Fibromyalgia is a chronic, long-term medical condition that causes widespread pain, stiffness and tenderness throughout the body. It can also cause fatigue, sleep disturbances, difficulty concentrating, and memory problems. Fibromyalgia is more common in women than men and affects about 2 percent of adults in the United States. The cause of fibromyalgia is unclear, although it is thought to involve a combination of genetic, biological, and environmental factors. Treatment typically includes lifestyle changes, medications, and physical or occupational therapy.
The most common symptoms of Fibromyalgia are widespread body pain, fatigue, sleep disturbances, cognitive difficulties (often referred to as “fibro fog”), headaches, and a heightened sensitivity to certain stimuli, such as noise and temperature. Other common symptoms include irritable bowel syndrome, depression, anxiety, numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, dizziness, and impairment of coordination.
The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but research suggests that it may be related to changes in the brain and central nervous system. Factors that may contribute to the development of fibromyalgia include genetics, environmental factors, stress, trauma, hormonal imbalances, medical conditions, and certain medications.
The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, however there are certain risk factors that can increase your chance of developing the condition. These risk factors include:
- Family history of fibromyalgia.
- Age. Fibromyalgia is most common among people in their 20s to 50s, although it may occur in any age group.
- Gender. Women are more likely to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia than men.
- Trauma. People who have experienced physical, psychological, or emotional trauma may be more likely to develop fibromyalgia.
- Infections. People who have had certain infections, such as Lyme disease or viral infections, may be more likely to develop fibromyalgia.
- Sleep disturbances. People who have problems sleeping, such as sleep apnea, insomnia, and restless leg syndrome, may be more likely to develop fibromyalgia.
- Stress. People who are under a lot of stress may be more likely to develop fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia is diagnosed through a combination of a physical exam, patient history, lab tests, and diagnostic criteria. During the physical exam, a doctor will check for areas of pain and tenderness. A patient’s medical and family history may also be taken into account, as well as the presence of any other medical conditions. Lab tests can help rule out other causes of pain, such as arthritis or lupus. Additionally, a patient must meet the specific diagnostic criteria established by the American College of Rheumatology in order to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia. This includes a history of widespread pain lasting more than three months with tenderness in at least 11 of 18 predetermined body sites.
The most common subtypes of Fibromyalgia seen in clinical practice include Primary Fibromyalgia and Secondary Fibromyalgia.
Primary Fibromyalgia is the most common form of Fibromyalgia, and is characterized by persistent musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and other physical symptoms, as well as psychological symptoms such as sleep disturbances, depression and anxiety. Other common symptoms include cognitive difficulties, headaches and digestive issues.
Secondary Fibromyalgia is characterized by an underlying medical condition that causes Fibromyalgia-like symptoms, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or hypothyroidism. Secondary Fibromyalgia may also be associated with traumatic events, such as a physical injury or emotional trauma.
Additionally, some patients may be diagnosed with Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS). FMS is a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain and other severe symptoms, including fatigue, cognitive difficulties, insomnia and depression.
Finally, a subtype known as Myofascial Pain Syndrome (MPS) is characterized by localized pain in the muscles and surrounding fascia that is caused by physical trauma, repetitive strain, and stress. MPS can cause similar symptoms to Fibromyalgia, such as fatigue, muscle pain, and cognitive difficulties.
The treatment options for Fibromyalgia vary depending on the individual and the severity of their symptoms. Generally, treatments involve medication, physical and occupational therapy, exercise and lifestyle changes, complementary and alternative therapies, and psychological therapy. Medication can help with pain, fatigue and sleep problems associated with Fibromyalgia. Physical and occupational therapy can help to strengthen muscles, improve posture and range of motion, and reduce pain. Exercise and lifestyle changes such as stress management, relaxation techniques, and getting enough sleep can also help reduce symptoms. Complementary and alternative therapies such as acupuncture, massage, and chiropractic can also be beneficial. Psychological therapy such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, biofeedback and support groups can also help reduce symptoms. Additionally, there are several herbs, supplements and medications available to help alleviate Fibromyalgia symptoms. It is important for those with Fibromyalgia to work with their healthcare provider to find the treatment approach that best suits their needs.
The exact causes of Fibromyalgia are unknown, so the best thing to do is to try to reduce any potential risks factors. This can include reducing or eliminating stress, getting adequate sleep, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet. Other things that can help reduce the risk of Fibromyalgia include avoiding substances like alcohol and caffeine, as well as avoiding any activities that may cause trauma to the body. Taking nutritional supplements, such as magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids, may also help reduce the risk of developing Fibromyalgia. Additionally, regularly engaging in relaxation techniques such as mindfulness, deep breathing, and yoga can help reduce the risk of developing Fibromyalgia.
Yes, there are gender-specific differences in the presentation and management of Fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is found to be more common in women than men and tends to affect women more severely. Women tend to report more fatigue, headaches, painful menstrual periods and GI problems. The symptoms can also vary throughout the month in women due to the fluctuation in hormones. Women are also more likely to be diagnosed with a combination of conditions, such as anxiety and depression, while men are far less likely to receive a dual diagnosis. Additionally, women may respond differently to treatment options, such as finding that a combination of medications and non-pharmacologic options may be more effective than either alone. Finally, women are more likely to report more severe levels of pain compared to men, making it important for healthcare providers to take gender differences into account when treating Fibromyalgia.
Nutrition plays an important role in the management of Fibromyalgia. Eating a balanced diet that includes anti-inflammatory foods such as omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates can help reduce inflammation and pain caused by Fibromyalgia. In addition, avoiding foods with high sugar, trans fat, and artificial preservatives and dyes can also help reduce Fibromyalgia symptoms. Additionally, supplementing with vitamins and minerals can help support energy production, reduce fatigue, and promote a healthy balance of hormones. Finally, drinking plenty of water is important to help reduce joint pain and keep the body hydrated.
Physical activity can have a positive effect on Fibromyalgia. Specifically, exercise can help improve muscle tone, reduce stiffness and joint pain, encourage better sleep and relaxation, decrease depression and anxiety, reduce fatigue, and increase energy levels. Keeping active can also help reduce inflammation of the joints and muscles, increase blood flow to affected areas, and promote a more positive outlook on life. It should be noted that not overdoing physical activity is key to avoiding a flare-up. Starting off slow and gradually increasing intensity is the best approach to finding a balance that works to help reduce Fibromyalgia symptoms.