Fibromyalgia – What you need to know
What is Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a common musculoskeletal condition that causes a significant amount of people to suffer from chronic pain. One of the key signs that an individual has Fibromyalgia is the presence of widespread body pain that persists for months at a time. Other symptoms are also commonly associated with this condition, but this syndrome can affect different individuals in different ways. Due to the fact that the symptoms can be similar to other ailments, it often goes misdiagnosed which can lead to a lack of proper treatment. It is estimated that approximately 5-12 million Americans suffer from this condition, but the problems with diagnosis make this figure hard to pin down.
The symptoms of Fibromyalgia can be wide ranging with the most common being pain and tenderness in the joints and muscles. Being a condition that does not affect every individual in the same way can make this a condition that is difficult to treat.
- Tenderness and soreness in the joints
- Chronic muscle pain and tightness in the muscles
- Muscle spasm
- Moderate to extreme fatigue
- Tender points around the body
- Sleep disorders including insomnia
- Morning stiffness
- Abdominal pain and bloating
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Anxiety or depression
- Numbness and tingling in the extremities
- Problems with memory, concentration and focus
- Reduced tolerance for physical activity
The diagnosis of Fibromyalgia can be very difficult. It is estimated that the average sufferer goes 5 years before the condition is accurately diagnosed. This is due to the fact that it is a condition that is difficult to detect and because the symptoms are similar to many other common conditions. However, physicians do have specific protocols that they use to help them detect Fibromyalgia.
Much the diagnosis process will be that of a physical exam. The reason for this is due to the fact that Fibromyalgia is mostly about the way the patient feels. To be diagnosed with Fibromyalgia the patient will need to have experience widespread body for at least three months. Doctors will also look for areas of pain and tender points on the body, in areas such as the arms, rib cage, knees, back, neck and thighs. Once some of these symptoms have been diagnosed, they will also consult with the patient’s medical history and consider whether they have any of the symptoms listed above.
Another part of the diagnosis will be a process of elimination. The doctor may order a variety of lab tests including blood work and urine screening to eliminate the possibility of other conditions that are similar to Fibromyalgia. Recently a test has been developed to help with the diagnostic process, but the test can be expensive, so doctors tend to rely on these other methods for diagnosing this condition.
Patients who are looking for a cure to their condition will be disappointed. There is no cure for Fibromyalgia and there is no definitive set standard of treatment. Rather than treating the condition, a patient and their physician must work up a comprehensive strategy to treat the symptoms of Fibromyalgia. The goal of the treatment strategy is to relieve the pain that the individual is experience, help them manage some of the other symptoms that are present and to help them cope with the difficulties that they may experience as a result. A comprehensive plan for treatment will usually include medications, different types of physical therapy and adjustments to the individual’s lifestyle.
- Medications such as pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxants
- Physical therapy
- Chiropractic adjustments
- Exercise programs
- A recommended change in diet
- Sleeping aids
- Some doctors might also recommend behavioral therapy
What to expect
Fibromyalgia is a long term condition that will most likely take years to improve. However, this condition can stay with an individual for their entire life and it may get worse as the years go on. The future for every Fibromyalgia suffer will be different. Some people will eventually get better and other will have to adjust over time as the condition gets worse. The best that most Fibromyalgia sufferers can hope for is to get an early diagnosis and to find a treatment plan that is effective at helping them to manage the condition.