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Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes frequent body pains. It affects around 8%–15% of all adults in the United States and is worse in women than men. (1)
Fibromyalgia can make people more sensitive to pain and tenderness in the muscles, along with poor sleep, fatigue, and depression. (2)
Read on to take a deeper look at this disease.
Signs and Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia can have multiple causes such as a recent trauma to the body (e.g., a severe injury), an infection (e.g., Epstein-Barr viral infection and Lyme disease), a major operation, and significant emotional trauma. (3)
The most common symptoms of fibromyalgia are as follows.
1. Widespread pain
The most common symptom of fibromyalgia is chronic, widespread pain all over the body. The pain has been described as a burning sensation or a dull ache by patients. It can be concentrated in areas such as the neck and head and can be felt in the muscles and joints. (4)
2. Extreme sensitivity
Fibromyalgia can cause increased sensitivity in some people. This causes some areas of the body to become “tender to touch” or touch sensitive.
Some patients may also experience sensitivity to light, some food ingredients, etc. (5)
Fibromyalgia has been associated with muscle stiffness and spasms. It can cause frequent cramping of muscles along with tenderness. (6)
4. Fatigue and sleep problems
Since fibromyalgia causes chronic pain, many people who suffer from this condition have constant fatigue and insomnia.
Body pain may interfere with your sleep patterns. Lack of proper sleep can make you feel tired and can interfere with everyday activities, causing a constant cycle of fatigue. (7)
5. Cognitive problems (“fibro-fog”)
Fibromyalgia may cause cognitive issues in some people. It affects their ability to learn, make decisions, think clearly, or remember things. (8)
6. Health effects
Some other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia are:
- Restless leg syndrome – Restless leg syndrome is a constant need to move your legs or feet and is commonly seen in people who suffer from a lack of sleep and anxiety. Since fibromyalgia is also associated with sleep problems, many people with fibromyalgia also have restless leg syndrome. (9)
- Depression – Chronic pain, fatigue, and insomnia may all contribute to the development of depression in some people with fibromyalgia.
- Somatization syndrome – This refers to a condition where extreme anxiety or pain may make a person unable to perform daily, routine tasks.
- Headaches or migraines – Pain in the jaw, head, or neck is a common symptom of fibromyalgia. It also causes frequent migraines in some people.
- Pelvic pain
- Endometriosis – Endometriosis is a condition that causes an overgrowth of the tissue that lines the uterus in women. This can cause moderate to severe pain. (10)
- Overactive bladder – This refers to the inability to hold in your urine or having frequent urges to urinate.
- Stomach and bowel problems – Fibromyalgia has been linked with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which is a condition that causes stomach pain, cramps, gases, constipation, or diarrhea. (11)
Treatment for Fibromyalgia
Your doctor may prescribe some medications to treat fibromyalgia. In addition, lifestyle and dietary modifications may be advised for better recovery.
- Pregabalin is a common medicine prescribed for fibromyalgia. It helps reduce pain and fatigue and induces better sleep. (12)
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are common painkillers that may reduce pain and tenderness.
- Gabapentin (an anti-seizure drug) (13)(14)
- Cyclobenzaprine (muscle relaxant) (15)
2. Lifestyle changes
Here are some lifestyle changes that may help you better navigate the condition:
- Physical activity – Exercising every day can be a great step toward boosting your energy levels and decreasing fatigue. Start with low-intensity exercises such as 20-minute walks and gradually increase the intensity with the advice of your physician.
- Reducing stress and anxiety – Learn to meditate for relaxation.
- Consuming a healthy diet
- Sleeping and waking up at fixed times each day
- Recording your symptoms to track what causes your flare-ups
- Talk therapy – This may benefit people suffering from anxiety or depression due to the condition. (16)
- Complementary therapies – These include Tai chi, stretching exercises, and yoga, among others.
Risk Factors for Fibromyalgia
Some risk factors for fibromyalgia are:
- Age – Middle-aged people are more prone to developing fibromyalgia.
- Lupus or rheumatoid arthritis – People suffering from autoimmune conditions such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis are at risk of fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia can be a tough diagnosis to bear. It is a lifelong condition for many people and needs to be managed with medicines and lifestyle changes. However, you are not alone in this journey. Many people are living – and flourishing! – with fibromyalgia.
You may feel the need for emotional support or mental health counseling. Do not hesitate to contact a therapist near you for a consultation. You could also try to connect with fibromyalgia support groups in your city.