Fibromyalgia is also know as “chronic fatigue syndrome”. CFS is also called “Epstein-Barr Syndrome”. Although fibromyalgia and Epstein-Barr have since been diagnosed and recognized as two different illnesses, the CFS name is still attached to both. We will cover fibromyalgia in this article and leave Epstein-Barr for another.
Signs and symptoms of fibromyalgia can include wide-spread body aches, sensitivity and pain when touched (even gently), fatigue, sleep disruptions, irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, facial pain, tenderness in the back and shoulders, numbness or tingling in the hands and feet, painful menstruation, irritable bladder and dry eyes, skin, and mouth.
There has not, at the time of this article, been a specific cause cited for fibromyalgia. However, many doctors believe that the following are contributing factors:
- Chemical changes in the brain
- Sleep disturbances
- Injury or trauma, especially to the upper spine
– Changes in muscular metabolism
- Abnormalities of the autonomic (sympathetic) nervous system.
Risk of developing fibromyalgia seems to be higher in women and the age groups most affected tend to be those in their early and middle adulthood. It has, however, been diagnosed in children, men, and teens.
No conclusive evidence has been found as to whether sleep disorders are a cause, or a result, of fibromyalgia. But those who suffer from restless leg syndrome, night time muscle spasms in one’s legs, or sleep apnea frequently develop fibromyalgia. Family history may also be a contributing factor. If one has a relative with this condition, one may be a higher risk for having it.
Further, if one has a rheumatic disease such as ankylosing spondilitis, rheumatic arthritis, or lupus, the likelihood of fibromyalgia increases.
Currently, there are no specific tests for diagnosing the disease. One may be tested for numerous other illnesses and diseases, and have those ruled out, before a physician decides to check further using the guidelines set forth by the American College of Rheumatology. For further information on those guidelines. go to:
Once diagnosed, there are many ways that the disease can be treated, BUT, there is no cure for fibromyalgia yet. One’s physician may prescribe medications to treat the symptoms and could recommend that one seek out alternative, non-medical treatments for relief from the chronic pain associated with it. In the meantime, medical scientists continue to search for answers about this mysterious disease. With symptomatic treatment, along with some possible and achievable lifestyle adjustments, one can cope.
Fibromyalgia is not a progressive illness and there are no indications that it will lead to other diseases or conditions. One must be prepared, however, to experience the chronic pain, sleeplessness, depression, and anxiety which accompany it. This in turn can cause problems with one’s ability to work, and maintain healthy familial and friendly relationships. And frustration from coping with this frequently misunderstood illness can add more complications to the conditions.
Stress can be a major factor in the intensity of one’s pain, due the further tensing of already-stressed muscles, tendons, and ligaments. It is important to help in educating those around you so that they have a better concept about what you are experiencing. Their understanding and coping when one has a particularly bad day can help to reduce your stress and, perhaps, help to alleviate your pain. Taking time out to relax, calm, and soothe one’s body and mind can also be beneficial to keeping the pain to a minimum.
In conclusion, if you suffer any of the symptoms, discuss it with your health care provider or doctor. After ruling out any other possible reasons for your suffering, he or she can help you with controlling your symptoms with pain relievers (over-the-counter or prescription), stress reduction (by medication and/or alternative treatments), and lifestyle adjustments.
One can also join a support group. Check with your doctor to find one in your local area. Or go online at:
These sites can provide you with excellent information, updated reports on the latest research, where to find support groups in your area, and free information with many topics on the subject of fibromyalgia.
If you are diagnosed with FM, know that you are not alone. There’s an incredible network of support out there which is helping to educate others about the illness.
See your physician or health care provider then join in with others who are suffering, or know someone who suffers, from this sometimes overwhelming illness. Together, let’s teach more people to understand and cope.