If you are experiencing a long term, widespread pain in your muscles and soft tissues, you might be suffering from a fibromyalgia. This condition is a chronic disorder characterized by diffuse tenderness on your muscles with chronic pain and trigger points. The term comes from a Latin word that means fibrous, muscles and pain. Doctors describe this condition to be related to arthritis, but it does not belong to this inflammatory group of condition affecting mainly the joint, although at times one may experience tenderness in the joint as well. Like arthritis, fibromyalgia in its extreme condition can significantly affect the quality of life of the person affected by it. Commonly experienced are chronic fatigue and pain that can interfere with the person's ability to perform his activities of daily living.
Who are susceptible to fibromyalgia?
About 80 percent of fibromyalgia patients are women. The condition is usually diagnosed during the middle age, but doctors noted that some of the symptoms are already present at the age of 18. Individuals who are more susceptible to fibromyalgia are those with the history of systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. Doctors have reason to believe that it may be a hereditary condition, although there is no clinical study that can support this theory. Individuals with high sensitivity to stimuli are also at high risk of experiencing the painful condition. Fibromyalgia is also present among individuals who have depression and worrisome.
What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?
The main symptom of fibromyalgia is the presence of tender points. These are localized areas where tenderness is present. One can identify a tender point when it causes pain upon pressing on the muscle with a finger. The pain felt is usually superficial and not deep into the muscle. The size of the tender points is usually small and they are highly sensitive when pressed, causing the sensation of pain that may often make a person suddenly pull back. These tender points usually spread across the neck, back, shoulders, buttocks and knees. The main cause of the tender points remains unknown, but they show predictable areas where they commonly occur.
Fibromyalgia can also cause muscle spasms, chronic muscle pain, muscle tightness, insomnia, fatigue, muscle stiffness and decreased energy. The pain can cause the person to experience difficulty thinking and doing some mental tasks, especially when the pain involves the neck area and the shoulders. Tension migraine is also common and may be accompanied by the feeling of nausea and facial tenderness. Chronic fibromyalgia can also result in depression, especially when it interferes with the person's ability to perform his activities of daily living.
Making a diagnosis of fibromyalgia
Late diagnosis of fibromyalgia is very common because the symptoms usually overlap with other condition. What makes diagnosis for the condition more difficult, however, is that there is no clinical tool that can diagnose fibromyalgia. Doctors usually rely on the clinical symptoms that patients manifest in order to conclude that one has fibromyalgia, after ruling out other potential conditions that may cause the chronic pain and fatigue that are common symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia treatment and management
There is no definite cure for fibromyalgia. The treatment approach in fibromyalgia management includes exercise, physical therapy and medications. Medication therapy consists of taking analgesics and NSAIDs for pain. Complementary therapy and relaxation techniques are also prescribed to help relieve the muscles from tension and stress. The exercise consists of stretching and active movement of the joints and muscles. This is known to relieve the muscles from the formation of tender points.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder. However, it is not a progressive condition, but will likely be experienced throughout your lifetime. Avoiding a sedentary life can help prevent the formation of tender points and it can reduce the episodes of muscle fatigue and weakness.