What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is one of the most misunderstood and mysterious disorders recognized by modern medicine. Estimates indicate that upwards of ten million individuals in North America alone could suffer from the condition. Medical researchers believe fibromyalgia is the result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors, but the ultimate cause, unfortunately, remains unknown. Even though fibromyalgia is not curable, there are treatments available to help patients manage their painful symptoms.
While many symptoms of fibromyalgia are also seen in more common illnesses and ailments, some specific warning signs often indicate the presence of the condition. Get familiar with the most common warning signs linked to fibromyalgia to promote early detection and treatment now.
Fibromyalgia is a musculoskeletal condition that causes widespread chronic pain, among other symptoms. Although fibromyalgia is not a rare condition, it is not well-understood and often misdiagnosed. Some of its symptoms mimic those of other conditions, further complicating the diagnostic process.
In the past, doctors would check 18 specific points on a person’s body to see how many of them were painful when pressed firmly. Newer guidelines don’t require a tender point exam. Instead, a fibromyalgia diagnosis can be made if a person has had widespread pain for more than three months — with no underlying medical condition that could cause the pain.
While there is no lab test to confirm a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, your doctor may want to rule out other conditions that may have similar symptoms.
Blood tests may include:
- Complete blood count
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate
- Cyclic citrullinated peptide test
- Rheumatoid factor
- Thyroid function tests
Signs of Fibromyalgia
1. Generalized Muscle Pain
The most common and distinctive symptom of fibromyalgia is muscle pain that manifests as a persistent, dull ache, possibly lasting for several weeks or even months. In some cases, the pain is similar to the sensation of a pulled muscle or the overall muscle soreness one might feel after an intense workout.
For this nature of chronic pain to be diagnosed as fibromyalgia, it needs to occur on both sides of the body, both above and below the waist, in certain spots called tender points. The American College of Rheumatology guidelines for the diagnosis of fibromyalgia explains that patients must feel pain in at least 11 tender points out of 18, in response to simple pressure, to qualify for the diagnosis.
2. Joint Pain
People with fibromyalgia often feel pain in the elbows, knees, ankles, and shoulders with enough severity that they feel the need to report it to their doctors. In some cases, this can lead to misdiagnoses of the condition as a form of arthritis, especially when the pain is not localized. There is a distinctive quality of these joint aches that separates fibromyalgia from other possible causes: when pressure is applied to the tender points, the pain intensifies considerably.
Fibromyalgia patients often complain of constant fatigue during a flareup of their condition. They may wake up feeling tired, which causes lethargy and lack of energy throughout the day. Anyone with fibromyalgia who is finding this symptom interfering with daily life can work with a doctor to develop exercises and practices that may help boost energy levels.
Insomnia and disturbed sleep are also common in individuals with fibromyalgia. This may be in part because the pain prevents deep sleep. Aside from this, fibromyalgia itself tends to disrupt sleep cycles, interrupting sufficient rest. Over time, this symptom adds to the fatigue the individual is already experiencing, which only exacerbates symptoms. A doctor may prescribe sleeping medication.
5. Brain Fog
Cognitive dysfunction may also accompany fibromyalgia. An individual may have difficulty focusing on tasks, often losing track of what is happening around them. This is colloquially referred to as “fibro-fog.” The extent of this symptom varies from patient to patient; one may notice significant changes to his or her mental state or the symptom may be mild enough not to hamper everyday functioning.
6. Chronic Headaches
Persistent and severe headaches are also common among people with fibromyalgia. Such chronic headaches are more prevalent in individuals of childbearing age, and the headaches may mimic migraines. Many people will not make the connection between headaches and fibromyalgia, although this symptom is quite common; about 50% of people with fibromyalgia experience headaches.
7. Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be a secondary condition in people with fibromyalgia. Individuals may deal with frequent diarrhea, constipation, or indigestion. Other associated health issues, such as flatulence, bloating, acid reflux, nausea, and vomiting, may also occur. These symptoms are more common in people who remain undiagnosed and untreated for a long time. Up to 70% of people with fibromyalgia experience IBS.
8. Numbness and Tingling
Numbness and tingling in the limbs or face can affect people with fibromyalgia. The sensation may arise sporadically and without warning, causing unexpected discomfort. In some instances, the skin may also burn or itch. Such symptoms are particularly hard to treat, but fortunately, they are not too common in people with fibromyalgia.
9. Increased Sensitivity to Stimuli
The reasons for this are not well understood yet, but many people experiencing fibromyalgia develop hypersensitivity to one or multiple kinds of stimuli. Some researchers suggest that fibromyalgia is caused by an “oversensitive” nervous system that overreacts to various stimuli such as pain, strong smells or loud noises. One may have an aversion to noise and bright light or specific odors. Some people become uncharacteristically sensitive to foods or medications that never posed a problem before. In rare cases, an individual may also experience sensitivity to temperatures or particular weather conditions.
One common byproduct of fibromyalgia is depression, which tends to leave the affected individuals sad and anxious for long periods. People with fibromyalgia-related depression often describe feeling uninspired and irritable, finding no joy or pleasure in previously enjoyable experiences. This fibromyalgia-fueled depression is most likely associated with chronic pain, which is a common contributor to depressive disorders in general.
Causes of fibromyalgia
1. Gluten Intolerance
Gluten is linked to more than 50 diseases of a digestive and neurological nature. Intolerance can go unnoticed for years, while individuals try to determine why they are experiencing an onslaught of digestion issues. In addition to improved sleep, pain management, and mood, for some people, reducing or cutting out gluten may lessen the symptoms of fibromyalgia. However, not all persons with fibromyalgia who adopt a gluten-free diet experience symptom relief. One study found that people with both fibromyalgia and digestive symptoms consistent with gluten sensitivity felt better on a gluten-free diet. It’s not clear whether fibromyalgia sufferers without gluten sensitivity respond the same. More research is needed to learn more about how gluten intolerance and fibromyalgia are linked.
2. Candida Overgrowth
The body is full of microscopic bacteria and fungus. Candida is a yeast that grows in the intestines in small amounts, but it can overgrow in the intestinal tract, especially when the immune system is weakened. This can lead to digestive issues such as diarrhea, bloating, and cramping. Some practitioners believe there is a link between Candida overgrowth and fibromyalgia. However, this theory is unproven.
3. Thyroid Issues
Doctors will usually recommend that people experiencing symptoms that could indicate fibromyalgia have all six blood markers checked to measure thyroid activity. Correcting thyroid hormone levels can offer improvements to fibromyalgia symptoms, reducing brain fog, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and depression. Fibromyalgia and thyroid conditions share similar symptoms and may occur in the same individual. Therefore, treating the thyroid condition may lead to improvements in fibromyalgia symptoms.
People with fibromyalgia are often found to have low levels of vitamin D, vitamin B12, and magnesium. A doctor can recommend the best ways to increase these nutrients in the body, whether through dietary changes or supplements. Simply improving magnesium can have a positive impact on the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Preliminary studies also show that increasing vitamin D may alleviate some of the symptoms of fibromyalgia in people deficient in the vitamin.
5. Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) and Leaky Gut
A plethora of factors can upset bacteria balance in the body, including a sugar-rich diet or antibiotics. This can have many adverse effects, including interrupting the ability to absorb and digest nutrients such as vitamin B12. Poor gut health can have negative effects on the body as a whole. In some cases, bacteria from the colon can overgrow and enter the small intestines, a condition called SIBO. Some research suggests that SIBO is more common in people with fibromyalgia and that people with fibromyalgia and SIBO experience more pain, but a clear link between the two conditions has not been firmly established.
Mold causes many health problems, including cancer and immune deficiency, and can even be life-threatening. The most common source of exposure is contaminated food, particularly grains, nuts, and coffee beans kept in hot, humid conditions. The fungus creates byproducts called mycotoxins, which can cause symptoms similar to fibromyalgia. However, a clear link between fibromyalgia and mycotoxins is unproven.
7. Mercury Toxicity
Although amalgam dental filling containing mercury is no longer used in the U.S., they are still the common filling component in many parts of the world. It is possible that the mercury from amalgam fillings can give an individual mercury poisoning, which can cause symptoms similar to fibromyalgia. Replacing the fillings with the modern composite resin can reduce mercury levels in the body and ease symptoms. Doctors can determine mercury levels through medical tests.
8. Adrenal Fatigue
People who are constantly and excessively tired may be experiencing adrenal fatigue, which is often caused by chronic pain conditions that stress the adrenal glands. Fibromyalgia is one such possible trigger, but adrenal fatigue caused by another condition can also lead to fibromyalgia symptoms. Furthermore, other causes on this list, such as chronic stress and food intolerance, can stress the adrenal system as well.
9. MTHFR Mutations
MTHFR genetic mutations are linked to a wide range of health concerns, including mental health disorders, colon cancer, leukemia, and more. The mutation makes the body less capable of ridding itself of toxins such as lead and mercury. Increasing methyl-B6, methyl-B12, and folic acid may help alleviate the effects of MTHFR. Some studies show a possible link between defects in the MTHFR gene and fibromyalgia but this is as of now unproven.
10. Glutathione Deficiency
Glutathione is an antioxidant that helps the body in its natural detoxification process by reducing oxidative stress. It is sometimes referred to as the “master antioxidant.” Some studies show that people with fibromyalgia have lower levels of glutathione relative to healthy people. However, it’s not clear whether raising glutathione levels with supplements improves fibromyalgia symptoms.
Treatments for fibromyalgia
Since fibromyalgia causes so much pain, it is easy to understand why people must take painkilling drugs. Sometimes they find adequate relief from drugs available over the counter at the pharmacy, but quite often they require stronger prescription medications. These provide a greater measure of relief, but their effectiveness tends to decline with repeated use. Prescription painkillers may also cause diarrhea and other unpleasant side effects.
2. Muscle Relaxants
Medications that relax muscles help people with fibromyalgia cope with muscle stiffness. Another definite advantage of using muscle relaxants is that they can make it easier to get good sleep. Usually, a short course of treatment is sufficient. Patients ought to be aware that these drugs can have unpleasant side effects and should only be used under close medical supervision.
3. Relief Through Anti-Depressants
The difficulty of coping with this very painful condition negatively impacts their emotional well-being. This factor alone helps explain why many of those with fibromyalgia take anti-depressant medicines. However, another reason for using such drugs is that they can relieve physical pains as well as mental distress. Anti-depressants are associated with a variety of side effects and should only be used under close physician supervision. These drugs sometimes make users feel sick and constipated, and they can also lead to weight gain and cause drowsiness.
4. Sleeping Tablets
Even someone who is perfectly healthy needs to get a reasonable amount of sleep each day to function effectively; for those who have fibromyalgia, good sleep is even more crucial. Those with the condition often find it tough to get good sleep, and this lack of sleep worsens the other symptoms of the illness. People buy sleeping tablets at the pharmacy without consulting a doctor, but nevertheless, it is preferable to get a doctor’s recommendation. Doctors can also advise on various other techniques that FMS patients can use to get better sleep without the assistance of sleeping tablets.
5. Medications Developed for Epileptics
Some anticonvulsants medicines for people with epilepsy also help relieve fibromyalgia symptoms. As their name indicates, these drugs were originally developed to prevent epileptic seizures. However, clinical trials show that they also relieve pain for a certain number of FMS patients. As is the case with many other types of drugs, the patient needs to be aware of undesirable side effects. Anticonvulsants may cause the user to feel very drowsy or dizzy, and they can also trigger weight gain and make hands and feet swell.
6. Antipsychotic Drugs
One of the newest areas of research into fibromyalgia treatments studies the possible positive pain relief advantages of antipsychotic (or neuroleptic) drugs. These medications are primarily used to treat people with bipolar disorder, but it seems they can also be used as long-term FMS painkillers. Further research is required, but initial studies are encouraging. Even though some medical experts are optimistic, they still realize that these drugs are also likely to have unwanted side effects such as drowsiness and shaking.
7. Water Treatments
Although fibromyalgia often needs to be treated through courses of painkillers, the adverse side effects of these medications encourage the search for alternative therapies. In earlier ages, medical authorities recommended visits to spas to cure all kinds of sicknesses. This practice is becoming popular once again as researchers are exploring the benefits it provides to those who live with chronic pain.
Hydrotherapy, or swimming and bathing in hot water, is among the most popular of these non-drug treatments. It certainly has the advantages of no unpleasant side effects, but not everyone can take these treatments regularly enough to get adequate FMS relief.
Traditional Chinese acupuncture might also bring a measure of freedom from fibromyalgia pain. Over the last few decades, the number of people who believe in the efficacy of acupuncture has risen significantly, but an objective look at the medical evidence fails to support many of the claims. Nevertheless, this lack of proof need not detract from the value of acupuncture as a stress reducer. If it helps the patient relax, it may be easier for them to deal with the challenges of the illness.
9. Emotional and Psychological Therapies
Some patients find that various emotional or mental therapy techniques make it a little easier to live with fibromyalgia pain. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the modern approaches that some claim to be effective. The CBT therapist tries to change the patient’s way of viewing their situation, This allows them to acquire the mental tools they need to take a more positive outlook and improves their ability to cope with the physical pain. Psychotherapists and physiological counseling groups follow comparable approaches that view changing attitudes as key to pain relief.
Aromatherapy offers one of the most novel fibromyalgia treatments. Its followers believe that individual plants and oils have calming properties that can be beneficial to someone with fibromyalgia. No medical evidence supports claims that the aromatherapy treatment has any long-term value, but some find it helps reduce their stress and make them more relaxed.
Treatment more considerations
In general, treatments for fibromyalgia include both medication and self-care. The emphasis is on minimizing symptoms and improving general health. No one treatment works for all symptoms.
Medications can help reduce the pain of fibromyalgia and improve sleep. Common choices include:
- Pain relievers. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve, others) may be helpful. Your doctor might suggest a prescription pain reliever such as tramadol (Ultram). Narcotics are not advised, because they can lead to dependence and may even worsen the pain over time.
- Antidepressants. Duloxetine (Cymbalta) and milnacipran (Savella) may help ease the pain and fatigue associated with fibromyalgia. Your doctor may prescribe amitriptyline or the muscle relaxant cyclobenzaprine to help promote sleep.
- Anti-seizure drugs. Medications designed to treat epilepsy are often useful in reducing certain types of pain. Gabapentin (Neurontin) is sometimes helpful in reducing fibromyalgia symptoms, while pregabalin (Lyrica) was the first drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat fibromyalgia.
A variety of different therapies can help reduce the effect that fibromyalgia has on your body and your life. Examples include:
- Physical therapy. A physical therapist can teach you exercises that will improve your strength, flexibility, and stamina. Water-based exercises might be particularly helpful.
- Occupational therapy. An occupational therapist can help you make adjustments to your work area or the way you perform certain tasks that will cause less stress on your body.
- Counseling. Talking with a counselor can help strengthen your belief in your abilities and teach you strategies for dealing with stressful situations.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Self-care is critical in the management of fibromyalgia.
- Reduce stress. Develop a plan to avoid or limit overexertion and emotional stress. Allow yourself time each day to relax. That may mean learning how to say no without guilt. But try not to change your routine completely. People who quit work or drop all activity tend to do worse than do those who remain active. Try stress management techniques, such as deep-breathing exercises or meditation.
- Get enough sleep. Because fatigue is one of the main characteristics of fibromyalgia, getting sufficient sleep is essential. In addition to allotting enough time for sleep, practice good sleep habits, such as going to bed and getting up at the same time each day and limiting daytime napping.
- Exercise regularly. At first, exercise may increase your pain. But doing it gradually and regularly often decreases symptoms. Appropriate exercises may include walking, swimming, biking, and water aerobics. A physical therapist can help you develop a home exercise program. Stretching, good posture and relaxation exercises also are helpful.
- Pace yourself. Keep your activity on an even level. If you do too much on your good days, you may have more bad days. Moderation means not overdoing it on your good days, but likewise, it means not self-limiting or doing too little on the days when symptoms flare.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Eat healthy foods. Limit your caffeine intake. Do something that you find enjoyable and fulfilling every day.
Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory, and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals.
Symptoms sometimes begin after physical trauma, surgery, infection, or significant psychological stress. In other cases, symptoms gradually accumulate over time with no single triggering event.
Women are more likely to develop fibromyalgia than are men. Many people who have fibromyalgia also have tension headaches, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, and depression.
While there is no cure for fibromyalgia, a variety of medications can help control symptoms. Exercise, relaxation, and stress-reduction measures also may help.
Why does it hurt?
Researchers believe repeated nerve stimulation causes the brains of people with fibromyalgia to change. This change involves an abnormal increase in levels of certain chemicals in the brain that signal pain (neurotransmitters). In addition, the brain’s pain receptors seem to develop a sort of memory of the pain and become more sensitive, meaning they can overreact to pain signals.
Risk factors for fibromyalgia include:
- Your sex. Fibromyalgia is diagnosed more often in women than in men.
- Family history. You may be more likely to develop fibromyalgia if a relative also has the condition.
- Other disorders. If you have osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or lupus, you may be more likely yo develop fibromyalgia.
I have a friend who suffers from the disease of fibromyalgia and this is one of the reasons I decided to research this disease.
He visits me on a regular basis and on every occasion that I see him, he is a different person. One thing for sure is that this gentleman is extremely intelligent. He can pinpoint verses from the Bible and Koran. If you are into astrology and where the planets line up the moon phases he can tell you all these things. fibromyalgia has no effect on is intelligence I can see no link. I know his sleep patterns are all over the place and he does suffer from pain caused by this disease.
Whatever article I write it always comes down to the same thing. Proper diet/nutrition, exercise, sleep, and sunshine are so crucial and important in the prevention of disease.
Please look after yourselves and thank you for reading,
Comments are welcome.