Experiencing extreme tiredness? Having difficulty sleeping? Do you suffer from frequent pain in the back of your neck, shoulders, lower and upper back, and sometimes, even in the knees? Then you might have fibromyalgia syndrome.
Fibromyalgia syndrome can zap you of energy and leave you feeling fatigued. There may be times when the pain becomes worse, but the good news is that it can be treated.
It is said that knowledge is power, therefore, read on to find out more, as we take a deeper dive to understand this condition, its symptoms and the treatments available for it.
Understanding This Condition
Fibromyalgia is a common and long-term musculoskeletal condition that affects the muscles & soft tissues. Patients suffering from fibromyalgia experience muscle stiffness and severe pain in different parts of the body, also known as the trigger points, and if not treated timely, it can lead to severe depression & sometimes even social isolation.
Unveiling Some Eye-Opening Facts
Did you know?
- Over 12 million Americans are suffering from fibromyalgia syndrome
- Majority of them are women ranging between 25 and 60 years of age
- In comparison to men, women are ten times more likely to become affected by the Fibromyalgia syndrome.
- Some estimates show that 1/20 people may be affected by this condition to some degree in their lifetime.
- The condition largely develops between the ages 30 and 50; however, sometimes children and elderly may also be affected.
Fibromyalgia – What Are The Causes?
Although the exact cause of fibromyalgia is still unknown but some research studies show that this condition may be related to abnormal-levels of certain types of chemicals in the brain and the way our nervous system processes pain messages.
It is also believed that this condition may be genetically inherited. It may develop because of genes inherited from the parents.
However, some studies show that fibromyalgia syndrome may be triggered by both physically and emotionally stressful events like:
- Giving birth
- A severe injury
- Death of a beloved
- Having an operation
Top 10 Fibromyalgia Symptoms
Now that you know what fibromyalgia syndrome is and what may be the underlying causes for this condition, let’s learn about the symptoms, shall we?
Fibromyalgia syndrome is actually a set of symptoms. Therefore, the presence of some symptoms, if not all; can help diagnose the condition and treatment can then be sought accordingly.
The main symptoms of fibromyalgia include:
1- Widespread Body Pain
In this condition, you are likely to feel widespread pain in all four quadrants of your body. The pain can feel like a burning sensation or an ache. It may be continuous and severe at different times.
Also, another thing to note here is that the severity of the pain may vary at tender and trigger points like back of the neck, elbows, front of the neck, hips, lower back, knees, upper back, shoulders and chest.
2- Muscle Stiffness
Muscle stiffness and tightness is a common symptom. You may feel stiffness in your muscles if you’ve been in the same position for a long time.
3- Increased Sensitivity to Pain
The condition can make you super sensitive to pain, so even the slightest of touch can be extremely painful.
For example; a little stub on the toe which normally wouldn’t hurt that much, can put people suffering from fibromyalgia in agonizing pain.
4- Extreme Tiredness
If you are always drained out of energy and too tired to do anything, then you may have fibromyalgia syndrome. It is believed that this condition simply zaps people of energy, making them feel exhausted.
5- Difficulty in Sleeping
When diagnosing the symptoms of fibromyalgia, sleeping patterns of the patient are also reviewed, as the condition can also affect your sleep, which is closely tied to the extreme tiredness symptom discussed above.
In this condition, you may experience difficulty in sleeping, suffer from insomnia or feel tired even after getting plenty of sleep.
This is because fibromyalgia can prevent you from restful and deep sleep that is much needed to refresh yourself properly.
6- Brain Fog
If you have fibromyalgia, you may have cognitive problems, also known as fibro fog or brain fog.
Some common cognitive problems that can help diagnose this condition better; include trouble learning new things, confused and slowed speech, and inability to concentrate.
7- IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
This is another symptom that GPs look for when diagnosing patients with fibromyalgia syndrome.
If you are suffering from fibromyalgia, you may develop IBS, a digestive condition that bloats the stomach.
It can also result in constipation and sometimes even diarrhea. So, it’s definitely a serious symptom that can help in better diagnoses of fibromyalgia syndrome.
8- Chronic Headaches
If you have frequent headaches while experiencing stiffness and pain in your shoulders and neck, then this may indicate that you have fibromyalgia.
In many cases, patients suffering from fibromyalgia have been found to experience mild headaches and sometimes, even severe migraines.
9- Feeling As If Your Limbs Are Swollen
You may sometimes feel like your hands and feet are swollen without any actual swelling being present, or feel tingling and numbness in your fingers.
10- Sensitivity to Light and Noise
It has been discovered that some patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia develop increased sensitivity to light and noise.
While in other cases, there have been patients who’ve developed sensitivity to certain types of foods, medication and odors.
A Note of Caution
Fibromyalgia symptoms may intensify and become worse due to different reasons like tension, weather changes, drafty conditions, hormonal fluctuations and stress.
Another thing that is important to understand here is that fibromyalgia is often misdiagnosed typically because the feelings and signs of this condition are similar to conditions like osteoarthritis and tendinitis.
Therefore, for accurate diagnosis your GP/doctor will first conduct a comprehensive physical exam and check your medical history. Also, he/she may advise you FM/a blood test.
This test identifies markers produced by the immune system’s blood cells in patients with fibromyalgia.
Treatments for Fibromyalgia
Based on your test results and the severity of the problem, you will be recommended any one or a combination of the following treatments:
- Medications like painkillers and antidepressants
- Lifestyle changes like relaxation techniques and exercise programs
- Speech Therapy such as counseling and CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy)