What is Fibromyalgia Anyway?
Fibromyalgia (FM) is a disabling condition of the myofascia, or the fibrous connective tissues that surround muscles, that can include widespread musculoskeletal pain along with fatigue, sleep disturbance, memory changes, mood changes and more. Fibromyalgia is an epidemic diagnosis and continues to grow. The most affected group is women from the age of 30 to 50.
Studies show that FM amplifies or increases painful sensations by changing the way the brain processes pain signals. FM is NOT a psychological disorder that only people with a troubled past or present acquire. Nor is it due to being inactive or lazy.
What are the Symptoms of Fibromyalgia?
- Chronic muscle and joint pain, muscle stiffness, leg cramps
- Painful trigger points – small penny-sized tender spots scattered over the body in 18 specific target areas
- Unrefreshing sleep, insomnia, depression, anxiety
- Fatigue, sometimes overwhelming
- Increased sensitivity to drugs, chemicals, foods, light and/or sound, changes in temperature
- Difficulty concentrating
- Numbness or tingling of arms, legs or feet
- Irritable bowel, irritable bladder
What Causes Fibromyalgia?
Most researchers believe fibromyalgia is caused by a combination of factors, which may include genetic predisposition, stress, trauma, and chemical or hormonal imbalances. A deficiency of the neurotransmitter serotonin, responsible for its calming, anti-anxiety properties, has been highly implicated, especially since women have lower serotonin levels than men, and patients given SSRI medication (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) such as Zoloft, Cymbalta or Lyrica, have shown improvements in Fibromyalgia symptoms.
In 1990, the American College of Rheumatology established 2 criteria for diagnosing FM. The first is widespread pain lasting at least 3 months, and the second is the presence of at least 11 out of 18 positive tender points. Since then, less emphasis has been placed on the exact number of tender points, while ruling out other possible underlying conditions that might be causing the pain is now utilized. Treatment is best approached by a “team effort” combining the skills from multiple disciplines including a primary care doctor who “believes in FM” and is willing to work with chiropractors, and others. Exercising, pacing yourself, accepting your limitations, yoga, psychological counseling, nutritional counseling, and having strong family/friend support are all important in the management of FM.
What Treatments are Available for Fibromyalgia?
In addition to numerous drugs on the market, many people find relief using physical modalities to treat their symptoms. Traditional therapies like chiropractic manipulations, physical therapy and massage therapy have produced high levels of lasting success for many. In addition, new research is proving the benefits of acupuncture. Finally, new technology like class IV deep tissue laser therapy to treat the pain points can also be very effective.
Reprinted with permission from Think Teachers Magazine.