What Is Fibromyalgia?
Widespread pain and tenderness throughout the body are the hallmark symptoms of fibromyalgia that are experienced by most who suffer from this debilitating syndrome. Unlike other diseases or medical conditions, fibromyalgia is considered to be a syndrome due to its often interrelated symptoms between different body systems. Other health problems commonly occur together with fibromyalgia, such as depression and chronic fatigue, though similar symptoms may be present with this syndrome.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
The main determining symptom associated with fibromyalgia is pain. This pain may travel and can feel deep, dull, aching, sharp, shooting, or burning. Pain is felt on both sides of the body and both above and below the waistline. This pain occurs in soft tissues throughout the body but may feel like it is coming from the joints as well. Certain areas of pain are generally referred to as “tender points” or “trigger points” and occur in specific areas, including the neck, back, and hips.
In addition to pain, there are several other symptoms that are frequently associated with fibromyalgia, though everyone who suffers from this syndrome may not experience every symptom. Additional indications often present with fibromyalgia may include:
• Decreased energy
• Severe fatigue
• Muscle stiffness and cramping, especially after either inactivity or exercise
• Difficulty sleeping
• Feeling anxious or depressed
• Trouble concentrating or staying focused
• Abdominal pain or cramping
• Digestive issues
• Numbness or tingling, especially in the hands and feet
• Headache, pain in the face and jaw
Symptoms may increase during certain times of day or in the presence of other symptoms, or may be triggered by environmental triggers such as cold, damp weather or certain sensory stimulants involving scent, sight, and sound.
Conditions That Commonly Occur With Fibromyalgia
Although some symptoms may occur as a part of the fibromyalgia syndrome, these symptoms may indicate the presence of one of the other disorders that commonly occurs together in those that suffer from fibromyalgia. These conditions include:
• Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
• Insomnia
• Sleep Apnea
• Restless Leg Syndrome
• Depression/anxiety
• Temporomandibular Joint Disorder
• Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Causes of Fibromyalgia
Presently, there has been no identified causes of fibromyalgia, though there are many theories. Most experts believe it is a combination of factors that leads to the development of this syndrome that include a genetic predisposition, physical or emotional trauma, or certain illnesses or infections. Because women are more likely than men to develop this syndrome, it is believed that hormonal changes or low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin may lead to an increased sensitivity to pain and fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia Treatments
Although there is no cure for fibromyalgia, there are many treatments available to help reduce symptoms associated with this painful syndrome. Different types of medication have been shown to be helpful for some who suffer from fibromyalgia. Medications include pain relievers, antidepressants, anti-seizure medications, and those medications that help to relieve neuropathy and nerve pain.
Counseling has been shown to help patients improve related pain issues. Many patients benefit from the use of physical therapy or massage to help manage pain. Gentle exercises, such as t’ai chi and yoga, have been shown to help reduce pain and stiffness associated with fibromyalgia. Some sufferers see improvement in symptoms by changing their diets.
Fibromyalgia Diet
Because there are different triggers for each individual with fibromyalgia, there is no specific “fibromyalgia diet” that will help improve symptoms for all who suffer from this syndrome. Each individual should make note of how certain foods affect symptoms and eliminate or reduce trigger foods in the diet. However, eating to improve overall health can ease many common symptoms. Those with this syndrome should reduce their intake of processed foods and those with additives, including MSG and artificial sweeteners. Adding healthy foods, such as fish and foods with omega-3 fatty acids, fresh fruits and vegetables, and lean protein sources have been shown to be effective to reduce symptoms.