Fibromyalgia Symptoms : What It Is and How to Manage It

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain illness characterized by widespread musculoskeletal aches, pain, and stiffness, soft tissue tenderness, general fatigue, and sleep disturbances. It’s estimated that fibromyalgia syndrome (fms) occurs between 70 percent and 90 percent more often in women than in men. Fibromyalgia has, however, received a good deal of press, and there has been an enormous amount of monetary gain funneled to clinicians who diagnose and treat this as a real disorder.

Causes

The cause of this disorder is unknown. Often it occurs following a cold, flu or viral infection. It can start during or after a period of high physical or emotional stress.

Other possible causes that have been proposed include:

* Immune system dysfunction
* Virus infection (i.e., Epstein-Barr or human herpesvirus 6)
* Hormonal changes in the hypothalamus, pituitary or adrenal glands
* Allergies
* Mild, chronic low blood pressure
* Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
* Iron deficiency anemia

Symptoms

Fibromyalgia is characterized by pain in specific areas of your body when pressure is applied, including the back of your head, upper back and neck, upper chest, elbows, hips and knees.

Additional symptoms can also include:

* Severe fatigue;
* Sleep disturbance;
* Neurocognitive problems including impaired concentration, reduced short-term memory, and difficulty multitasking;
* Problems regulating blood pressure,
* Irritable bowel symptoms;
* Body temperature instability;
* And loss of adaptability to stress with anxiety or reactive depression.

Treatment

The emphasis is often on muscle conditioning and programs to improve aerobic fitness (such as swimming, cycling, and walking and stationary cross-country ski machines) as well as physical therapy.

Since stress and tension can contribute to the symptoms, relaxation techniques such as muscle relaxation, yoga and meditation can be very helpful. Acupuncture may be beneficial.

In a few cases, fibromyalgia pain may be managed with analgesics such as over-the-counter acetaminophen (Tylenol) or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox). However, this is atypical. It is particularly important to use these drugs if individuals have a “peripheral” (e.g., arthritis) pain syndrome in addition to fibromyalgia.

Prescription sleeping pills, such as zolpidem (Ambien), may provide short-term benefits for some people with fibromyalgia, but doctors usually advise against long-term use of these drugs.