Fibromyalgia is a very common pain condition. The National Fibromyalgia Association reports that 10 million Americans are affected by the disease, and it affects between three and 10 percent of the worldwide population.
Fibromyalgia can affect both children and adults as well as both men and women. However, most sufferers of fibromyalgia are women, who account for between 75 and 90 percent of the cases. Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition, but it is possible to treat the symptoms so that they may be more manageable.
What is Fibromyalgia?
According to the Mayo Clinic, fibromyalgia is a widespread pain disorder that causes musculoskeletal pain, and it is often accompanied by mood, memory, sleep, and fatigue problems. Fibromyalgia is believed by researchers to intensify your pain sensation by interfering with your pain signaling system. Nerves in your peripheral nervous system send signals along your neural pathways to your central nervous system, including your spinal cord and your brain. It is unclear what causes fibromyalgia, but it often begins after people undergo physical or psychological trauma, surgery or an infection.
Symptoms and Causes
According to researchers, the etiology of fibromyalgia is unknown. Fibromyalgia involves a sensitized pain system that may be caused by hormonal, immunological, genetic, or other problems. People who have fibromyalgia may experience multiple symptoms.
Commonly, fibromyalgia sufferers experience a chronic, dull pain that lasts longer than three months. The pain is widespread and occurs on both sides of the body as well as on the top and bottom halves. Many people who have fibromyalgia also experience chronic fatigue. They might awaken after sleeping for hours but still feel tired. People who have the disorder may experience sleep disturbances at night caused by pain and associated conditions such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome. Another common symptom of fibromyalgia is difficulty with concentration. Called fibro fog, this symptom may cause problems with the ability to focus. Many people who have fibromyalgia also suffer from co-occurring painful disorders, including the following:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Temporomandibular joint disorder
- Interstitial cystitis
While there is no cure for fibromyalgia, it is possible to treat the symptoms so that they might be more manageable.
After you have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, the treatment choices that you will have will be a mixture of medications and self-care techniques. The aim of the treatment that you might receive will be focused on lessening your symptoms and improving your overall health.
Your doctor may recommend that you take over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, or acetaminophen. Your doctor is unlikely to prescribe a narcotic pain medication because of the dangers of drug dependence. However, he or she may prescribe a pain medication such as tramadol if over-the-counter medications are insufficient to help to alleviate your pain symptoms.
In addition to pain relievers, you may be prescribed antidepressants. These may help to reduce your fatigue and pain. You may also be prescribed a muscle relaxer such as cyclobenzaprine to help you to sleep.
Several different therapeutic approaches may be taken to help you to manage your symptoms. These might include counseling, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. You can also engage in self-care techniques at home to help to minimize your symptoms. Some of these techniques might include stress reduction techniques such as yoga or meditation. You should also try to make certain that you get sufficient sleep each night and that you exercise regularly. You may benefit by giving yourself time to relax each day and by establishing a pace that allows you time to yourself when you need it. Finally, some people benefit from such alternative treatments as acupuncture or massage therapy.
Prevention Magazine reports that there are several dietary changes that you can make to help you to control the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Many sufferers of fibromyalgia are deficient in vitamin D. You can supplement with vitamin D tablets or make certain to spend time outdoors in the sunlight every day. You should also avoid foods that contain MSG. This substance may cause your nerves to become more excited and exacerbate your symptoms. Check the labels of the foods that you buy and avoid any that contain this additive as well as artificial sweeteners such as aspartame.
Making certain that your diet is rich in omega-3 fatty acids may help to reduce inflammation and pain. You can ensure that you get enough of omega-3 fatty acids by eating fatty fish a couple of times per week or by taking supplements. You should also make certain that you eat plenty of vegetables of all types. This can help you to get enough of the antioxidant vitamins A, E, and C to help to fight off oxidative stresses in your body. Finally, you should try to avoid caffeine if you can. Caffeine can interfere with your ability to sleep and cause you to crash if you drink coffee to fight the fatigue that you feel.
While fibromyalgia is chronic and does not have a cure, it is possible for you to effectively manage your symptoms through a combination of medications, self-care techniques and lifestyle changes. If you think that you might have fibromyalgia, it is best to see your doctor to obtain a proper diagnosis. Any time that you experience changes in your health, you should keep track of your symptoms so that you can discuss them with your doctor. This can help you to obtain an appropriate diagnosis so that you can treat your condition properly.
In the future, fibromyalgia patients may be able to take advantage of a range of new treatment options that combine existing tools and ideas.
Early 2018 research by the University of Michigan mapped patients’ brain networks using computers. The researchers discovered possible connections between people’s reported pain intensities and how hypersensitive their nervous systems were to small stimuli. Their work suggested that future treatments might use individual brain data and computer simulations to devise more relevant, personalized health care plans.
Although fibromyalgia remains uncurable, other future treatment techniques might also fight it by focusing on the brain. Another 2018 study from Massachusetts General Hospital showed for the first time that fibromyalgia sufferers exhibited widespread brain inflammation. These new revelations could open the gate to completely novel treatments that target the small structures that undergo neuroinflammation in patients. Concurrent studies are already transforming the concept of brain-centric pain management into a practical reality. Researchers found that eight-week cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, regimens might be effective at halting the gray-matter atrophy typically observed in fibromyalgia patients.
Some scientific inquiries point towards remedies long considered unlikely. One 2018 Swedish study from the University of Gothenburg explored the use of resistance exercise as a way to reduce pain. This investigation went against the common idea that such activities would worsen symptoms. Researchers noted that the keys to realizing positive benefits lay in having patients carry out exercises that were personally adjusted for their symptoms and guided by physical therapists.
Live in a state with medical marijuana laws? Many patients have found that cannabis and cannabis-based drugs can help with their fibromyalgia pain management. These perceptions may be supported by a broad range of research dating back to the early 2000s. It’s also worth noting that many of the states that allow for medical marijuana use include chronic pain as a valid qualifying condition.