Fibromyalgia is one of the most misunderstood conditions, and for many years was suspected of being a fake illness. It is now suspected to be the result of a central nervous system disturbance in pain processing. Fibromyalgia patients tend to have a heightened sensitivity to stimuli that might not be painful to others.

The term fibromyalgia is, at its most basic, defined as fibrous muscle pain. With this condition, the muscle pain is widespread. It is not curable. If you have had widespread pain throughout your body for four months or more, you should consult your doctor. It should not be self-diagnosed as your doctor will need to rule out other conditions.

Fibromyalgia is now considered to be a global health issue. It is estimated that there are 10 million cases in the United States alone, with 2-4% of the world population affected. It is most common in women, but men and children are also diagnosed.

What are the signs and symptoms of fibromyalgia?

The primary signs and symptoms of fibromyalgia include widespread chronic pain, fatigue, and a cognitive deficiency known as fibro-fog. The pain can affect anywhere in the body. It is severe and it is chronic. Fatigue is significant and sleep disorders are common.

There may be other symptoms that include irritable bowel syndrome, migraine headaches, bladder issues, and temporomandibular joint problems (TMJ).

If you have long term pain that doesn’t subside for four months or more, you should consult your doctor. This condition can occur if you have been the victim of a traumatic injury or major surgery. The tendency to develop fibromyalgia does potentially run in families. Resulting depression can also be a factor.

How is fibromyalgia diagnosed?

There are no lab tests that can give a definitive diagnosis of fibromyalgia; however, your doctor will probably want tests to rule out other conditions. While diagnosis used to be based upon 18 trigger point areas, it is now diagnosed if the patient has had ongoing pain for more than four months that is both apparent throughout the body.

Your doctor may refer you to a neurologist because of the suspected Central Nervous System role in fibromyalgia. He or she might also refer you to a pain management specialist.

What are the treatment methods for fibromyalgia?

Treatment for fibromyalgia is largely based upon lifestyle changes. The ultimate goal is to live as normal a life as possible. The patient will need to develop a balance between exercise and rest.

Gentle stretches such as Tai Chi, over the counter acetaminophen or ibuprofen, anti-seizure medications such as Lyrica or Gabapentin, and antidepressants can keep the condition under control. Muscle relaxers such as cyclobenzaprine may help you sleep.

Massage, meditation, and physical therapy can be effective in controlling the pain. There have been positive results from chiropractic adjustments.

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Frequently asked questions

Except in severe cases, and under the supervision and monitoring of a pain management specialist, opioids are not prescribed due to their addictive nature. It is not believed to be an effective treatment of the condition.

Fibromyalgia resembles many of the symptoms of Systemic Lupus Erythematosis, and many Lupus patients do develop fibromyalgia. This is one of the diseases that should be ruled out by your doctor in the diagnosis stage through blood tests.

Other than constant pain, there are no real outward symptoms. The fibromyalgia patient might not look sick at all at first glance. Even though they don’t look sick, this condition is very real as is the constant pain that comes with it.