Getting the Better of Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition which causes stiffness, pain & tenderness in the joints, tendons and muscles. This condition is also called fibromyalgia syndrome and used to be referred to as fibrositis. Though this condition is one of the most common ones to affect the muscles and results in disability and chronic pain, currently, its cause is unknown. Though the person who suffers from it experiences pain there is no inflammation in the tissues.
Resultantly, though it disables the body, there is no evident deformity or damage. Apart from this, fibromyalgia does not cause any damage to the internal body organs. In this context, fibromyalgia is very different from most other rheumatic conditions (like rheumatoid arthritis, polymyositis and systemic lupus). In these diseases, the pain is largely caused by inflammation in the tissues. It also results in tenderness and stiffness of the muscles, tendons & joints and can end up damaging muscles or internal organs.
Who is Affected?
A person suffering from FMS experiences widespread pain for a minimum of 3 months which affects both the sides of the body- above & below the waist. In addition, there are at least 11-18 trigger points or very tender points in the body. Women are more prone to getting affected by this condition. More than 80 percent of affected individuals are women in the 35-55 years range. In some cases, fibromyalgia can affect men, the elderly and children. It may occur independently or may be associated with some other disease like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
The predominant symptom of this condition is pain. As stated earlier, it is not tissue inflammation that causes this pain. The affected individuals are highly sensitive to various sensory stimuli & have a significantly low pain threshold. Even very minor sensory stimuli which would ordinarily not cause any pain in normal individuals can have a very major impact on fibromyalgia patients and they can suffer from disabling pain. Weather changes, emotional stress and noise can aggravate this body pain. Generally, the pain affects the:
- Back of the head
- Upper back
In addition to these “tender points”, fibromyalgia is characterized by:
- Chronic fatigue
- Restless sleep
- Awakening feeling tired
- Abnormal bowel function
- Poor concentration
- Memory lapses
- Mood changes
- Tension headaches
Every patient who has this condition will experience fibromyalgia symptoms in varying combinations and the occurrence of these symptoms will also be erratic.
The exact cause of this condition is not known. Affected individuals experience a lot of pain from stimuli that will typically not be painful to others. Some of the findings state that fibromyalgia patients have:
- Elevated levels of substance P, a nerve-chemical signal,
- Elevated nerve growth factor in their spinal fluid
- Relatively low levels of serotonin, the brain chemical
- A supersensitive central nervous system
- A diffused disturbance of pain perception
The most effective treatment for this condition is a combination of:
- Prescribed medications
- Non-drug therapies are used in tandem with the prescribed medication. Tai-Chi, which is a movement therapy or massage, which is a hands-on therapy & stretching of sore muscles with heat, which are called trigger point treatments are all examples of non-drug therapies. In addition, nutritional supplements like magnesium & malic acid as well as different anti-oxidants are given to protect the tissues
- Self-help strategies help with reducing the painful stiffness in the muscles and in managing muscle tension, improving sleep and conserving energy. Using these self-help approaches on a daily basis, reduces the symptoms and gives the patient a sense of control over their fibromyalgia
- Alternative medicine options
- Physical & body movement therapies
A point that must be kept in view is that diagnosing fibromyalgia is very difficult and there are no specific laboratory tests that can confirm it. Due to this, the patients are often misdiagnosed to be primarily suffering from depression. No doubt fibromyalgia is a very difficult disease to handle, but following some of these treatments can go a long way in alleviating its symptoms.
If you know of someone with fibromyalgia who has made stunning recovery through whatever methods, please share their story. It will be so wonderful to know of these recovery stories and will help everyone.