Fibromyalgia Syndrome is an incapacitating, painful and uncomfortable chronic condition that affects the soft tissues of the body, e.g. muscles, tendons, and ligaments. There is not one definitive cause or trigger, but several symptoms that can help determine if a patient has the condition. It is a musculoskeletal disorder that is still somewhat of a mystery, but is recognized by the combination of several symptoms, such as muscle aches and general tiredness, so often doctors will perform many blood tests and x-rays first and then, by excluding other possibilities, finally determining that Fibromyalgia is the culprit.
Fibromyalgia is not a life-threatening condition and it does not tend to become progressively worse. Women are near six times more likely to experience Fibromyalgia than men. Most cases develop in early to middle adulthood, but rarely it can happen to children and older adults as well. People with a family history of the condition and people with rheumatic diseases can be more likely to develop the disorder. It is likely that there are several causes that work together to cause Fibromyalgia. Triggers may include one or more of the following: infection, disturbed sleep patterns including sleep apnea, severe injury, especially when the spinal cord is involved, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Here are some of the symptoms of Fibromyalgia:
- Muscle aches.
- Pain when pressure is applied to the body at specified pressure points.
- Fitful or restless sleep. Sufferers often get a full night’s sleep and wake up feeling lethargic and fatigued.
- Sensitivity to light, sounds, odors and touch.
- Tingling or numbness in the extremities
- Headaches, migraines, facial pain and aching or stiffness in the neck and shoulders. TMJ (jaw joint and surrounding muscle dysfunction) is also a sign of Fibromyalgia.
- Bowel trouble, e.g. constipation, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
- Women can experience painful menstruation.
- Leg cramps.
Because of the nature (and mystery) of the condition, routine blood tests and x-rays will not reveal anything more than a simple established physical examination using pressure points. The pain that a person with Fibromyalgia experiences is made significantly worse when easy pressure is applied to 18 specified pressure points on the body. This test is performed after a person has been experiencing symptoms for several months and if 11 of the 18 points produce pain, even with relatively easy pressure, that is a sign of the syndrome.
Fibromyalgia can be very similar to other hard-to-diagnose conditions such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Since a general unwellness is felt instead of a particular malady, say, a broken leg, it is often misunderstood by others.
Health care providers use different techniques to treat Fibromyalgia. Medications have been developed and doctors might prescribe analgesics or anti-inflammatories to reduce pain, muscle relaxants to reduce leg cramps and anti-depressants to relieve depression. However non-pharmaceutical treatments are also used, often with greater success, and can be done in conjunction with medication as well. Alternative medicine such as acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments and massage can be a great relief to symptoms.
Exercising and sleeping regularly, eating well, and reducing stress are all things that a person can do at home to reduce or ease the symptoms. Establishing routines and patterns seems to help relieve symptoms as well.