Facts on Fibromyalgia (Beyond the basics)
- What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is one of a group of chronic pain disorders that affect connective tissues, including the muscles, ligaments (the tough bands of tissue that bind together the ends of bones), and tendons (which attach muscles to bones).
It is a chronic condition that causes widespread muscle pain (known as “myalgia”) and extreme tenderness in many areas of the body.
- What are the common symptoms?
The symptoms vary from person to person
The commonest symptoms include widespread pain and tenderness around the body. The tenderness may be to slight pressure on muscles or around joints
Other symptoms include:
fatigue, sleep disturbances,
mood disturbances such as depression and anxiety.
Digestion problems like IBS or heartburn
Irritable or overactive bladder
Problems with memory or clear thinking, known as “fibro fog”
- what should I expect at the doctor visit?
There are a number of diseases that can cause widespread pain or fatigue. Your doctor may ask you to describe digestive, sleep or memory problems amongst other symptoms. The doctor will then proceed to examine you and send you for tests.
These tests include Blood tests and x-rays may be used to rule out other causes, like thyroid problems, connective tissue diseases like lupus, polymyalgia rheumatica or other autoimmune joint diseases for example rheumatoid arthritis amongst others. There is no one test that can diagnose fibromyalgia.
- What is the treatment for fibromyalgia?
- Despite ongoing research, the cause, diagnosis, and optimal treatment of fibromyalgia are not clear.
- Ideally, the treatment of fibromyalgia should involve you and your doctor, as well as (in many cases) a physical therapist, mental health expert, and other health care professionals.
- The treatment is done with both nondrug therapies and medications
- Exercise has been found to be the most effective treatment. They include low-impact aerobic activity and body-based therapies like tai chi or yoga.
- There is role for Cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness training can help people with fibromyalgia learn skills to help manage or reduce their symptoms.
- Complementary therapies like acupuncture, chiropractic and massage may help ease symptoms, but there is little evidence to support effectiveness.
- Psychotherapy may help patients manage stress and anxiety.
- Medications —The medications that have been most effective in relieving symptoms of fibromyalgia in clinical trials are drugs that target chemicals in the brain and spinal cord that are important in processing pain. These include some of the medications usually used to treat depression (antidepressants) and epilepsy (anticonvulsants). By contrast, medications and techniques that work to decrease symptoms of pain locally, such as anti-inflammatory drugs and analgesics, are less effective.
- For more information on the drugs kindly contact your rheumatologist
- Any tips concerning my lifestyle?
- Self-care is important to manage fibromyalgia symptoms and have good quality of life.
- There is clinical evidence that living a healthy lifestyle, along with medications, can be effective at reducing pain, improving sleep, easing fatigue and stress, and helping patients cope with fibromyalgia.
- Try to exercise as often as possible. Start slowly and do more over time. Simple tasks like walking, swimming, stretching and yoga are good activities for people with fibromyalgia. In case you are still unable to be active due to the discomfort kindly consult your doctor on medications that help ease pain/discomfort and improve productivity/ activity.
- Take time to rest and relax each day as it has been found useful in management of the disease. You are also advised to do deep breathing or relaxation exercises. If you are still unable to relax kindly consult your doctor on medication to help ease stress/ anxiety.
- Set regular sleep habits, like going to bed at the same time each night. Its recommended to avoid taking naps or drinking coffee to ease afternoon fatigue.
- Quit smoking or using tobacco products as they contain a stimulant called nicotine that can worsen sleep which worsens the fibromyalgia
Parting shots on Fibromyalgia
- Fibromyalgia is a real illness, and your pain is not “all in your head.”
- Fibromyalgia is not a degenerative or deforming condition, nor does it result in life-threatening complications. However, treatment of chronic pain and fatigue is challenging, and there are no “quick cures.”
- Treatments are available. Medications may be helpful in relieving pain, improving your quality of sleep, and improving your mood. Exercise, stretching programs, and other activities are also important in helping to manage symptoms. An approach that involves combining multiple different types of intervention into an organized treatment program is usually best. Being physically active will not cause harm or long-term muscle damage, and it can help improve pain and function.
- Understanding fibromyalgia, and accepting that its cause is not well understood, may help to improve your response to treatment. As an example, some people believe that their illness is due to an undiagnosed or persistent infection; however, there is no evidence that this is true. Learning about fibromyalgia as well as some of the common myths may help you to cope better with your symptoms.
- It is important to try to have realistic expectations about your fibromyalgia and how much it can be managed. Symptoms often increase and decrease over time, but some degree of muscle pain and fatigue generally persist. Nevertheless, most people with fibromyalgia improve, and most people lead full, active lives.
Reference (The above has been adapted from)
- UpToDate: Patient information on Fibromyalgia