Fibromyalgia is a musculoskeletal disorder associated with body-wide muscle and joint pain. Affecting approximately five million people in the United States, the condition often causes feelings of exhaustion and fatigue. Widespread pain or tenderness throughout the body is the hallmark of fibromyalgia. For this reason, it is considered a chronic pain condition.
Many contributing factors can increase the likelihood of developing fibromyalgia. The condition, which renders patients ultra-sensitive to pain, may have a genetic component, though researchers cannot be sure. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, a number of risk factors have been linked to fibromyalgia: * Having a coexisting medical condition, particularly lupus, spinal arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis * Exposure to trauma * Sustaining recurring injuries * Gender – women are 10 times more likely to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, according to Mayo Clinic
While every case of fibromyalgia is unique, the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases cites the following symptoms as the most common ones associated with the disease.
- Widespread pain
- Tingling of the limbs
- Problems sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating/memory issues
- Depression/feelings of isolation
- Stiffness throughout the body, especially in the morning
- Extreme menstrual cramps
A variety of factors can increase the chances of developing fibromyalgia. Some researchers speculate that genetics may be at play. According to the NIAMS, medical conditions like lupus, spinal arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are recognized risk factors for fibromyalgia. Exposure to trauma or sustaining recurring injuries can increase the likelihood of developing the condition. Women are also much more likely to be diagnosed than men. Since fibromyalgia makes people ultra-sensitive to pain, pain relievers can be an effective treatment option for some.
There is no cure-all when it comes to fibromyalgia. However, steps can be taken to help alleviate the painful symptoms associated with the disease. The goal of fibromyalgia treatment is to improve these symptoms. Pain relievers can be used to reduce the all-over pain associated with fibromyalgia. Muscle relaxants can also be particularly effective in improving sleep quality. Antidepressants like Cymbalta are commonly prescribed to treat fibromyalgia symptoms, as well. Lyrica is another popular fibromyalgia drug that relieves pain by focusing on nerve signals. Experts say physical therapy is particularly effective in reducing fibromyalgia pain and improving mobility. Researchers are also looking into the effectiveness of hormone therapy in treating the condition.
Most primary care physicians can help in guiding someone with fibromyalgia through diagnosis and treatment. Increasingly more research is being done to understand the connection between diet and fibromyalgia. A 2011 report published in Prevention suggests that getting your fill of vitamin D, fish and vegetables may help improve symptoms. The same report suggests steering clear of caffeine and additives.