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What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a condition that can happen to affect almost any part of your body - widespread musculoskeletal pain which can be accompanied by mood issues, sleep problems, fatigue and emotional / mental distress. Those with this disorder will be more sensitive to pain than those without fibromyalgia, normally known as abnormal pain perception processing.

Many studies and researchers believe that the disorder increases painful sensations by affecting the way your spinal cord sends information to your brain through nonpainful and painful signals.

Symptoms have been known to begin around a specific event in the persons life such as surgery, infection, psychological stress and possible trauma, however, at times others have had symptoms gradually accumulate without a trigger event.

Fibromyalgia has become quite common - it affects up to 1 in 20 people and it's becoming much more common in women than in men. The typical age for those with fibromyalgia start between the ages of 20 and 60 years old. Those who suffer from the disorder have been known to also have IBS, Anxiety, Depression, Tension Headaches and Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ).

Unfortunately with Fibromyalgia there is currently no cure, however there are multiple medical methods or alternative medicines available to help control the symptoms.

What are the signs and symptoms of Fibromyalgia?

The usual main symptoms linked with Fibromyalgia include:

  • Changes in your mood
  • Feeling very lethargic and lacking in energy
  • Sleeping poorly and waking up unrefreshed
  • Pain across your body – Muscle Pain, Joint Pain and this is often linked with pain in your shoulders, neck and lower back
  • Fibro Fog – Problems with your memory or thinking clearly
  • Feeling a little stiff when you wake up and it can possibly become worse as you move

Fibromyalgia symptoms have been known to become worse during cold weather or whether you’re feeling stressed. There are other possible symptoms that can be associated with the disorder, these include the following:

What are the risk factors?

There are several known factors associated with Fibromyalgia, however there are a few that are relatively linked but not strongly linked with the disorder. Those known risk factors include:

  • Age: Fibro can affect all ages and this also includes children at any age, however it’s been known that Fibromyalgia is more likely to be diagnosed during middle age. The chances of being diagnosed with the disorder increases as you become older.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis or Lupus: If you have RA or normally known as Rheumatoid Arthritis or Lupus, you’re more likely than others to develop Fibromyalgia.

As mentioned above, there are a few relatively linked (weakly linked) with Fibromyalgia - more research is needed. These possible risk factors weakly associated are as follows:

  • Obesity
  • Family History – Someone else in your family who possibly had Fibromyalgia
  • Viral Infections
  • Repetitive Injuries

Causes of Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia still puzzles Doctors as they still have not fully figured out what causes the disorder and the reasons why it could develop. There are many unusual things about the disorder – there isn’t any damage to the muscles or tissues, and as a result there is no tissue to be healed which makes it far more difficult to stop the pain.

Those who suffer from the disorder seem to have a problem with the way the nervous system and brain process pain – many experts believe there may be a lower threshold or perhaps a ‘control’ on your perception of pain. Those with Fibromyalgia have abnormal increases in a specific chemical in the brain that signals pain - pain receptions seemingly develop a sort of memory of the pain and become sensitised – this usually results in overreaction to nonpainful and painful signals.

The human body requires periods of deep sleep to ensure production of the hormones and chemicals that are absolute necessities to your health. If the body is disturbed during deep sleep or fails to develop these chemicals or hormones, this could possibly contribute to symptoms of the disorder.

It is also very possible that experiencing very traumatic events such as serious illness or possibly a car crash may in fact trigger the start of Fibromyalgia, however there is not enough evidence to fully confirm this.

How is Fibromyalgia Treated?

As mentioned earlier, there is no cure for Fibromyalgia but there are many different forms of treatment that can help ease your symptoms and pain. The first and key part of this journey is to ensure you educate yourself about the condition and work with your physical therapist or doctor, often you’ll need a combination of different treatment to help relieve you or ease symptoms.

Those who suffer from the disorder can manage their symtoms through these possible methods: 

  • Physical Therapy – Physical therapy techniques is a treatment that aims to improve your general range of motion and strengthen your muscles – the aim is to reduce your pain. Your physical therapist will tailor the program to your needs, help you manage your symptoms and pain levels, but they will also look to educate you on Fibromyalgia, help you manage pain and fatigue on your own.
  • Exercise – A very effective way to combat tiredness and to improve your overall energy levels is to exercise. Some suggested activities for those who suffer from Fibromyalgia are Swimming, Biking, Walking and Running. Exercise has been known to help your brain increase its production of the natural painkiller and stress reliever, endorphins - which is known to improve sleep and reduce depression.
  • Anti-Depressants – This form of treatment has been known to help ease pain and fatigue for those suffering from the disorder. We’d highly recommend discussing the possible use and side-effects with your doctor before use. One downside when using Anti-depressants is that they can cause several unpleasant side-effects such as Weight Gain, Loss of sexual desire and nausea.
  • Pain Killers – Another form of medication could be an option for your Fibromyalgia pain. There are several painkillers available that could provide you with pain relief such as: Ibuprofen, Naproxen Sodium and aspirin. This medication can help with improving your quality of sleep, reduce inflammation, minimise aches and pains.

Alternative Methods of Treatment for Fibromyalgia

There are other alternative methods of pain relief available for those still searching or un-sure whether the anti-depressants or painkillers is the right route for them – these include:

  • TENS machines – TENS is renown for being a pain relief tool for multiple different conditions, injuries and more – one of these being fibromyalgia. The research indicates that TENS treatment does in fact have significantly positive impact on the reduction of pain during treatment and for a short time after treatment also.

Other research suggests that TENS not only relieves pain but also has a calming effect on the CNS (central nervous system). Tens is usually used as a highly recommend form of treatment for those who suffer from FM but is not a sole treatment – find out more ‘How Tens Machines can help relieve Fibromyalgia Pain’.

  • Yoga – Research shows that those who participate in Yoga classes have improved moods, less pain and become less fatigued. These classes include Breathing Exercises, Group Discussions, Mediation and Gentle Poses. These types of practices or classes help increase your muscle strength and incorporate meditation - these help teach you to use different types of relaxation techniques.
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