What is going on with your body?
One day you wake up and notice that body is hurting all over and can’t figure out why. Since you have stuff to do, you get up and go about your day. The next day, it’s the same. After a while, you realize that you have been having this pain for a few months. What is going on? What is the cause of the pain? How do you get rid of it?
Fibromyalgia is when you have widespread pain throughout your body. It is often associated with fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. The exact cause is unknown, but thought to be influenced by genetics, infections and/or some sort of trauma, either physical or emotional. It is believed that repetitive nerve stimulation causes the brain to change, which causes an abnormal increase in certain chemicals that signal pain (neurotransmitters). Unfortunately, your brain’s pain receptors develop a memory of the pain causing them to become more sensitive and overreact to future pain signals. Frequently, fibromyalgia is found to occur in people with other chronic pain conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), migraine/other types of headaches, interstitial cystitis (painful bladder syndrome) and temporomandibular joint disorders. The most common symptom is a dull, constant widespread pain that lasts longer than three months. The pain happens on both sides of your body and affects the lower half the same as it does the upper half. Fatigue is another symptom because of the sleep disruption that results from the pain. So, even if a person seems like they have been sleeping for long periods of time, the quality of their sleep is impacted causing them to not feel rested. Thanks to the lack of sleep, many people with fibromyalgia complain of having difficulty focusing, paying attention and concentrating, especially on tasks that are mentally driven. Certain risk factors can increase your chances of developing it, like being female, family history of someone having fibromyalgia and certain disorders (ex. osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus).
The main goal of fibromyalgia treatment is to lessen symptoms and improve overall health. Your doctor may prescribe medication to decrease the level of your pain and enhance the quality of your sleep. For pain relief, usually non-narcotic medications, like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen or tramadol, are used. Occasionally, your doctor may prescribe medications that are used to treat other conditions but have proven to be effective at helping people with fibromyalgia. This is known as using a medication for an off-label use. These medications can include duloxetine, milnacipran, amitriptyline, cyclobenzaprine or gabapentin. As of right now, there is only one medication that is specifically designed to treat fibromyalgia and that is pregabalin.
Other treatment options incorporate physical therapy and occupational therapy to help you increase your strength, flexibility and stamina and teach you the best way to perform tasks in order to minimize your discomfort will doing them. Another key is to get counseling to discuss what you are feeling and help you to manage any stress that you might be having. Some people find meditation or yoga to be beneficial in dealing with stress. Getting enough sleep is important, so making sure you go to bed at a consistent time and allowing yourself enough time to sleep are instrumental. Regular exercise is helpful in reducing pain, but it is essential that you gradually increase your activity level. It is vital to keep your daily activity level about the same because if you are feeling good, you can over do it and if you aren’t feeling the best, you can miss out on important events. Limiting caffeine and eating healthy are also key to improving your overall feeling of wellbeing.
Since the exact cause of fibromyalgia is not fully understood yet, there aren’t specific prevention techniques. The main things to keep in mind are to live a healthy lifestyle by getting adequate amounts of sleep, eating right, exercising and reducing stress. If you have other conditions that are often associated with fibromyalgia, trying to manage them to the best of your ability to decrease your chances of developing fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia may seem like a weird disease but for those who have it, it can be debilitating. Thankfully, there is more research being done to understand it and improvements are being made in treating. If you have any questions or concerns, please speak with your doctor. If you would like more information about fibromyalgia, please visit the American College of Rheumatology’s Fibromyalgia page at https://www.rheumatology.org/I-Am-A/Patient-Caregiver/Diseases-Conditions/Fibromyalgia