Fibromyalgia is a common syndrome in which a person has long-term, body-wide pain and tenderness in the joints, muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues.
Fibromyalgia has also been linked to fatigue, sleep problems, headaches, depression, and anxiety.
Causes, incidence, and risk factorsThe cause is unknown. Possible causes or triggers of fibromyalgia include:
- Physical or emotional trauma
- Abnormal pain response - areas in the brain that are responsible for pain may react differently in fibromyalgia patients
- Sleep disturbances
- Infection, such as a virus, although none has been identified
The following conditions may be seen with fibromyalgia or mimic its symptoms:
- Chronic neck or back pain
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
- Lyme disease
- Sleep disorders
SymptomsPain in the main symptom of fibromyalgia. It may be mild to severe.
- Painful areas are called tender points. Tender points are found in the soft tissue on the back of the neck, shoulders, chest, lower back, hips, shins, elbows, and knees. The pain then spreads out from these areas.
- The pain may feel like a deep ache, or a shooting, burning pain.
- The joints are not affected, although the pain may feel like it is coming from the joints.
Pain may get worse with activity, cold or damp weather, anxiety, and stress.
Fatigue, depressed mood, and sleep problems are seen in almost all patients with fibromyalgia. Many say that they can't get to sleep or stay asleep, and they feel tired when they wake up.
Other symptoms of fibromyalgia may include:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Memory and concentration problems
- Numbness and tingling in hands and feet
- Reduced ability to exercise
- Tension or migraine headaches
Signs and testsTo be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, you must have had at least 3 months of widespread pain, and pain and tenderness in at least 11 of 18 areas, including
- Arms (elbows)
- Lower back
- Rib cage
TreatmentThe goal of treatment is to help relieve pain and other symptoms, and to help a person cope with the symptoms.
The first type of treatment may involve:
- Physical therapy
- Exercise and fitness program
- Stress-relief methods, including light massage and relaxation techniques
However, many other drugs are also used to treat the condition, including:
- Anti-seizure drugs
- Other antidepressants
- Muscle relaxants
- Pain relievers
- Sleeping aids
- Deal with negative thoughts
- Keep a diary of pain and symptoms
- Recognize what makes your symptoms worse
- Seek out enjoyable activities
- Set limits
Other recommendations include:
- Eat a well-balanced diet
- Avoid caffeine
- Practice good sleep routines to improve quality of sleep (See: Sleeping difficulty)
- Acupressure and acunpuncture