Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition categorized as a form of arthritis. Fibromyalgia is characterized by widespread pain in the muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Common symptoms of fibromyalgia include fatigue, headaches, painful menstrual periods, tingling or numbness in the hands and feet, morning stiffness, multiple tender points on the body, and sleep difficulty. Common sites of pain include the back, shoulders, neck, pelvic girdle, and hands but any body part may be affected.
The cause of Fibromyalgia is not known. However, many factors can contribute to fibromyalgia. Researchers believe that disturbances in sleep patterns may be a cause of fibromyalgia rather than a symptom. Viral or bacterial infections may also be a trigger. Injury or trauma that affects the central nervous system may be a cause of fibromyalgia. An imbalance in neurotransmitters in the brain may also be a cause of fibromyalgia. Serotonin is one such neurotransmitter that researchers believe is linked to cause fibromyalgia along with depression, migraines, and gastrointestinal distress. Abnormalities in the autonomic nervous system may be a cause of fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia may also be caused by changes in muscle metabolism such as deconditioning and decreased blood flow.
Fibromyalgia affects people in early and middle adulthood but can affect children as well. Those affected by rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or ankylosing spondylitis are more likely to develop fibromyalgia. A family history of fibromyalgia also increases the chance of developing this disorder. Those with sleep disorders such as restless legs syndrome or sleep apnea have an increased risk of developing fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia is not a progressive or life threatening disease. The symptoms of fibromyalgia vary in intensity. There are many treatments that can improve the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Certain medications can treat the pain involved with fibromyalgia. Certain analgesics used to treat fibromyalgia include: acetaminophen, NSAID’s (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), and Ultram (Tramadol). These medications may be used in conjunction with each other for better pain relief. However, Ultram must be prescribed by a physician while NSAID’s (ibuprofen, naproxen, aspirin) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) are available over the counter.
Antidepressants may be prescribed by your doctor to treat fibromyalgia. Such antidepressant medications that may be prescribed include: Pamelor, Elavil, Doxepin, Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft. These medications may be prescribed in conjunction with each other. These medications treat serotonin levels in the brain and may also promote sleep.
Those affected with muscle pain and spasms may need to take a muscle relaxant such as Flexeril at bedtime. Your doctor may also prescribe a benzodiazepine to promote sleep and help relax muscles. Certain sleep medications such as Ambien are classified as a benzodiazepine. However, these medications are not recommended for long term use because of the increased risk of dependence.
Your doctor may help you to create a unique treatment program involving cognitive-behavioral therapy and an interdisciplinary program. Cognitive-behavioral therapy involves teaching patients to deal with stressful situations. Interdisciplinary treatment programs may involve relaxation techniques, biofeedback, and education regarding chronic pain.
Self care is also very important in treating fibromyalgia. Self care includes reducing stress, achieving adequate sleep, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet. There are also alternative therapies that might help alleviate the stress and pain associated with fibromyalgia. These therapies include chiropractic care, massage therapy, meditation, yoga, acupressure, physical therapy, light aerobics, aromatherapy, herbs, nutritional supplements, myofascial release therapy, application of heat/cold, and acupuncture.
Visiting a doctor of osteopathy may be beneficial for treating fibromyalgia. Doctors of osteopathy are licensed to perform the same therapies and procedures as medical doctors but are also taught the use of manipulation to address joint and spinal problems. A doctor of osteopathy may be more apt to see the subtle signs of fibromyalgia.
There is no cure for fibromyalgia yet, but hope is on the horizon. The fibromyalgia patient has many resources to help deal with this disorder such as support groups, organizations, and medical professionals to help improve your quality of life. Fibromyalgia is not life threatening and treatments tend to improve the severity of the symptoms over time. There are many tools that the fibromyalgia sufferer can use to become a fibromyalgia survivor!