What is Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a complex disorder that affects people in a myriad of ways, the universal one of these being chronic pain. Fibromyalgia (FM), or fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), formally known fibrositis, affects 3-6% of the population and is a debilitating condition, but little is known about its cause.
It is currently one of the most common conditions to affect muscles but is not accompanied by tissue inflammation; this saves fibromyalgia sufferers developing body damage and/or deformity. Fibromyalgia differs from other rheumatic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus and polymyositis, in that which not only does it not involve inflammation but it also does not cause damage to internal organs or muscles.
The most common symptoms of fibromyalgia is pain, which is both chronic and widespread. It affects both sides of the body and usually has an emphasis on the neck, buttock, shoulders, arms, back, and hips. Tender or trigger points are also present and when touched can bring on widespread pain and muscle spasm, they are found around the back of the head, shoulders, elbows, knees and hips.
Other symptoms can include fatigue, sleep disturbance or insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), irritable bladder syndrome, impaired memory and concentration, skin sensitivity, cold or heat intolerance, restless leg syndrome (RLS), multiple sensitivities, dizziness, neutrally mediated hypotension, headaches, migraines, depression and anxiety. Please note this is not an all inclusive list of symptoms as fibromyalgia is unique and symptoms can occur intermittently and in different combinations.
At present there is no known cause of fibromyalgia but it is believed to be an abnormality in the sensory processing in the spinal cord and brain. Elevated levels of substance P, a nerve chemical signal, and nerve growth factor found in the spinal fluid have been identified in fibromyalgia patients. While no definitive data has been collected, scientists have also noted a diffuse disturbance of pain perception in fibromyalgia patients.
While diagnosis of fibromyalgia can be a drawn out process, so too can be finding an effective treatment for fibromyalgia sufferers. There is no cure for fibromyalgia but there are ways to relieve some of the symptoms for sufferers. The most important treatment method is a change in lifestyle; this includes reduction of stress, and decrease in activities that trigger attacks. Low impact exercise can also help in reducing chronic pain including walking, swimming, water aerobics and yoga . Other “at home” techniques can include the application of heat packs to sore muscles as well as relaxation, meditation, massage, water therapy, nutritional supplements and biofeedback .
Acupuncture, physiotherapy, osteopathic and chiropractic manipulation have proven to reduce patients overall pain levels but also reduce trigger points so can assist in an overall treatment plan.
Medically there are several methods to treating fibromyalgia, this includes the use of tricyclics antidepressants, including Elavil and Sinequan; it is believed that these medications reduce fatigue, promote deep sleep and relieve muscle pain and spasm. Other antidepressant medications used to treat fibromyalgia include Cymbalta and Savella. Antisezure medication Lyrica, has also been approved for treatment of fibromyalgia.
Muscle relaxants such as Flexeril have been found to not only reduce muscle pain but to also improve sleep. Tramadol has been found the most effective pain reliever for treating fibromyalgia pain. The use of nonsteriodal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Voltaren and Ibuprofin (Motrin), while helpful in treating rheumatic conditions have had limited success in treating fibromyalgia.
While there is no general accepted treatment for fibromyalgia, between the care of general practitioners and specialists in many areas, including rheumatology, neurology and pain specialists (but may also include others), most fibromyalgia sufferers find a treatment schedule that affectively treats and reduces the symptoms of this condition.
Links to Support and Additional Info
- ME/FM Action Network
ME/FM Action Network is a Canadian, registered, non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the recognition and understanding of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) and Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS).
- FM-CFS Canada
FM-CFS Canada. Compassion in action.
- National Fibromyalgia Research Association
National Fibromyalgia Research Association
- Men With Fibromyalgia
A for men with fibromyalgia and for those who happen to have a man with fibro in their lives.
- American Fibromyalgia Syndrome Association
Homepage of the American Fibromyalgia Syndrome Association
- Fibromyalgia Network - Symptoms and Treatment Resource
Don't just put up with the symptoms of fibromyalgia, learn about treatment solutions. Fibromyalgia Network is here to help.
- Australian Rheumatology Association
Information provided by the Australian Rheumatology Association about Fibromyalgia and its treatment.