By definition, fibromyalgia is a rheumatic (joint-related) syndrome that features symptoms and signs such as generalized musculoskeletal pain, stiffness, and chronic aching, fatigue, and multiple areas of local tenderness called “tender points” that are easily identified during physical examination.
Cause of Fibromyalgia?
In most cases, fibromyalgia may be the result of any condition that could lead to constant muscle hypoxia (lack of oxygen in the muscle). While the exact cause is unknown, it is believed that multiple factors such as periods of high stress, over work, physical stresses and sometimes viral or bacterial infections are often implicated in the occurrence of this disorder.
People at Risk
Women: Most people with fibromyalgia are women (about 80 – 90 percent). However, men and children also can have the disorder.
Middle age: Most people are diagnosed during middle age.
Signs & Symptoms
Following are some of the salient clinical manifestations of fibromyalgia:
Tender points: Tenderness of specific body sites known as “tender points” (there is a tenderness in at least 11 of 18 defined points of the patient’s body). Tender points are specific places on the neck, shoulders, back, hips, arms, and legs that hurt when pressure is put on them.
- Chronic aching
- Sleep disturbances
- Chronic fatigue
- Gastrointestinal disturbances
- Subjective soft tissue swelling
- Cardiovascular problems (dizziness, palpitations)
Diagnosis of Fibromyalgia
Diagnosis of fibromyalgia is mainly based upon the following 2 criteria:
- A history of widespread pain lasting more than 3 months (Pain must be present in both the right and left sides of the body as well as above and below the waist)
- Presence of tender points (The body has 18 sites that are possible tender points. For fibromyalgia diagnosis a person must have 11 or more tender points)
Treatment and Management of Fibromyalgia
Treatment of fibromyalgia often requires a team approach. The team may include doctor, a physical therapist, and possibly other health care providers. The treatment is focused to eliminate or reduce the following:
Exercise: Studies show that regular exercise is one of the most effective treatments for fibromyalgia. People can even begin with walking (or other gentle exercise) and build their endurance and intensity slowly.
Pain relief: 3 pharmaceutical products have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat fibromyalgia. These are pregabalin (Lyrica), duloxetine (Cymbalta), and milnacipran (Savella).
Sleep adjustment: Getting the right amount of sleep at night may help improve your symptoms. Getting enough sleep and the right kind of sleep can help ease the pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia.
Other therapies: Complementary therapies may help you. These include: Physical therapy, massage, myofascial release therapy, water therapy, light aerobics, acupressure, applying heat or cold, acupuncture and Yoga.
Psychological support: Living with a chronic condition can be hard on you. If you have fibromyalgia, find a support group. Counseling sessions with a trained counselor may improve your understanding of your illness. Most adults need seven to eight hours of “restorative” sleep per night. Restorative sleep leaves you feeling well-rested and ready for your day to start when you wake up.