Fibromyalgia

By:    Published: January 29, 2014

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Fibromyalgia is a medical condition known for chronic pain throughout the body, accompanied by tenderness around the joints, muscles, tendons and soft tissues. This causes those who are suffering from fibromyalgia to constantly feel tired, with aching bodies and sore areas that become more painful from contact. This condition can lead to a whole host of physical ailments that can make it difficult for people to go about their daily routines. The chronic aches and pains along with other complications related to Fibromyalgia result in a lower quality of life.

Symptoms

Symptoms of fibromyalgia revolve around chronic pain that can occur all over the body. This pain can range in severity and the areas that are mainly affected are commonly referred to as tender points or areas. In most cases, the pain can be described as a dull ache that intensifies when pressure is applied to a tender point. The joints of the body are not affected by fibromyalgia, though it may appear that they are the common areas where pain is emanating from.

The intensity of pain felt can vary between morning and night. A person with fibromyalgia may constantly wake up with body aches and stiffness, but can feel improvement as the day progresses. Other patients may experience the same amount of pain no matter what time of the day it is. Pain can also intensify due to weather changes, stress, anxiety or certain physical activities.

Other symptoms that have been associated with fibromyalgia include:

  • Reduced cognitive functions (memory and concentration issues)
  • Numbness and tingling in the hands and/or feet
  • Inability to be physically active
  • Migraine headaches
  • Palpitations
  • Irritable bowel syndrome

Causes And Risk Factors

There is no specific, proven cause for fibromyalgia. The condition is believed to be associated with an amplification of the brain’s pain sensors, causing an increase in painful sensations felt throughout the body.  While anyone can be affected by fibromyalgia, there are several risk factors that have been associated with the condition:

  • Genetics: Those with fibromyalgia are likely to have another family member who also suffers from this condition.
  • Physical or emotional trauma: A physical injury or an emotionally traumatizing event my trigger fibromyalgia. Those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have a tendency to suffer from fibromyalgia as well.
  • Age and gender: According to the National Institutes of Health, fibromyalgia commonly occurs in women between the ages of 20 to 50.
  • Infection: Some theorize that certain infections and diseases can trigger fibromyalgia, though more research is necessary to specifically identify these diseases or infections.

Complications

While fibromyalgia has not been shown to lead to other medical conditions or diseases, it can affect a person’s quality of life. The inability to get through the day without experiencing pain, routine tasks that become difficult, and the frustration of dealing with a hypersensitivity to pain can lead to emotional and mental distress. A person’s sleep is most often affected by fibromyalgia, which can lead to other physical ailments.

Anxiety, depression and stress are also complications associated with fibromyalgia. Making matters worse, those suffering from fibromyalgia may feel isolated, especially when friends or family cannot see nor understand the condition. Since no physical signs or symptoms can be seen, it is difficult for a person who is not experiencing fibromyalgia to understand what the person who is suffering from the condition is going through. Part of the treatment process for fibromyalgia is controlling and preventing these complications to improve one’s quality of life.

Tests And Diagnosis

For a person to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, he or she must have experienced wide spread pain for at least three months in 11 out of the 18 possible tender points. These tender points include:

  • Back of the neck
  • Shoulders
  • Chest
  • Elbows
  • Lower back
  • Hips
  • Chest
  • Knees
  • Around the shoulder blades
  • Shins
  • Thighs
  • Rib cage

Other tests, like blood tests or urinalysis may be performed to help rule out any other possible medical conditions that can cause similar symptoms.

Treatment

Although fibromyalgia cannot be cured, treatment can help alleviate pain and other symptoms associated with this medical condition. Treatment can also involve coping tips and techniques to assist with any other complications that accompany fibromyalgia. The main focus of treatment is to improve the patient’s quality of life as much as possible.

Treatment can include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Coming up with a fitness regimen that minimizes aches and pain
  • Relaxation and stress-relief techniques like meditation and light massages
  • Antidepressants
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Pain relievers
  • Sleeping aids
  • Therapy
  • Support groups

Like many other medical conditions and diseases, living a healthy lifestyle is recommended for those who are suffering from fibromyalgia. This can help limit physical stressors that may cause a person’s pain to become worse, and avoiding complications from unhealthy habits will help improve a person’s quality of life.

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