Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues.
Fibromyalgia tends to run in families, there may be certain genetic mutations that may make you more susceptible to developing the disorder. Some illnesses appear to trigger or aggravate fibromyalgia.
It is believed that repeated nerve stimulation causes the brains of people with fibromyalgia to change. This change involves an abnormal increase in levels of certain chemicals in the brain that signal pain. In addition, the brain's pain receptors seem to develop a sort of memory of the pain and become more sensitive, meaning they can overreact to pain signals.
- Widespread pain: The pain associated with fibromyalgia often is described as a constant dull ache that has lasted for at least three months. To be considered widespread, the pain must occur on both sides of your body and above and below your waist.
- Fatigue: People with fibromyalgia often awaken tired, even though they report sleeping for long periods of time.
- Cognitive difficulties: A symptom commonly referred to as fibro fog impairs the ability to focus, pay attention and concentrate on mental tasks.
- Other problems: Many people who have fibromyalgia also may experience depression, headaches, and pain or cramping in the lower abdomen.
In general, treatments for fibromyalgia include both medication and self-care. The emphasis is on minimizing symptoms and improving general health. No one treatment works for all symptoms.
- Medications can help reduce the pain of fibromyalgia and improve sleep. Common choices include:
- Pain relievers, antidepressants and anti-seizure drugs
- Reduce stress. Develop a plan to avoid or limit overexertion and emotional stress. Allow yourself time each day to relax. That may mean learning how to say no without guilt. Try stress management techniques, such as deep-breathing exercises or meditation.
- Get enough sleep. Because fatigue is one of the main characteristics of fibromyalgia, getting sufficient sleep is essential.
- Exercise regularly. At first, exercise may increase your pain. But doing it gradually and regularly often decreases symptoms. Appropriate exercises may include walking, swimming, biking and water aerobics.
- Pace yourself. Keep your activity on an even level. If you do too much on your good days, you may have more bad days.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Eat healthy foods. Limit your caffeine intake. Do something that you find enjoyable and fulfilling every day.
Besides dealing with the pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia, you also may have to deal with the frustration of having a condition that's often misunderstood. In addition to educating yourself about fibromyalgia, you may find it helpful to provide your family, friends and co-workers with information. It is better to share your condition with someone else than to carry the burden alone.