Is a widespread musculoskeletal pain and fatigue disorder for which the cause is still unknown. Fibromyalgia means pain in the fibrous tissues in the body. (Fibro = fibrous tissues, Myalgia = muscle pain – the name arises from the fact that connective tissues, the tissues that hold everything together, include muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Fibromyalgia does not involve the joints.
Most patients with fibromyalgia say that they ache all over. Their muscles may feel like they have been pulled or overworked. Sometimes the muscles twitch and at other times they burn. More women than men are afflicted with fibromyalgia, but it shows up in people of all ages.
The pain and fatigue experienced by fibromyalgia syndrome patients is a chronic problem (that is, “long lasting,”) the discomfort from which tends to vary over time. There is currently no generally accepted cure for this condition. According to recent research, most patients will probably have varying symptoms lifelong, However, some ease is possible with appropriate treatment. Long-term follow up of fibromyalgia patients has shown that it is very unusual for them to develop another rheumatic disease or neurological condition.
Fibromyalgia is very difficult to diagnose, as there are no tests which show the condition. If suspected, the best course is to seek a referral to a Rheumatology Consultant, who will be familiar with the syndrome and usually make a diagnosis from a discussion of the length and nature of symptoms, and a physical examination of 18 specific points of tenderness. For a positive diagnosis, physicians look for 11 of these points to be positive, spread throughout the body.
Pain – this is often widespread and poorly localised – in other words, patients often find it hard to say exactly where the pain is, and often report that they “hurt all over.”
Tiredness – this varies from patient to patient, ranging from feeling everything is more effort than usual to exhaustion.
Sleep disorder – most fibromyalia patients suffer from disturbed sleep, often waking during the night.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome – 40% to 70% of fibromyalgia patients suffer from constipation, diarrhoea, frequent abdominal pain, abdominal gas and nausea.
Chronic headaches – around 50% of patients suffer from headaches, and migraine-like symptoms
Jaw Dysfunction – This syndrome, sometimes referred to as TMJD, causes tremendous face and head pain in one quarter of FMS patients.
Fibromyalgia has no known cause, although research continues into the possible factors which may bring it about, however it is often aggravated by changes in weather, cold or draughty environments, hormonal fluctuations (premenstrual and menopausal states), stress, depression, anxiety and over-exertion.
Medical treatments are often geared toward improving the quality of sleep, as well as reducing pain. Medicines that boost your body’s level of serotonin and noradrenalin–neurotransmitters that govern sleep, pain and immune system function–are often prescribed, often something like amitriptylline. A low dose may be of help, improving the quality of sleep and reducing pain perception.
Other treatments vary, as each patient will find interventions that help them personally – these may not be the same for everyone, but include acupuncture, acupressure, nutrition, relaxation techniques, osteopathic manipulation, massagers for deep tissue massages, or a gentle exercise program.
Although FM patients find exercise difficult because of initial pain and tiredness, research shows that if a regular, gentle programme can be set up and maintained, this results in overall improvement in many patients over time.