What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibro (Latin for Fibrous Tissue) Myo (Greek for muscle) Algia (Greek for pain)
Have you posted about a few symptoms you’ve been experiencing and someone has come back to you with this and you’d like to do a little more research?
Has the doctor finally given you a word to sum up the last few chronic months/years of your life with a word that means nothing but relief of an answer?
Have a friend, relative or college who has been diagnosed and you’d like to learn more?
Hopefully I can help you understand further as to what Fibromyalgia actually is.
Fibromyalgia is a symptom complex that medical professionals are still working on the mysteries of to this day. It is a chronic illness which is mainly presented through widespread chronic pain, fatigue and heightened reaction to physical pressure. Chronic being more than three ongoing months of consistency.
Fibromyalgia most commonly affects woman between the ages of 25-55 years, however anyone can be affected. Diagnosis is a long and difficult process which can bring about a lot of stress. A cure has not yet been discovered, however treatment is prescribed to manage the symptoms present.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia:
(Can include but not limited to)
- Widespread muscle pain
- Morning stiffness of joints
- Tender to touch (extra sensitive to 18 Trigger Points as pictured)
- Poor quality sleep (getting to, staying, or waking up) Some experience what is called NREM (non-rapid eye movement) preventing deep sleep.
- Brain fog and loss of simple thought processes
- Restless legs
- Vision problems
- Jaw pain
- Migraines or tension headaches
- Numbness and tingling of limbs
- Irritable bowels or bladder
- Cognitive impairment
- Increased menstrual pain in women
Causes and Risk Factors:
Although the cause of Fibromyalgia is not officially known, there are multiple common risk factors that are said to contribute. Risk factors are characteristics that are said to increase the chances of developing Fibromyalgia. Although it must be noted that not everyone with Fibromyalgia has these traits – it really is in the early stages of research still. Below are a list of possible risk factors identified by medical professionals.
- Gender – much more common in females. Although statistics vary it is said between 75-90% diagnosed are women.
- Genetics – It is known to be hereditary (As a sidebar, my mother Lorraine also has FM)
- Excess stress
- Sleep disturbances
- Depression or Anxiety (unknown if these are a cause or result of Fibromyalgia.)
- Diseases and other illnesses
The Diagnosis of Fibromyalgia is a long, often grueling process, initially carried out by a General Practitioner. I’ve briefly summed up a portion of the process below, but do not let the small paragraph fool you. This condition can take many years before someone puts the pieces together and gives a diagnosis.
The process begins by going over current symptoms that are currently being experienced. Including but not limited to sleep patterns, brain fog, widespread pain and pressure sensitivity. Symptoms must have been on-going for a minimum of three months and remaining at a fairly constant level. Following that the GP may test the 18 trigger points (diagram above,) as heightened pain in at least 11 of these spots is suggested to diagnose Fibromyalgia. This method is used much less often now as it’s become apparent that not everyone who has Fibromyalgia will have heightened pain on these trigger points.
Along with the trigger test, full sets of blood tests are taken and tested thoroughly. These are used to rule out any other possibilities such as vitamin deficiency’s, or auto-immune diseases. Inflammatory markers will not show as a result of a blood test for someone with solely Fibromyalgia. However if inflammatory markers are present, that is not to say the patient doesn’t have Fibro and another underlying condition.
At any point the GP may refer the patient on to a pain specialist. A specialist has the advantage of offering expertise if the GP is not confident with their knowledge of Fibromyalgia, a treatment plan including drug referrals and group pain management courses.
Treatment of Fibromyalgia
There is no cure for Fibromyalgia, however it is treated by managing the symptoms experienced.
This is done through a variety of ways of which we will go further into detail about later.
Symptom management strategies as follows:
- Common pain relief medication
- Anti-inflammatory medication
- Anti-epileptic medication
- Low dose Tricyclic antidepressants
- Gentle exercise
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Osteo/ Chiro/ Physio therapy
- Diet changes
- Vitamin D supplements