Often misdiagnosed and misunderstood, fibromyalgia is a very common condition. People with this condition experience widespread muscle and joint pain as well as intense fatigue. While there isn’t a cure, there are treatment options, lifestyle changes and coping techniques that can help you manage pain. Anyone can develop fibromyalgia, and while causes many common symptoms, it may affect people differently. The first step is to understand the facts.
What Is Fibromyalgia, Exactly?
Fibromyalgia causes muscle and joint pain over the entire body. It also causes fatigue. These symptoms can make it very difficult to stay active. Doctors aren’t sure what causes this condition. However, some think that it might be caused by a problem with how the brain and spinal cord process pain signals from nerves.
Fibromyalgia doesn’t fall under the category of rheumatic diseases, or diseases that cause inflammation or damage to your joints, tissue or muscles. However, because its symptoms are so close to that of arthritis, you might be referred to see a rheumatologist to help you develop an effective treatment plan.
What Are the Symptoms?
Everyone is different and may experience a variety of symptoms. However, fibromyalgia has several common symptoms including:
- Widespread muscle and joint pain
- Sleep problems
- Low pain threshold
- Memory and mood issues
- Trouble concentrating or remembering (Fibro Fog)
While not as common, there are other possible symptoms of fibromyalgia, which may include:
- Belly pain, bloating or indigestion
- Tingling or numbness sensations in your hands and feet
- Sensitivity to cold, heat, light or sound
Fibromyalgia often has symptoms similar to other conditions. If you have any of these symptoms, it’s best to see your doctor to discuss them.
How Is Fibromyalgia Diagnosed?
When you visit your doctor, a detailed medical history will likely be taken. There’s no test that can tell if you have this condition. Instead, your doctor will likely perform a variety of tests to rule out other conditions. These tests may include x-rays, bloodwork, lab tests and more.
After completing these tests, if your doctor cannot find another reason for your symptoms, your doctor may give you a two-part scoring system to measure how widespread the pain is, and how your life is affected. This will help your doctor better understand what you’re going through and therefore more accurately provide a diagnosis.
What are Treatments for Fibromyalgia?
Once your doctor diagnoses you with fibromyalgia, you and your doctor will work together to develop a treatment plan. Your plan might include medications, lifestyle changes and natural pain management techniques.
There are a few medications specifically designed to help people with fibromyalgia, such as duloxetine, milnaciprin and pregabalin. Your doctor will likely want to have regular follow-up visits with you to make sure the medications are working properly, and to check on how you’re feeling.
Certain lifestyle changes may help, too. These changes may include eating a balanced, healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, getting regular exercise and resting more often. Balancing your activity level with your rest is important. It’s ok to take time to rest when you need to.
Some natural pain management techniques may also be part of your treatment plan. These may include yoga, Tai Chi, talking with a counselor and gentle massage. Look for activities that help you cope with having fibromyalgia, give you comfort and make you happy. All of the ideas listed here are great ways to promote relaxation. Always talk with your doctor before changing your treatment plan.
Living with fibromyalgia isn’t easy, but learning about your condition and what steps you can take may help you live a more active lifestyle.