WHAT IS FIBROMYALGIA?
Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, memory, sleep and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals.
The pain associated with fibromyalgia often is described as a constant dull ache that has lasted for at least three months. People with fibromyalgia often awaken tired, even though they report sleeping for long periods of time. Sleep is often disrupted by pain, and many patients with fibromyalgia have other sleep disorders, such as restless legs syndrome and sleep apnea.
Because fatigue is one of the main characteristics of fibromyalgia, getting sufficient sleep is essential. Some studies indicate that acupuncture helps relieve fibromyalgia symptoms, while others show no benefit.
Symptoms sometimes begin after a physical trauma, surgery, infection or significant psychological stress. In other cases, symptoms gradually accumulate over time with no single triggering event.
Symptoms of fibromyalgia include:
- Widespread pain. The pain associated with fibromyalgia often is described as a constant dull ache that has lasted for at least three months. To be considered widespread, the pain must occur on both sides of your body and above and below your waist.
- Fatigue. People with fibromyalgia often awaken tired, even though they report sleeping for long periods of time. Sleep is often disrupted by pain, and many patients with fibromyalgia have other sleep disorders, such as restless legs syndrome and sleep apnea.
- Cognitive difficulties. A symptom commonly referred to as “fibro fog” impairs the ability to focus, pay attention and concentrate on mental tasks.
- Other problems. Many people who have fibromyalgia also may experience depression, headaches, and pain or cramping in the lower abdomen.
Doctors don’t know what causes fibromyalgia, but it most likely involves a variety of factors working together.
These may include:
- Genetics. There may be certain genetic mutations that may make you more susceptible to developing the disorder because fibromyalgia tends to run in families.
- Infections. Some illnesses appear to aggravate or trigger fibromyalgia.
- Emotional or physical trauma. Post-traumatic stress disorder has been linked to fibromyalgia.
Risk factors for fibromyalgia include:
- Your sex. Fibromyalgia is diagnosed more often in women than in men.
- Family history. If a relative also has the condition, you may be more likely to develop fibromyalgia.
- Rheumatic disease. If you have a rheumatic disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, you may be more likely to develop fibromyalgia.
- The pain and lack of sleep associated with fibromyalgia can interfere with your ability to function at home or on the job. The frustration of dealing with an often-misunderstood condition also can result in depression and health-related anxiety.
- Reduce stress. Develop a plan to limit or avoid overexertion and emotional stress. Allow yourself time each day to relax.
- Get enough sleep. Getting sufficient sleep is essential because fatigue is one of the main characteristics of fibromyalgia. 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. Doing it gradually and regularly often decreases symptoms.
- Pace yourself. 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. Do something that you find enjoyable and fulfilling every day.
NEXT STEP SOLUTIONS
Physical therapy often is the best choice for relieving pain caused by fibromyalgia. It addresses and treats the root cause rather than just the symptoms. Many patients get significant relief in their first visit and are done within 6 sessions. And the results are pretty long-lasting. The cost can vary but is typically around $40-$90 per session based on the complexity of your condition. Most who get therapy say they love it. Mention this article and get a consult or screening for only $49.
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