Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and tenderness in local areas.
According to Mayo Clinic, fibromyalgia can amplify the painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals.
Not many people have heard of the disorder, but it is very common among adults.
In fact, more than 5 million people in America are affected by fibromyalgia.
The disorder affects how you perform, and interferes with your normal daily activities.
The problem with identifying the disorder is that most of the symptoms mimic other health problems.
That makes fibromyalgia difficult to diagnose.
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Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
The key is to understand the symptoms.
Only that way you can help your doctor make a clear diagnose.
That being said, here are warning signs you should not ignore.
Think of them as the early signs your body sends you.
One of the first and most common symptoms of fibromyalgia is body stiffness.
Almost all of the patients suffering from disorder have confirmed they felt body stiffness before the official diagnose.
The stiffness usually happens in the morning, and the feeling is similar to what people experience when suffering from arthritis.
The stiffness usually goes away after 10 minutes, but it can last for the entire day as well.
Indigestion is another common symptom of the disorder.
And it can come in different forms and shapes.
Some experience bloating, some experience diarrhea, and others experience constipation.
Half of the patients with fibromyalgia experience similar symptoms as those with Irritable bowel syndrome.
Swelling and tingling sensation
Patients suffering from the disorder also experience “paraesthesia”.
This is a condition that manifests as pins and needles sensation, and it can happen in your legs, hands, feet, and arms.
Some patients have reported that the sensation lasts few minutes.
Others, however, have felt it for a longer period.
Pain in your body
Almost every patient has confirmed he/she felt pain across the entire body.
The pain is different. Patients describe it as deep, sharp, and throbbing and aching pain.
The pain is constant, and over-the-counter pain medications do not help.
Finger and toe spasms
Scientists have even proven there is a connection between arterial stiffness and fibromyalgia.
This symptom comes as a reaction to stress.
You can notice blue tint at the affected area.
And almost always, arterial spasms are accompanied by pain.
Poor sleep quality
With so much pain, stiffness, and tingling sensation, it is only logical that you cannot sleep properly.
Patients have troubles to get quality sleep.
The erratic brain activity is what hampers your sleep.
Patients experience cognitive difficulties.
The symptom, commonly referred as fibro fog impairs your ability to focus and concentrate on mental tasks.
The brain fog comes as a result of impaired brain activity.
You may also experience a lack of mental clarity, forgetfulness, and feeling of confusion.
Sensitivity to temperature
It is unclear why and how these two are connected.
But there is no denying that patients suffering from fibromyalgia experience sensitivity to temperature.
They have difficulty regulating their body temperature.
Even if the weather hasn’t changed, patients experience extreme cold or extreme heat.
This sensitivity is very similar to how patients react when they suffer from fever.
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Tender Points of Fibromyalgia
Pain is highly personal when it comes to fibromyalgia. When one person says “I hurt all over”, is not the same as other person saying “I Hurt all over”.
That being said, our body has 18 tender points, essentially 9 pairs. They tend to be painful when pressed, and can spread pain to other body parts.
In order to diagnose fibromyalgia, you can check all of these tender points. After all, that is part of the physical exam. In order to diagnose the condition, you must feel pain at 11 of the 18 tender points, according to the American College of Rheumatology. If you feel pain when applied a small amount of pressure, you can be sure that fibromyalgia is the cause. What are the tender points? Let’s check them out.
Back of the neck
You will feel pain at the back of the neck, specifically at the point where the base of the skull and the neck meet. The pain can be also caused by activities that strain the neck, injuries, or rheumatoid arthritis. That is why you have to look for pain in other tender points.
Patients with fibromyalgia will feel tenderness and pain on their forearms, near the creases of each elbow. The pain is usually below the crease and towards the outer side of the arm. As with other tender points, tendonitis, repetitive strain injuries, and trauma can also cause elbow pain.
Front of the neck
You can feel pain in the back of the neck, but also in the front of the neck. This pair of trigger and tender spots is located well above the collarbone, on either side of the larynx.
Hip pain is fairly common, especially in people with osteoarthritis. However, patients with arthritis feel hip pain in the joint. If you have fibromyalgia, the pain will have a tender point where the buttock muscles curve to join the thighs.
Knee pain is also common in people with this condition. The tender points are located on the inside of each knee. These points will feel tender to touch.
The lower back is one of the most common sources of pain. There is a multitude of conditions and illnesses that can cause pain in the lower back. According to some statistics, 1 in 4 people in the US suffers or has experienced lower back pain.
There is a difference between regular pain, and fibromyalgia pain. The trigger points, in this case, are located at the very top of the buttocks, right at the bottom of the lower back.
Tender points of our body are usually located where tendons and muscles meet. This is the case for the upper back pain as well. The tender points are located where the back muscles connect to the shoulder blades.
The pain from the upper back can easily spread to the shoulders. Patients with the condition can experience pain and tender points halfway between the edge of the shoulder and the bottom of the neck.
Last, but not least, patients with fibromyalgia can often experience chest pain, on either side of the sternum. The pain is felt just few inches below the collarbone, or near the second rib.
What are causes of fibromyalgia?
Up until now, doctors and scientists have had a hard time defining the causes of fibromyalgia. They are not known. However, they have managed to establish and define a number of risk factors that can contribute to development of the condition.
The problem is fibromyalgia can occur on its own. But it can also be linked with:
- Having a family history of the condition
- Being exposed to stressful and traumatic events such as car accidents and injuries to the body
- Infections and illnesses
- Being sent to war
What are treatment options?
Fibromyalgia is one of the more challenging conditions for treatment. It can be hard to treat. One of the key aspects is to find a doctor that has had experience in treating the condition.
Best doctors for treating the condition are rheumatologists or doctors who treat arthritis and other conditions affecting the joints and soft tissues.
The treatment for the condition requires a team approach, including your family doctor, a physical therapist, and other healthcare providers.
Treatment includes pain management using drugs and medicines approved by the FDA, sleep management, psychological support, and other treatments like massage, water therapy, acupressure, light aerobics, acupuncture, yoga, relaxation exercises, aromatherapy, cognitive therapy, herbs, nutritional supplements, and more.
What can you do for relief?
Besides taking medicine prescribed by your doctor, there are four other things you can do to feel relief. Here are those.
Get enough sleep
Not only you need to sleep more, but you need to get the right kind of sleep to ease the pain and fatigue. You need between six and eight hours of “restorative” sleep per day. Restorative sleep is the sleep that leaves you feeling well-rested.
Let’s be honest, pain and fatigue will often make exercise difficult and challenging. However, it is crucial to be as physically active as possible. Regular exercise is one of the most effective treatments.
Make changes at work
You can continue to go to work, as this condition is not something that will make you an invalid and unable to work. However, you might have to make some changes, starting by cutting down the number of hours. You might have to change to a less demanding job, or try to adapt to your current job. If you are facing any obstacles at work, you might have to work with occupational therapist to design a more comfortable workstation.
So far, not specific diet has been designed for fibromyalgia patients. Some people reported that certain foods make them feel better, and others make them feel worse. But the simple key is to follow a healthy and balanced diet.