By Jamell Andrews
Fibromyalgia is a chronic illness that is usually very difficult for physicians to diagnose because of the vagueness of the symptoms that generally exist in patients.
This condition occurs in approximately 2% of the United States population. It affects women more than men, and the risk of developing this disease increases with age. Often times, there is no discernable cause for the development of fibromyalgia.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
One of the most important things to understand about fibromyalgia is that the symptoms of it can change depending on a person’s stress levels, physical activity, the time of day, or even the weather.
Pain is the most reported symptom associated with fibromyalgia, and it is typically described as being a constant, dull ache in the muscles. Pain from this condition is usually widespread, which means that it occurs on both sides of the body, above and below the waist. The pain experienced by people with fibromyalgia is not generally localized to one or two areas.
People with fibromyalgia also tend to experience additional pain when certain parts of the body have pressure applied to them. These areas are known as tender point locations, and they include the following:
- Sides of hips, and upper hips
- Inner part of the knees
- Back of the head
- Tops of the shoulders
- Upper part of the chest
- Sides of the neck
Many health care professionals believe that fibromyalgia prevents people from getting the benefits of deep sleep that they need, which means that these individuals often wake up in the morning feeling tired, even if they got at least eight hours of sleep the night before.
In addition, people who suffer from this condition usually have a co-existing condition such as:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Restless leg syndrome
- Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
For pain relief, doctors usually prescribe acetaminophen or an anti-inflammatory for patients. In addition, muscle relaxers or anti-depressants may be used to help patients deal with the variety of symptoms they are experiencing.
In many cases, people with fibromyalgia also suffer from depression or anxiety, so therapy is often beneficial in helping people deal with their condition. In some instances, people find that they are able to cope with their pain without having to also take a prescription for depression or anxiety. In other cases, people may find that they are better able to cope when a combination of therapies is used.
Aerobic exercise is highly recommended for people who have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Any type of low-impact activity is very important because it helps to keep joints and muscles limber and conditioned, which may help to prevent pain.
People with fibromyalgia are also advised to try some alternative therapies as they seek different ways of dealing with their pain.
- Massage therapy
- Stress management
- Group therapy
- Individual counseling
- Physical therapy
These alternative treatment methods are all recommended simply because they provide people with non-traditional routes of pain management, which is the key to living with fibromyalgia. Acupuncture, in particular, is believed to be of benefit to patients with this condition because it has proven to provide significant relief to people who suffer from extreme pain. So, fibromyalgia is not a contagious condition or disease like the flu or a cold.