Understanding Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that causes widespread musculoskeletal pain. The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but onset of symptoms usually begins after physical trauma, surgery, infection, or situations that cause extreme psychological stress.

Symptoms of fibromyalgia include fatigue, sleep disturbances, weakness, and memory or mood issues. However, the hallmark symptom of this condition is pain in certain areas called tender points. Not to be confused with trigger points which cause pain in another location of the body, tender points are parts of the body that become painful or sensitive when pressure is applied. Common tender points associated with fibromyalgia are:

  • Back of the head
  • Tops of shoulders
  • Upper chest
  • Outer elbows
  • Hips
  • Knees

Although fibromyalgia is not a life-threatening condition, it may interfere with your ability to perform daily activities. There is currently no cure for fibromyalgia, but certain treatments can be quite successful in managing symptoms and improving quality of life. These treatments include:

  • Pain relievers such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen sodium to manage body aches and pains. Over-the-counter or prescription strength medications may be used, but narcotics are not recommended due to the risk of dependency
  • Antidepressants to relieve anxiety, depression, pain, fatigue, or sleep problems caused by fibromyalgia
  • Sleep aids to address sleep disturbances and improve sleep quality
  • Exercise to improve flexibility and muscle tone which may help alleviate painful symptoms
  • Getting adequate rest to help fight fatigue caused by fibromyalgia
  • Massage to relax tense muscles and boost levels of endorphins and serotonin, your body’s natural painkillers and mood regulators

If you regularly experience symptoms associated with fibromyalgia, schedule an appointment with your doctor for further evaluation. There is no test that can diagnose fibromyalgia, so your doctor will need to rely on your symptoms in order to make a diagnosis. Because of this, you may find it helpful to keep a symptom journal in the weeks leading up to your appointment. Keeping track of your symptoms, their severity, when they occur, and for how long will help you provide accurate, detailed information that your doctor can use to make the right diagnosis (Source: Medical News Today).