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Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized with pain in the muscles, ligaments, and tendons – the soft fibrous tissues in the body, and it is a part of one syndrome called fibromyalgia syndrome.
Fibromyalgia is also characterized with multiple tender points — places on body where even a slight pressure causes pain.

Term ‘fibromyalgia’ is relatively new and, just few years back-the condition was also known as fibrositis, chronic muscle pain syndrome, psychogenic rheumatism and tension myalgias. The cause of this widespread musculoskeletal pain and fatigue disorder is still unknown.
 
Although fibromyalgia isn't progressive, crippling or life-threatening, bad thing about it is that, pain will probably never disappear completely.

Symptoms of fibromyalgia

Although, symptoms of fibromyalgia can vary, depending on the weather, stress, physical activity, there are some characteristic symptoms that most of the patients experience:
  1. Pain
    The pain in patients with fibromyalgia really has no rules. Some describe the pain as deep muscular aching, throbbing, and, for some it is shooting, and stabbing in the muscles. The pain also vary depending to the time of the day because, the pain and stiffness are usually worse in the morning and condition improves during the day
  2. Fatigue
    Intensity of fatigue can vary significantly from patient to patient. While, it is mild in some, yet it is unbearable in others. Patients feel totally drained of energy.
     
  3. Sleep disorder
    Great majority of patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia have also one sleep disorder called the alpha-EEG anomaly. Researchers conducted on patients have found that most of the patients could fall asleep easily, without much trouble, but their deep sleep was constantly interrupted by increased brain activity that people normally have when they are awake. The consequences are logical- they wake up tired even though they seem to get plenty of sleep. Many fibromyalgia patients have been found to have other sleep disorders such as:
  • sleep apnea
  • upper airway resistance syndrome
  • bruxism, popularly called teeth grinding
  • periodic limb movement during sleep
  • restless legs syndrome
     

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Many symptoms associated with this, still unexplained bowel condition, are evidenced with the patients with fibromyalgia and the most common are:

  • Constipation,
  • diarrhea,
  • frequent abdominal pain,
  • abdominal gas, and
  • nausea
  • acid reflux or
  • Gastro-esophageal reflux disease
     

Chronic headaches Recurrent and strong headaches are also very common in patients and, some experts believe that it could be due to tenderness or stiffness in their neck and shoulders. Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction Syndrome This syndrome is about strong pain that affects the jaw joints and surrounding muscles. The tremendous jaw-related face and head pain is present. Other symptoms

Many patients suffer also from
  • Premenstrual syndrome and painful periods,
  • chest pain,
  • morning stiffness,
  • cognitive or memory impairment,
  • numbness and tingling sensations,
  • muscle twitching,
  • irritable bladder,
  • the feeling of swollen extremities,
  • mood changes
  • skin sensitivities, dry eyes and mouth,
  • dizziness

Who is affected?

It is estimated that approximately 3-6% of the U.S. population has fibromyalgia. Because of its debilitating nature, fibromyalgia can have and, in most cases-has a serious impact on patients' families, friends and employers, as well as society at large.

Possible causes of fibromyalgia

The cause of fibromyalgia still remains unrevealed, but there are many triggering events thought to precipitate its onset. Some of the possible triggers are:
  • Chemical changes in the brain
    Several researches have proven that people with fibromyalgia have some kind of changes in the regulation of certain brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. The most affected neurotransmitters are 
    • serotonin, which is though to cause depression, migraines and many gastrointestinal symptoms
    • substance P, chemical associated with pain, stress and anxiety and depression
  • Sleep disturbances.
    Some researchers have came to the conclusion that disturbed sleep can even cause several symptoms of fibromyalgia.
  • Injury
    An injury in the upper spinal region or some part of central nervous system may trigger the development of fibromyalgia.
  • Infection
    Some researchers done in the past have found that some of the patients with fibromyalgia have viral or bacterial infections and that this might have triggered the condition.
  • Abnormalities of the autonomic nervous system
    Autonomic nervous system controls many bodily functions such as heart rate, blood vessel contraction, sweating, salivary flow and intestinal movements and it is logical to assume that any kind of abnormality will cause drastic changes in all these functions and possibly trigger fibromyalgia.
  • Changes in muscle metabolism
    Muscle metabolism is controlled by many factors such as blood flow, many hormones and neurotransmitters! Any kind of impairment of these factors may contribute to decreased strength and fatigue.

Risk factors

There are several risk factors that could contribute to development of this condition. The most common risk factors are:
  • Family history – There is a greater chance of fibromyalgia development if some close family member is already diagnosed with it
  • Sex - It is proven that fibromyalgia occurs more often in women than in men.
  • Age – It occurs mostly during early and middle adulthood. 
  • Disturbed sleep patterns - Some experts claim that sleep disorders can also contribute to development of fibromyalgia.

Diagnosis of fibromyalgia

Currently there are no laboratory tests available for diagnosing Fibromyalgia. Doctors rely only on:
  • patient histories,
  • self-reported symptoms,
  • a physical examination and
  • An accurate manual tender point examination.
  • Tenderness or pain in at least 11 of the 18 specified tender points when pressure is applied

 Treatment of fibromyalgia

The fact is that there is no cure that could provide total improvement of all symptoms because; in generally, goal of every treatment is just to minimize the symptoms and improve general health.
It can be treated with
  • Medications
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Treatment programs
  • Complementary and alternative medicine and
  • Self care

Medications

Most common medications that doctors prescribe for relieving some of the symptoms are:
  1. Analgesics
    These analgesic medications are used to ease the pain and stiffness. However, effectiveness varies from person to person. The most commonly prescribed pain reliever is one called Tramadol (Ultram®).  
  2. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
    Some of the most commonly prescribed NSAIDs are aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®, others), naproxen sodium (Anaprox®, Aleve®)
  3. Antidepressants
    Antidepressant medications, that are being commonly used are:
  • Amitriptyline,
  • Nortriptyline (Aventyl®, Pamelor®),
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac®)
  • Doxepin (Sinequan®)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft®)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil®)

    These antidepressants are commonly used to help promote sleep and relieve symptoms of depression that many patients develop after years if coping with this condition.

Muscle relaxants Taking the muscle relaxants before the sleep may help treat muscle pain and spasms. Benzodiazepines These drugs are commonly used to help relax muscles and promote sleep.  

Cognitive-behavioral therapy

The goal of this cognitive-behavioral therapy is to increase your beliefs in your own abilities and to restore the faith in healthy and happy life! It also teaches you methods for dealing with stressful situations.

Complementary and alternative medicine

For a long time now, complementary and alternative therapies are practiced for pain and stress management. The most common are:
  1. Osteopathy
    It is about the use of manipulation to address joint and spinal problems. It is being done by doctors of osteopathy, which is something similar to chiropractors!
  2. Massage therapy
    It involves use of different manipulative techniques to relax almost all body's muscles and soft tissues. The goal of therapy is to improve circulation in the muscle, increasing the flow of nutrients and eliminating waste products.
  3. Chiropractic care
    Spinal manipulation is one form of therapy chiropractors use to treat restricted spinal mobility. They are manipulating the spine from different positions and may also use massage and stretching to relax muscles that are in spasm.  
  4. Acupressure and acupuncture
    These treatment disciplines are based on a Chinese belief that 14 invisible meridians, that lie underneath skin could be manipulated in order to improve some condition in your body.
  • Acupuncture- the pressure is applied by inserting very fine needles into the skin
  • Acupressure - the pressure is applied with fingers

Read More: Fibromyalgia Home Remedies

Self-care tips and strategies

Every patient should:
  1. Maintain a healthy lifestyle
  2. Pace yourself
  3. Exercise regularly
  4. Get enough sleep
  5. Reduce stress.

Prognosis for patients with fibromyalgia

There were several long-term studies on patients with fibromyalgia that have shown that it is chronic, but the symptoms may disappear or wane with time! The impact of this condition on daily activities, including the ability to work a full-time job, differs among patients. The efforts of individuals, support groups, organizations and medical professionals to help improve the quality of life for people with fibromyalgia could be crucial in coping with this condition!