Fibromyalgia is a complex disease in which both genetic and environmental factors play a role. For a better understanding, here are some basic facts about fibromyalgia and its symptoms:
- Fibromyalgia afflicts 8 to 12 million people in the United States alone. It does not discriminate by gender or age, but predominately affects women between the ages of 35 and 54. It has been found to be genetic, and affects children and the elderly, and males and females alike.
- Fibromyalgia is a complex disease involving multi-system disturbances and abnormalities. Because of this complexity, the condition often is poorly treated during normal 8 to 15 minute office visits that address only a portion of the wide spectrum of underlying dysfunctions.
- Diagnosis is difficult. Currently there is no medical test to clearly diagnose fibromyalgia. Diagnosis is presently based on patient history and tender point sensitivity. The term "tender points" refers to 18 points on the body in which extreme sensitivity may occur. In fibromyalgia, sensitivity occurs in at least 11 of these points. Tender point sensitivity, as well as a history of widespread chronic body pain for at least 3 months, provides the most definitive diagnosis at this time. Other symptoms relating to a diagnosis are listed below.
- The underlying cause for fibromyalgia is unknown. Research is ongoing, but there is agreement that fibromyalgia patients have enhanced pain sensitivity and response originating from the central nervous system. Traumatic illness or injury may trigger the disease. Additional research is focused on finding other factors that may lead to the development of fibromyalgia, including genetics, environment, autoimmune dysfunction, nutritional deficiencies, and connective tissue disease.
- Frequency, severity, and location of pain vary from day to day. On any given day a fibromyalgia patient's level of discomfort ranges from mild muscle stiffness to extreme, radiating pain so severe that the patient is completely debilitated and unable to carry out simple activities.
- Treatment is focused on managing fibromyalgia symptoms. Because the severity of the condition varies from person to person and from day to day, the treatment plan should be individualized. The patient must be focused, determined, and dedicated to regain control and manage symptoms.
- A well-rounded management program may include nutritional counseling, conditioning, exercise programs, and lifestyle changes. Alternative therapies, such as acupressure, massage, stress management, and relaxation techniques also may be considered. We often work with health care providers outside of our Center in a cooperative collaboration for our patients' treatment.
- Support from family and friends is critical. Understanding fibromyalgia and having the emotional support of those closest to you can make a tremendous difference in your outcome.
Other common fibromyalgia symptoms include:
- Flu-like pain that can be severe and constant
- Constant feeling of exhaustion
- Specific tender points that hurt
- Overall body aches
- Muscle stiffness and pain
- Insomnia or other sleep disorders
- Extreme fatigue
- Depression not caused by a trauma or event, but by chronic discomfort
- Cognitive problems, often called "brain fog"
- Reoccurring headaches
- Multiple reoccurring infections
- Irritable bowel syndrome