Fibromyalgia: Everything You Need to Know

Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder associated with extensive pain in the muscles, bones, and general fatigue. This condition is mostly misdiagnosed because associated symptoms can’t be determined or measured by tests.
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Some doctors don’t consider fibromyalgia a real condition because of lack of objective tests for this disorder. However, researchers are closer to understanding this condition and finding that lifestyle changes may be better than medication in managing it.

What are the Symptoms of Fibromyalgia?

There are places on your body where even light pressure can cause severe pain. Fibromyalgia is often associated with these areas of tenderness, which are called trigger points or tender points. These points are rarely used to diagnose it. Instead, they may be used as one way for doctors to narrow their list of possible diagnoses.
The pain caused by these trigger points can also be described as a consistent dull ache affecting many areas of your body. Your doctor may diagnose fibromyalgia if pains at these points lasts for at least three months.
People with this disorder may also experience:
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Sleeping for long periods without feeling rested
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
Symptoms may be a result of the brain and nerves misinterpreting or overreacting to normal pain signals. This may be due to a chemical imbalance in the brain.
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What Triggers Fibromyalgia?

A person used to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia if they had widespread pain and tenderness in at least 11 of the known 18 trigger points. Doctors would check to see how many of these points were painful by pressing firmly on them.
Common trigger points include:
  • back of the head
  • tops of shoulders
  • upper chest
  • hips
  • knees
  • outer elbows
However, these trigger points are no longer used to diagnose fibromyalgia. Instead, doctors may make a diagnosis if you report widespread pain for more than three months and have no medical condition that can explain the pain.

What causes fibromyalgia?

The exact cause of fibromyalgia isn’t known. However, researchers are close to understanding factors that may be responsible for the condition. These factors include:
Genetics: Fibromyalgia often runs in families. If you have a family member with this condition, your risk for developing it is higher. Researchers think certain genetic mutations may play a role in this condition. Those genes haven’t yet been identified.
Trauma: This condition has been linked to post-traumatic stress disorder. So, people with physical or emotional trauma may develop the condition.
Stress: Stress has been linked to hormonal disturbances that could contribute to fibromyalgia.
Infections: Fibromyalgia may be triggered by earlier illness or make symptoms of the condition worse.
Doctors also don’t fully understand the factors that cause people to experience the chronic widespread pain associated with the condition. Some theories suggest it may be that the brain lowers the pain threshold. What once wasn’t painful becomes very painful over time.
Another theory suggests that the nerves and receptors in the body become more sensitive to stimulation.

What are the Risk factors for Fibromyalgia?

Risk factors for fibromyalgia include:
  • Gender: Women are mostly affected by fibromyalgia for some unknown reasons.
  • Disease: Although fibromyalgia isn’t a form of arthritis, having a rheumatic disease like lupusor rheumatoid arthritis may also increase your risk.
  • Family history: If you have a family history of the condition, you may be at a greater risk for developing it.

Diagnosis for Fibromyalgia

There’s no one lab test that can detect fibromyalgia. To diagnose the condition, you have to experience an ongoing, widespread pain for three months or longer. Blood testing may be carried out to help rule out other potential causes of chronic pain.

Medications 

Fibromyalgia has no cure. Treatment aims to manage pain and improve quality of life. Common medications for fibromyalgia include:
Pain relievers: Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol). Prescription versions, such as tramadol (Ultram), maybe be used in extreme cases.
Antidepressants: Antidepressants, such as duloxetine (Cymbalta) and milnacipran (Savella), are sometimes used to help treat anxiety or depression associated with fibromyalgia.
Antiseizure drugs: drugs like Gabapentin (Neurontin) was designed to treat epilepsy, but it may help reduce symptoms in people with this disorder. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also approved pregabalin (Lyrica) for the treatment of fibromyalgia.

Alternative Treatments for Fibromyalgia

Lifestyle changes and alternative remedies for fibromyalgia may reduce pain while making you feel better overall. Most alternative treatments haven’t been exhaustively studied. Many reports of success with alternative treatment are circumstantial.
These treatments include:
  • Yoga
  • Acupuncture
  • Physical therapy
  • Massage therapy
  • Meditation
  • Regular exercise
  • Getting sufficient sleep at night
  • Balanced, healthy diet

Dietary recommendations for people with Fibromyalgia

No specific diet has been identified for people with this condition. Some people report that they feel better by following a diet plan or avoiding certain foods, but research doesn’t support anything definite. If you’ve been diagnosed with this condition, try to eat a healthy, balanced diet overall. Proper nutrition can help your body stay healthy and provide a constant supply of good energy. If your diet isn’t balanced and you’re not eating properly, your symptoms may worsen.
Dietary approaches to observe include:
  • Eat fruits and vegetables.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Eat more plants than meat.
  • Reduce your intake of sugar.
  • Get regular exercise as best as you can.
  • Lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.
Present this food diary to your doctor. The two of you can work together to identify any foods that aggravate your symptoms. Avoiding those foods may be a good idea. But keep in mind that research hasn’t identified foods that are more likely to aggravate symptoms of fibromyalgia.

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