Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that is defined by fatigue and pain and tenderness throughout your body.
An estimated 5 million American adults experience fibromyalgia, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. The condition is diagnosed more often in women than in men (up to 90 percent of all patients with fibromyalgia are women).
The average age range for this chronic disorder is 35 to 45 years old, however, most people have had symptoms, including chronic pain, which started much earlier in life.
People with this condition may experience:
- dull aching or pain in the lower abdomen;
- difficulty paying attention;
- increased sensitivity to odors, light, and sounds;
- painful menstrual periods (women);
- inability to focus;
- alternating diarrhea and constipation;
- dizziness and problems with balance;
- trouble sleeping;
- sleeping for long periods of time without feeling rested.
Note – it is essential to remember that each patient with this chronic disorder will have their own unique set of symptoms. Also, the symptoms come and go over time, however, they seldom disappear completely.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults with the condition are about 3 times more likely to be diagnosed with depression than people without the disease.
Doctors do not yet know what is the exact cause of fibromyalgia. But, it’s likely that numerous factors may contribute to the development of this condition, including:
- studies have concluded that individuals with fibromyalgia have abnormally low levels of the hormones noradrenaline, serotonin (a brain chemical messenger which is associated with an anxiety-reducing effect), and dopamine in their brains;
- some scientists also suspect that lack of physical exercise and changes in muscle metabolism may play an important role in fibromyalgia;
- vaccines – there is some evidence which suggests that vaccinations may cause the disorder;
- infections – HIV, hepatitis C virus, and Lyme disease have been linked with the disorder;
- the condition is diagnosed in 28 percent of kids whose mothers suffer from fibromyalgia;
- fibromyalgia may be triggered by a trauma or injury (for instance, auto accidents);
- gluten intolerance – it has been associated with numerous health issues and some doctors feel that it could also be responsible for this chronic disorder;
- brainwave research established that patients with this chronic disorder commonly lose deep sleep. A number of things may lead to sleep disturbance, such as – depression brought on by unhappy events or illness, strain in personal relationships, stress at work, or pain from another condition (like arthritis) or an injury.
Notes – the condition is not associated with inadequate muscle repair; nerve, muscle, or joint injury; or any serious bodily disease or damage. The pain can be aggravated by weather change, noise, and stress.
If you have arthritis (according to a study published by the National Institutes of Health, about 17% of patients with arthritis also suffer from fibromyalgia), lupus, or temporomandibular disorder (a condition which can cause pain in the cheeks, jaw, temples, and ears), you may be more likely to develop fibromyalgia.
The main symptoms of fibromyalgia are fatigue and pain. Although the pain is felt in soft tissues and muscles, there are no visible abnormalities in these areas.
There is no definitive medical test for this chronic disorder. But, your healthcare provider will take your description of your symptoms and medical history, and do a physical examination.
There is no cure for fibromyalgia, however, certain treatments which are available may help relieve your symptoms as well as improve your quality of life.
Usually, the management of fibromyalgia will involve a combination of:
- support from others – support groups may help you cope better with your condition and give you emotional support;
- nutrition – having a diet rich in fruits and veggies can help to maintain your weight, help provide you with better energy levels, and give you a greater sense of wellbeing. Also, avoid food preservatives and flavoring which are typically used in processed foods as they may increase inflammation levels in the body;
- massage – it can help with stress management and muscle relaxation;
- sleep – poor sleep, both quality and quantity, can aggravate your symptoms. Therefore, it is essential to get a good night’s sleep when you have fibromyalgia. Aim for 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night;
- staying at work – working (especially if you like what you are doing) is good for your wellbeing and health;
- reducing stress – strategies like mindfulness meditation, spending time in nature, and talk therapy may help in relieving your stress levels. This is important since stress can trigger a flare-up of fibromyalgia symptoms;
- balancing activity and rest – to avoid overdo things, it is recommended to break large jobs down into small achievable tasks;
- talk therapy – it helps individuals with fibromyalgia to switch off from difficult feelings and thoughts, reduce stress, and make changes;
- learn ways to manage your pain – cold packs can help with inflammation, heat packs can help ease muscle pain, and gentle physical exercise can help relieve muscle tension;
- physical exercise – it can help you manage the symptoms; in addition, exercise can reduce stress, give you more energy, and help you sleep better;
- education – the more you know about your condition, the more control you’ll have.
Important Note About Painkillers
Painkillers like paracetamol, codeine, ibuprofen do not work very well in fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia is related to perfectionism, anxiety, and being highly self-exigent. You feel a lot of pressure from those around you, but in fact, you are the one who exerts the greatest pressure.
Your strong inner pain may also be caused by an event that you have experienced during childhood, which is the origin of your guilty feelings. In addition, you wanted to follow certain principles that were contrary to your deeper needs.
Learn to take care of yourself, to give yourself the much-needed tenderness. Let your inner child live because he grew up too fast. You do not have to be a super-man (or super-woman): you just need to be yourself. Let your creativity express through play, art, sport or any other activity that provides you with the joy of living. Thus, you will be fulfilled and you will find inner peace.