Fibromyalgia Syndrome – Definition, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Fibromyalgia (FM) is a chronic pain illness. It is characterized by long-term, body-wide pain and tender points in joints, muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues. It is also called is Central Nervous System-myalgia. In FMS, there is a generalized disturbance of the way pain is processed by the body. Fibromyalgia can develop on its own or along with other musculoskeletal conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. The most common sites of pain include the neck, back, shoulders, pelvic girdle, and hands, but any body part can be affected. Fibromyalgia patients experience a range of symptoms of varying intensities that wax and wane over time. Most patients with fibromyalgia say that they ache all over. Their muscles may feel like they were pulled or overworked. Sometimes fibromyalgia symptoms include muscle twitches and burning sensations. More women than men are afflicted with fibromyalgia, and it shows up in people of all ages. A conservative estimate of its prevalence is 2% of the general population, but it may be as high as 3-5%. It is estimated that approximately 5-7% of the U.S. population has FM. Although a higher percentage of women of all ages and races are affected, it does strike men and children. Because of its debilitating nature, fibromyalgia has a serious impact on patients’ families, friends and employers, as well as society at large.

Physical or emotional trauma may play a role in development of the syndrome. Fibromyalgia sufferers tend to wake up with body aches and stiffness. Many fibromyalgia patients have an associated sleep disorder that prevents them from getting deep, restful, restorative sleep. Musculoskeletal pain and fatigue experienced by FMS patients is a chronic problem which tends to have a waxing and waning intensity. Constipation, diarrhea, frequent abdominal pain, abdominal gas, and nausea represent symptoms frequently found in roughly 40 to 70% of fibromyalgia patients. Muscle pain forces many FMS patients severely to limit their activities, including exercise routines. This inactivity results in their becoming physically unfit, which eventually makes their FMS worse. Many patients depict this situation by saying that they feel as though their arms and legs are tied to concrete blocks, and they have difficulty concentrating, e.g., brain fog.The overwhelming characteristic of fibromyalgia is long-standing, body-wide pain with defined tender points. Tender points are distinct from trigger points seen in other pain syndromes. Unlike tender points, trigger points can occur in isolation and represent a source of radiating pain, even in the absence of direct pressure.

Fibromyalgia patients have abnormal pain transmission responses. Fibromyalgia may be caused by a problem with the brain’s autonomic nervous system. This system helps to control a number of bodily processes, including digestion, reaction to stress, and metabolism. Some people with FMS also have mental illness. Some people with sniffles have mental illness too, but that doesn’t mean that sniffles are caused by mental illness. Problems with the hormones and neurotransmitters used by the autonomic nervous system can interrupt certain bodily processes, causing a number of fibromyalgia symptoms. Infectious illnesses, including certain viruses, may be at the root of fibromyalgia. Certain infections attack the central nervous system, inhibiting the production of neurotransmitters. Many fibromyalgia sufferers have close family members with the disorder. This may indicate that fibromyalgia has a genetic component. Fibromyalgia also tends to affect more women, which also supports the theory that fibromyalgia is a genetic illness.

There are several drugs that are being evaluated for their effectiveness in treating fibromyalgia. Ultram may help with the treatment of fibromyalgia pain. Muscle relaxants can decrease pain in people with fibromyalgia. Medicines in this family include Flexeril, Soma, Skelaxin, and Robaxin. Acupuncture may be an extremely useful addition to fibromyalgia. Aerobic exercise and strength-training activities have been associated with significant improvement in pain, tender point counts and disturbed sleep.Cardiovascular exercise is stated to be helpful in rehabilitation from Fibromyalgia. Traditional treatment of fibromyalgia is geared toward improving the quality of sleep and reducing pain, which means that a sleep study may aid with individualizing your therapy.Anti-Anxiety Medicines-Benzodiazepines such as Klonopin, Ativan, and Xanax, are commonly used medicines. These medicines also cause sedation and thus can improve sleep. Behavior modification training, including coping skills, relaxation exercises and self-hypnosis may provide relief for some patients.