Fibromyalgia is a musculoskeletal condition that affects the muscles and joints. In addition to fatigue and joint pain, it can also lead to issues such as social isolation, anxiety, and depression. This disease can affect people of any gender or age, but it is most common in women over 30 years old.
Approximately 4 percent of the U.S. suffers from fibromyalgia, and there is no definitive cause for this medical condition. Flare-ups from the disorder can range in severity from mild to debilitating so it’s best to know and recognize the symptoms of a flare-up. That way you can take steps to manage severity and chances of it occurring.
What is Wrong with Me?
If you’ve been experiencing pain throughout your body, you are probably wondering what this discomfort stems from. Patients who have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia may experience swelling, tender areas on the body and mood disruptions. Whether you work, have a family to tend to or are retired, this type of disease can make it difficult for you to manage everyday activities. In fact, simple feats such as walking and household chores may prove impossible.
There are a number of theories behind the causes of fibromyalgia, including an emotional or physical injury that affects the central nervous system. The biochemical changes caused by the trauma could be the main culprit behind your chronic pain. Hormonal changes, viruses, and the flu could also potentially be a trigger for fibromyalgia. Additionally, scientists suspect that sleep disturbances, a change in muscle metabolism and a lack of exercise could all lead to the development of this medical condition.
Fibromyalgia presents symptoms that are similar to osteoarthritis, including achiness, sleep restlessness and tenderness in the neck, shoulders, hips, and back. Mild flare-ups can occur often for those who are afflicted with the disease.
Symptoms can also become crippling over time, and this could cause you to experience severe bouts of depression and mood disturbances. Overwhelming pain can also consume individuals who are diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and this will make it difficult for them to master even the easiest chores. In addition to burning, twitching and sore muscles, your body might experience abdominal pain, dryness in the eyes, mouth and nose, incontinence, sensitivity to cold and heat and irritable bowel syndrome.
1. Understanding Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disease best characterized by pain, tenderness, swelling and fatigue. It can also contribute to depression, anxiety and mind fog. While often considered a disorder that resembles arthritis, fibromyalgia won’t damage the joints, muscles and other bodily tissues. The widespread pain and discomfort can make it challenging for an individual to perform simple duties and activities. It can also lead to social isolation.
2. Who Gets It?
This often misunderstood and misdiagnosed disease resembles the symptoms of osteoarthritis. There are approximately 12 million individuals in the U.S. who have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia.
Is it Gender-Specific?
Although men can be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, it’s 10 times more likely to affect women than men, especially when a woman is between the ages of 25 and 60. According to the Mayo Clinic, approximately 3.5% of women and 0.5% of men in the United States have this disorder.
No One is Immune
Fibromyalgia sufferers come from all walks of life, ranging from the average Joe to celebrities. Several notable individuals have grappled with this disease, including soap opera great Susan Flannery, Grammy-winning songstress Sinead O’Conner, health pioneer Florence Nightingale and Michael James Hastings, who is best known as Captain Mike from the television hit series “The West Wing.”
Whether it was triggered by an infection or trauma of some sort, people have an amazing capacity to find ways to deal with pain and the struggles that are associated with it. Some celebrities such as Michael James Hastings have even spoken publicly about their fibromyalgia difficulties and how to overcome them.
There are a number of risk factors when it comes to fibromyalgia. Gender is a predominantly known risk factor because more women than men are diagnosed. Family history can also make you more prone to it, so it is important to get regular check-ups if you have a relative who has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Rheumatoid arthritis and lupus are other contributing risk factors that can lead to the development of fibromyalgia.
Even if you eat right and get an adequate amount of sleep, you could still experience crippling fatigue as a result of fibromyalgia. In addition to tiredness, fibromyalgia symptoms can also include spots on the body that are painful to the touch, sleeplessness, moodiness, headaches and brain fog. You could also experience tingling, numbness and stabbing pains throughout your body.
In order to accurately diagnose fibromyalgia, your physician will need to take into account your entire medical history. They’ll also perform a physical examination and blood test to better diagnose the issues at hand. The FM blood test can help identify certain markers that are manufactured in people with fibromyalgia. Symptoms are another important factor when it comes to making the right diagnosis. A series of blood tests will be run to help rule out other possible diseases that present similar symptoms.
Although there isn’t currently a cure for fibromyalgia, there are some conventional prescription treatments that can help you better manage the pain.
Drugs such as analgesics, opioids, anticonvulsants, sleep aids, antidepressants, and benzodiazepines can help relieve sore muscles, improve mood swings and promote better sleep. However, these medications can come with some serious side effects that include dizziness, headaches, vomiting, impaired coordination, and confusion. You could also end up coping with sleepwalking and weight gain while using some conventional treatments.
If your conventional medical treatment isn’t providing you with the type of results that you need to better manage your fibromyalgia, you can find some worthy natural alternative methods.
Yoga and Meditation
Several studies have found that yoga can be instrumental when it comes to dealing with the pain that is caused by the disease. Research from the Oregon Health and Science University indicates that attending a yoga class twice a week for 75 minutes could significantly reduce your pain.
Meditation can also change the way your brain receives the pain signals. In addition to providing pain relief through this meditative outlet, the practice of yoga can calm your mind and help your body with healing and relaxation. You might receive positive benefits from acupuncture, including reduced stiffness, pain, fatigue and anxiety.
Proper nourishment is important for staying healthy and for the prevention of chronic diseases. It is best to eat a well-balanced diet so that you can absorb the correct amount of vitamins and minerals, but in reality, many people find they are unable to achieve this perfect mixture of food. Whether it’s because they have food allergies or a busy lifestyle, people often end up supplementing the nutrients they are missing with vitamins and herbal concoctions.
These supplements come in many forms, including fortified shakes and smoothies, multi-vitamins and an emerging class of herbs known as nootropics. Because fibromyalgia is thought to be caused by an abnormality in the central nervous systems, there are many people who now believe that natural nootropics such as Bacopa monnieri and Acetyl L-Carnitine act as strong antioxidants that protect the brain from harm.
Nootropics can also assist the brain with healing, and this helps stave off disorders that attack the brain and other parts of the nervous system. Please note that dietary supplements can have side effects and negative interactions with other drugs, so be sure to talk to your physician before you begin using them.
What Doesn’t Work
Therapies that promise to quickly and completely take away the pain, discomfort and moodiness of fibromyalgia can often bring false hope and empty promises; some far-fetched remedies may even be dangerous. It’s best to work closely with your healthcare practitioner regarding changes to your diet, exercises and any therapies that you want to try.
6. Experimental Treatments
Fibromyalgia is classified as a chronic pain with no known cause or manner of causation. Due to this, research centers such as the Mayo Clinic are performing clinical studies aimed at understanding the disorder better and improving the quality of life for patients. One recent fibromyalgia study conducted in Rochester, Minnesota, by the Mayo Clinic concluded in December 2014, and researchers there tested the delivery of Magnesium Chloride on 40 female volunteers who currently have fibromyalgia.
A lot is unknown about fibromyalgia, but the researchers at the Mayo Clinic worked with what they did know: There is evidence that the extensive pain associated with the disease is caused by an abnormality in each afflicted individual’s central nervous system. Patients who have fibromyalgia have very low thermal and mechanical pain thresholds as a result, so it doesn’t require much normal stimulus for them to feel pain.
Recent reports also suggest a link between the onset of fibromyalgia and a deficiency in trace elements and antioxidants. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic developed a related theory in response to this and postulated that a magnesium deficiency might be at the heart of the development of the abnormal conditions that cause fibromyalgia. Their reasoning was based on the fact that the tender points found on the body of fibromyalgia patients are similar to those found on the body of a person who suffers from a magnesium deficiency.
A topical solution of magnesium chloride was administered transdermally during the study to each volunteer’s extremities three times a day for 28 days in a row. Although the clinical trial has been concluded, the process of information collection is ongoing and seeks to answer questions about each volunteer’s quality of life before treatment and after the administration of the magnesium chloride.
7. Managing Fibromyalgia
Learning to live with fibromyalgia can be a challenge. However, working with your physician regarding your treatment will help. Also, through the use of natural remedies, diet, and exercise, you can find a beneficial mixture that will help you get through your everyday activities.
Coping with Flare-ups
If you’re one of the many individuals diagnosed with fibromyalgia, you probably already know that getting through a day filled with brain fog, fatigue, and crippling pain is a feat on its own, especially when you have to work and tend to your personal life. In fact, one of the reasons the disease is so challenging to diagnose is because of the way that it attacks every part of an individual’s body. However, there are a number of ways to minimize the many flare-ups that are caused by this condition.
Although conventional methods can help lessen some symptoms, it can also make others worse. Therefore, diet is an extremely important way to relieve symptoms. In addition to losing weight, a diet that is high in fiber and rich in fruits and vegetables can help repair the muscle damage and fatigue that is caused by the disease. Since fibromyalgia is believed to stem from vitamin deficiencies, supplements such as CoQ10, B-vitamin complex, vitamin D, and omega-3 could prove beneficial.
Mental wellness and stress can be contributing factors to fibromyalgia. Fortunately, you can minimize flare-ups by monitoring your own stress levels. Finding activities that calm and promote relaxation can also bring your body comfort. If you’re currently unable to determine those main culprits that are causing you to experience pain, you may want to start a journal to help you with pain management. This intimate look at your life will enable you to better determine what you have eaten on your worst days. Additionally, you should take into account a few other factors, including the weather, current medications and any unusual worries or stress that you experience each day.
Coping with Fibromyalgia
It can be difficult to deal daily with the emotional and physical pain that is associated with fibromyalgia. When you combine this with the problems that can be caused by having a so-called invisible illness, it often becomes necessary to seek out the support of others. As previously mentioned, keeping your stress levels in check can help minimize fibromyalgia symptoms, so it is vital to utilize healthy coping techniques.
Getting needed support can be a saving grace when it comes to dealing with fibromyalgia. Whether you check with your local library, physician’s office, hospital, newspaper or Internet, you’ll be able to find encouragement and some friendly advice that could be beneficial for treating your condition. This is also a great outlet for people to come together to share their fears, experiences, pain and mental anguish. Spouses and family members can also attend meetings or seek out assistance online. This will help them better understand how their family member feels and what they can do to assist them.
Although you may be the only family member experiencing the pain and discomfort of fibromyalgia, the other people in your support system will still be affected by it. Your family can become instrumental when you keep the lines of communication open. This includes everything from discussing the symptoms to finding treatments. Therapies, eating a healthy diet, exercise and keeping a positive attitude can all be activities that a family participates in together.
Whether you attend an online message board or meeting in person, the groups can offer assistance on how to treat the pain. They can also provide information on the latest advances, treatments, and therapies.
Social media sites such as Facebook can offer interesting tidbits and information to better help individuals who are diagnosed with this disease. Simply visit our Facebook page to begin your journey to a better, more supported life.
Most individuals will be able to continue working either full or part-time with fibromyalgia, but the chronic fatigue and pain can prove very challenging. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to keep working, you can visit online fibromyalgia resources to learn how to better manage your symptoms. However, if you find yourself unable to work, you may want to consider filing for disability. Your physician can help you gather the necessary medical records to showcase the fact that fibromyalgia or any other chronic condition has rendered you eligible for disability benefits.
However, it will also be important to work with an attorney who specializes in disability cases because the government only approves about 40 to 45 percent of these claims. In most cases, you will need to be prepared to go through an extensive legal battle due to the Social Security Disability Insurance claims and appeals process.
8. Learning to Live with Fibromyalgia
It can be hard to balance the time constraints that work, family and personal obligations bring to each of our lives. When you add pain, fatigue, moodiness and sleeplessness, you could easily find yourself overwhelmed. In order to better live with this disease, you will need to begin putting your own needs ahead of others. This is vital, especially when you’re trying to deal with stress and anxiety. You also need to find ways to delegate things that you can’t handle. Always take a break when you’re feeling your worst and don’t be afraid to ask for assistance when you’re overwhelmed. If you have important obligations, you can plan them during the day when you’re feeling your best.
Pharmaceutical products can help a person manage their pain, but this might cause you to suffer from some side effects. More than 40 percent of patients diagnosed with this disease will experience more severe symptoms after they consume specific foods. If you’re looking for alternative methods to ease the pain that often accompanies fibromyalgia, you may want to tweak your diet.
Most adults are lacking when it comes to vitamin D. However, if you have fibromyalgia, getting enough of this important vitamin can be crucial to managing your pain. Limiting additives, processed foods and saying yes to omega-3 fatty acids can also offer some much-needed relief. Nixing your caffeine intake and incorporating more fruits and vegetables is another way to help improve your painful symptoms.
Staying well-nourished and healthy is the key to the prevention and management of fibromyalgia and other chronic diseases. Because there is growing evidence that a magnesium deficiency is at the root of fibromyalgia development, it’s best to always get them in the daily recommended allowances of magnesium for your gender: Men 400 mg and Women 310 mg. Taking this approach will help you manage your fibromyalgia and have a healthier lifestyle in general. The following foods are rich in magnesium: green leafy vegetables such as spinach and chard, pumpkin seeds, almonds, fortified yogurt, avocado, artichokes, salmon dark chocolate, and figs.
Don’t Skip Exercise
Exercise may be one of the last things that you want to focus on when you have fibromyalgia. However, lack of exercise is one of the main contributing factors that are thought to be at the heart of the development of fibromyalgia. Simple movements such as walking, yoga, Pilates, swimming and tai chi can improve your muscle strength, and they will also help you lose weight and keep you in shape. Your doctor can work with you to manage the tenderness and pain associated with fibromyalgia so that you can participate in a regular exercise regimen.
9. The Future of Fibromyalgia
The FDA has approved some medications for treating the pain and other symptoms of fibromyalgia, including Lyrica (pregabalin), Cymbalta (duloxetine hydrochloride) and Savella (milnacipran HCI). There currently is no proven cure for the condition, but there are biotech companies, medical research centers, and other organizations racing to find a viable cure. When a method for effectively eliminating fibromyalgia is eventually developed, the FDA will need to approve the drug and related treatments before it can be used in humans. Although a cure for fibromyalgia may be several years away, the outlook does look promising.
The medical field has known about fibromyalgia since the early 1800s, and it has had its current name since 1976. There are approximately 12 million U.S. citizens who have this medical condition, and ongoing research is dedicated to finding new and improved treatment methods. Women are by far the most susceptible to contracting fibromyalgia, and there are still many questions about what exactly causes this disease to develop. However, we do know that stress, diet, heredity and other diseases such as lupus can be contributing factors.
The best method for dealing with fibromyalgia is to work closely with your physician and obtain some emotional support from your family, friends and other people who have this disease. You should also be very careful with your diet and make sure to exercise regularly. Although there are no medications that can completely remove the symptoms of fibromyalgia, you can have a much better life if you are proactive about continuously maintaining the best possible mental and physical health.