Fibromyalgia Basics

As many as 12 million Americans suffer from a pain no one else can see. They are called lazy and sometimes crazy because no one understands what they are going through. It’s overwhelming and very lonely. It’s Fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a chronic arthritis-related syndrome and while it affects a lot more, only 3.7 million Americans have been diagnosed with the condition. Unlike arthritis, Fibromyalgia affects the muscles and ligaments, not the joints. Fibromyalgia has also been referred to as fibrositis, chronic muscle pain syndrome, psychogenic rheumatism, tension myalgias, fibromyositis and myofacial pain syndrome. 

The symptoms of Fibromyalgia are multiple tender points on the neck, shoulders, sternum, lower back, hips, shins, elbows and knees, fatigue, sleep disturbances, body aches, reduced exercise tolerance, chronic facial muscle pain or aching. Other symptoms may include headaches, irritable bowel or bladder, temporomandibular joint disorder, pelvic pain, noise sensitivity, temperature sensitivity, restless leg syndrome, depression, anxiety, numbness or tingling sensations in hands and feet, difficulty concentrating, mood changes, chest pain, dry eyes, skin and mouth, painful menstrual periods, dizziness and anxiety.

It can take up to five years for a Fibromyalgia diagnosis to be made because it is so misunderstood and there are no tests that can diagnose it. There are 18 tender point sites on the body and a diagnosis is based on having at least 11 of these tender points. The tender points are located in the neck, shoulders, chest, rib cage, lower back, thighs, knees, arms/elbows and buttocks. Tests are done to rule out similar conditions such as Ankylosing spondylitis, Lupus, Carpal tunnel Syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis, Polymyalgia rheumatica and Restless Legs syndrome.

Fibromyalgia affects more women than men and usually develops during early to middle adulthood. If you have a family history of Fibromyalgia or if you have a rheumatic disease such as Lupus or Rheumatoid arthritis then there is a higher risk for developing Fibromyalgia. Other possible causes include sleep disturbances, injury, infection, abnormalities of the autonomic nervous system and changes in muscle metabolism. Ninety percent of Fibromyalgia patients have severe fatigue and sleep disorders.


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