Fibromyalgia is a chronic and painful condition that is extremely hard to diagnose. The main symptoms are constant pain and stiffness in the musculoskeletal parts of the body, soft tissue tenderness and sleep disturbances leading to extreme tiredness. The pain is mostly felt in the neck, back, pelvic girdle and hands, though any other parts of the body may be affected.
This disease is very hard to diagnose because so many of the symptoms are similar to other problems like chronic fatigue, rheumatism and arthritis. Doctors must rely a great deal on their patients’ description of symptoms. There is a manual standardized test that can be given to discover if there is pain at specified points of the body. If 11 out of 18 of these specified points are tender, and the patient has had pain in all four quadrants of the body for at least three months, then Fibromyalgia is certainly suspected.
A compounding problem is that these symptoms can come and go from week to week. Numbness, tingling and burning may also be present and the pain can be affected by emotional stress, trauma and also by weather conditions, such as humidity and cold. Too little or too much activity can also play a part in the amount of pain experienced.
Sometimes FM can be triggered by an illness or injury, but it is also thought to be genetic. New research has shown that it may be caused by an interpretive defect of the central nervous system that causes abnormal pain perception.
Once the condition has been diagnosed, there is much the patient can do to relieve the symptoms. Certainly the advice of a medical health-care provider should be sought and followed, but there are many alternative treatments that offer relief from the symptoms and most doctors agree that sufferers of FM should put into place a multi-faceted treatment regimen that includes nutrition, exercise, dietary supplements, acupuncture, aroma-therapy, relaxation techniques and even the use of hot-cold therapies and humor to aid in pain relief.
Over the counter pain relief medication such as ibuprofen can be used, while low doses of anti-depressants from the doctor can certainly help the sufferer to get better sleep. Lidocaine injections into tender pain points may also be needed for relief. Gentle exercise and stretching will prevent the muscles from wasting away and is also beneficial in reducing pain and stiffness.
Because living with a chronic illness such as FM can be so debilitating, sufferers need emotional support as well as physical. Joining an FM support group can provide helpful insights into the disease, while counseling sessions with a trained professional can open communication with friends and family who often cannot understand the extensive disabilities caused by FM. If you are an FM sufferer, it is important to keep a hopeful attitude even in the face of debilitating pain, because this disease does tend to improve over time and there are always new and different treatments being discovered.
Author: Brennan Howe