What Is Fibromyalgia?
If you or someone you love has received a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, you probably have several questions such as fibromyalgia, what is it? Where does fibromyalgia come from? And, of course, how serious is fibromyalgia?
Having questions is normal because this condition isn’t well understood by the general public and doctors don’t understand everything about it as well. Let’s go over what is known about this somewhat mysterious condition.
Fibromyalgia -- Is It Real?
You might have people in your life who tell you fibromyalgia isn’t a real condition. Sometimes others think people with fibromyalgia are making up their symptoms for attention, or that they are imagining them. But they are wrong -- it is a medical condition recognized by doctors. Approximately four million people in the U.S. have this chronic pain syndrome.
What Does Fibromyalgia Feel Like
This condition can cause a host of symptoms, including pain and fatigue. The pain can be felt all over your body, particularly in the spots doctors refer to as fibromyalgia pressure points. There are 18 tender points doctors use to help with a diagnosis of this condition. They will apply pressure on these points to see if it causes pain for their patients.
People with this issue can feel like their muscles are sore a lot. Think about a time you overdid it with your exercise routine and felt stiff and painful muscles the next day. That’s what some sufferers say it feels like.
Symptoms of fibromyalgia can vary from day to day. It can cause twitchy muscles or deep stabbing pain. Sometimes the joints in the hips, back, neck, or shoulders are stiff or achy. That can make exercise and sleep uncomfortable.
The lack of sleep is one reason for the overwhelming sense of flu-like fatigue many have with this condition. It can be hard to fall asleep or stay asleep.
What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia syndrome? Besides fatigue and pain, other ones include:
- Mood issues, such as anxiety disorder.
- Stiffness upon waking up in the morning.
- Issues with urinating.
- Tingling and swelling in hands and feet.
- Irritable bowel syndrome.
- Restless Leg Syndrome.
- Painful menstrual issues for women.
The symptoms can come and go, so just because you feel bad one day, it doesn’t mean you’ll feel that way the next.
What Causes Fibromyalgia?
The causes of fibromyalgia haven’t been definitively determined yet, but researchers think it might be due to a nervous system that isn’t working properly. They believe pain signals aren’t processed correctly in the brain when you have this disorder.
For whatever reason, the signals seem to be increased in intensity. The result is that widespread pain is felt even when there appears to be no root cause for the discomfort.
Since experts aren’t entirely sure what triggers this issue, who can get fibromyalgia is another mystery. Some of the possible triggers or reasons you might be predisposed to developing fibromyalgia include having other diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, genes, post-traumatic stress disorder, sexual or physical abuse, and gender.
And while this condition can make those who have it not have the energy or will to want to exercise, it appears that not being active enough can make people more predisposed to it as well.
What Are the Treatments for Fibromyalgia?
Another common question those who may be facing this condition ask is how is fibromyalgia diagnosed and treated.
Diagnosis can be tricky because the symptoms can be vague. Being tired and feeling pain can point to a number of conditions and diseases. Your doctor will run tests and conduct exams for diagnosing fibromyalgia.
If it’s determined you do have it, there are treatments you can pursue, but there is no cure for fibromyalgia at this time. The treatment goal is to cut back on the fatigue and reduce pain so you can live as normally as possible.
Here are some of the options you may have to help you with this battle:
- Pain medication: This can help you function on the bad pain days you may have.
- Anti-depressants: Whether you struggled with anxiety before your diagnosis or knowing you have this condition has led to a mood disorder or panic problem, anti-depressants may help you. If you hate the idea of relying on medication, you may try to do without them or take them for a short term and then reevaluate whether you still need them at some point.
- Physical therapy: This can have some benefit for people struggling with pain.
- Exercise: Although you might not feel you have the energy or physical endurance for this, you should try to get some exercise daily. Even a little may help immensely. Start off slow with low-impact exercises like walking and then work your way up to longer or harder sessions.
- Stress reduction: Stress can make almost every condition worse, so your goal should be to reduce it whenever possible.
- Home remedies: Don’t discount simple strategies you can do at home to manage your symptoms. Things like yoga and meditation for relaxation, applying moist heat to your achy spots, and using a weighted blanket to help you get to sleep faster may make you feel better. If you’re new to weighted blanket therapy, look for one that weighs about 10 percent of your body weight.
You’ll Get Through This
Getting a serious diagnosis is always tough. It can feel like the end of the world. But fortunately, there are many things you can do to help manage fibromyalgia and its impact on your life.
By educating yourself by reading this article, you’ve already taken an important step. Keep on learning all you can about your condition and realize that scientists are continuing to study this issue and will keep finding better ways to help those who suffer from it.
While your family and friends will be eager to give you the support and help you need, you may find that they don’t understand what life is like for you. If you feel alone or want additional support, consider joining an online or in-person support group. You may benefit from someone who has firsthand experience with fibromyalgia.