may be periods of time where no symptoms are present. The pain from this malady can fluctuate and sometimes even become more severe with time.
These are called “flare-ups” and can not only happen at any time, they can be caused by several factors. The intensity of these flare-ups can be triggered by stress. Ongoing mental pressure can exacerbate fibromyalgia symptoms. These flares can last as long as a couple of days or even weeks.
But it’s not just stress that can trigger these flare-ups. Other triggers can include but are not limited to:
It’s important to understand that science is still trying to determine the exact cause(s) of fibromyalgia. While it remains a mystery, there are some factors that appear to increase the likelihood of developing the condition:
Infections: The Epstein-Barr virus has been linked to fibromyalgia. Other infections, such influenza, hepatitis B, and C have been implicated as well.
Genes: Unlike genetic disorders, fibromyalgia isn't passed directly from parent to child. However, there does appear to be a greater chance for developing it if others in a family have it as well. Incidents are several times higher in families of people with fibromyalgia than in those where no one is a sufferer.
Trauma: Some illnesses may trigger or even aggravate fibromyalgia. Physical or emotional events can also be a cause. Intense instantaneous trauma, such as a car accident, can be a triggering event. Prolonged psychological stress may also trigger the condition
Stress: Stress weakens the body. In a compromised state, we're more vulnerable to fibromyalgia's symptoms, such as chronic pain, fatigue, and depression. Eliminating (where possible) certain stressful triggers from your life may reduce fibromyalgia symptoms once they’ve begun.
Although no cure currently exists, there are a number of options for minimizing the painful symptoms of fibromyalgia to bring relief and a sense of normalcy back to life:
Self Care: Consistent, low-intensity exercise, like walking or water exercise, are some of the best treatments for fibromyalgia. These activities decrease pain and stiffness, reduce stress, and may help you sleep better.
Lifestyle Changes: Avoiding foods that trigger flare-ups can be helpful. Engage in moderate daily exercise, manage stress, and get consistent rest.
Over-the Counter Medications: Pain relievers such as aspirin and ibuprofen can be helpful in managing symptoms of pain. Consulting a doctor to see if there is a deficiency which a supplement could be beneficial is also an option.
Complementary Therapies: Although research findings are mixed on the effectiveness of alternative therapies, some people do find relief in their practice. These include massage therapy, acupuncture, and biofeedback.
Treatments for fibromyalgia include medical and self-care strategies. Most treatments place an emphasis on minimizing the painful symptoms and improving general health. No one treatment works for all symptoms associated with fibromyalgia, so applying multiple treatment strategies may have a cumulative effect. Counseling and talk therapy is also advised for patients with fibromyalgia.
Medications help reduce the pain of fibromyalgia and improve sleep. Common choices include:
Sources: Fibromyalgia Headache Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments Study Suggests Screening Patients With Fibromyalgia Syndrome for ADHD 8 Fibromyalgia Symptoms You Should Know Bowel and Bladder Problems in Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Fibromyalgia Tender Points What Causes Fibromyalgia? Fibromyalgia Treatments Medications for Treating Fibromyalgia