Fibromyalgia is a disorder that affects the muscles and soft tissues. Symptoms of fibromyalgia are severe body pains, mental distress, joint pains like arthritis, fatigue; sleep problems, which can be managed through proper medications and lifestyle changes.
These symptoms accumulate over a period of time due to many reasons such as physical trauma, surgery, infection or psychological stress. There is no particular reason for this problem. No lab tests or X-rays shows up the problem. Doctors diagnose it based on the symptoms. Fibromyalgia does not damage your joints or organs.
The main symptom of fibromyalgia is muscle pain throughout the body, sleep problems, stiffness in joints and muscles in early hours, headache, irritable bowel syndrome, painful menstrual cramps, sensitivity to cold and heat, restless leg syndrome (RLS), fatigue, anxiety or depression, numbness or tingling.
Fibromyalgia often comes with other painful conditions such as
- Interstitial cystitis or painful bladder syndrome
- pelvic and urinary problems
- joint disorders
- problem while urination
Who can get fibromyalgia?
Women between 35 to 60 years of age have high chances of developing fibromyalgia. Women are more likely to get 10 times more than men. Even doctors aren’t sure about this.
The exact cause of fibromyalgia is not known. However, present thinking in the arena of Rheumatology advises that fibromyalgia is a problem with central pain processing in the brain, where there may be an enlarged sensitivity or perception of pain to a given trigger.
There are many factors that are included:
- Physical trauma such as car accident or any other.
- Genetics- women whose close relative with fibromyalgia have higher risk of developing the disorder.
- Repetitive injuries
- It may occur due to Rheumatoid arthritis or other autoimmune diseases, such as lupus
- joint disorders
- Central nervous system (CNS) problems
Fibromyalgia is very difficult to diagnose, as the symptoms keep varying and there could be other disorders. The symptoms are very much similar to other conditions like hypothyroidism or rheumatoid arthritis.
There is no specific X-ray or blood tests or scans to confirm fibromyalgia. The diagnosis of fibromyalgia was made based on the specific tender points in certain parts of your body.
Earlier some miscellaneous points were used to diagnose the condition, but now it is no longer recommended to diagnose fibromyalgia.
“Miscellaneous points or Tender points” are the definite areas of the body where fibromyalgia causes severe pain. The areas includes back of the head, inner knees, and outer elbows. The pain passes on to neck and shoulders, the outer hips, and the upper chest. Doctors analyze fibromyalgia based on the heaviness at these points. However, this method is not practiced to diagnose the condition anymore. Instead of precise areas, fibromyalgia is recognized by the harshness and chronic nature of the pain.
There is no permanent cure for fibromyalgia, but it can be managed with medications and therapies.
Many people try acupuncture in the first 2 years. It may work but it needs more exploration. Medication is most important because fibromyalgia is difficult to manage as it is chronic syndrome and every patient has different set of symptoms. So the treatments will be suggested according to the patient. Some treatments are as follows:
- regular exercises
- psychological therapies includes relaxation, coping with stress,
- occupational therapists
- chiropractic care
- low-dose anti-depressants, although these are not the first-line treatment Patients with fibromyalgia need to work with their doctor to come up with a treatment plan that provides the best results.
Doctors prescribe drugs to reduce the symptoms but they cannot cure the disease, the treatment will help to reduce the pain, sleep disorder, or depression associated with fibromyalgia.
For some people drugs may give side effects so check with your doctor before starting them. Intake of drugs should be stopped if there is no benefit. Generally doctors prescribe the below medicines to ease the symptoms.
- Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers.
- Antidepressants, such as duloxetine, or Cymbalta, and milnacipran, or Savella, may help reduce pain.
- Anti-seizure drugs, such as gabapentin also known as Neurontin, and pregabalin, or Lyrica, may be prescribed.
You need to discuss with your doctor about the improvement of the pains. Based on your feedback doctors can do the necessary changes and help you overcome from fibromyalgia.
How to manage the symptoms:
Many people suffering from fibromyalgia have leant to manage their condition, So that they can lead their lives comfortably.
Usually when you’re in pain, you may not like to exercise but lack of activity can lead to other problems like muscle weakness. A combination of aerobic activity and exercises will improve your flexibility. Exercise can also help you to get a better night's sleep.
Exercise means increasing the circulation of oxygen through the blood. Swimming, walking and cycling are mostly recommended.
There is no particular diet recommended for fibromyalgia, but eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, and also maintaining a healthy weight is very important.
Some patients have experienced good improvement in their life after starting acupuncture therapy and massage for fibromyalgia. These therapies ease the pain and discomfort; but do not give long term relief to the symptoms. Some people also found benefit from capsaicin cream and homeopathy. But the capsaicin cream might not be practical for a widespread pain.
Behavior modification therapy:
Behavior modification therapy is a procedure of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that helps diminish negative stress- or pain-increasing behaviors and reinstate positive, mindful behaviors. CBT is very effective for people who have improper sleep.
Getting enough good quality sleep is very important to treat fibromyalgia. It will not only help in reducing tiredness and fatigue but also helps in minimizing pain. To get good sleep you may try these- keep your room temperature warm, take hot shower before going to bed may help ease pain and stiffness, listen to music, gentle exercises to reduce muscle tension, avoid alcohol, tea or coffee in the night, avoid smoking, don’t use mobiles or tablets or any other electronic devices in the bedroom, develop a sleep routine.