Many have heard of the condition, but don’t really understand what fibromyalgia really is and how it affects the body. Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes widespread pain through the body, sleep problems, fatigue, depression, and anxiety. Those diagnosed with fibromyalgia are also sometimes more sensitive to pain than people without fibromyalgia which is known as abnormal pain perception processing. Research has led experts to believe that fibromyalgia affects the way the brain and spinal cord processes the pain signals, amplifying painful sensations for those affected.
Most begin to feel the effects of fibromyalgia after going through physical trauma, surgery, infection, or significant psychological stress. Symptoms are also known to develop gradually over time and aren’t linked to a single triggering event. It’s been found that women are more likely than men to develop the condition. There is no known cure for fibromyalgia, but there are various medications to help control symptoms. Outside of medication, exercise, relaxation, and reducing stress can also help alleviate some of the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Chronic pain throughout the body is a symptom that is often hard to diagnose. The term “regions of pain” is often used to describe how the condition affects the body. Areas of tenderness are referred to as “trigger points” or “tender points”, which are the regions that can overlap at times. The trigger or tender points are the back of the head, tops of the shoulders, upper chest, hips, knees, and outer elbows.
The pain is often described as a consistent full ache, but a health official will consider fibromyalgia as a diagnosis their patient is experiencing musculoskeletal pain in 4 out of the 5 regions of pain, which have been outlined in the 2016 revisions to the fibromyalgia diagnostic criteria.
Common symptoms of fibromyalgia are fatigue, depression and anxiety, sleep issues, headaches, difficulty paying attention, memory loss, pain in the lower belly, eyes, and even bladder issues. These symptoms can be alleviated through medication and other means of pain relief.
Effective treatment for fibromyalgia is medication and self-management strategies. Before treating fibromyalgia, a person must be diagnosed by a doctor. The treatment for fibromyalgia is typically a combination of treatments such as prescription and over-the-counter medication, exercise, patient education classes, stress management techniques like meditation or yoga, and Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which can help treat the underlying depression often associated with the condition.