What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia syndrome FMS is a complex and chronic condition that causes a widespread oversensitivity to pain and unusual fatigue. It disturbs sleep and causes exhaustion from head to toe. Those with fibromyalgia often experience aches and pains all over their bodies. The pain may be in the tendons, ligaments or muscles. Also, they have tender spots located on various points on their body referred to as trigger points.
It’s estimated that this condition affects approximately 7 million Americans. 90% of fibromyalgia patients are woman. Symptoms may be present at any time during a person’s life; they are most commonly reported at middle-age. Some studies show it may be hereditary. Most people go undiagnosed, suffering from widespread body pain and fatigue that impacts the ability to carry out the simplest daily activities. Chronic fatigue syndrome CFS is most often considered to be the same illness.
The symptoms are unpredictable and frustrating however the common symptoms may include:
- Poor Sleep
- Memory and Concentration
- Sleep Disorder
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Chronic Headaches
Even though fibromyalgia is often referred to as an arthritis-related condition, it does not cause joint damage or inflammation, as arthritis does. Fibromyalgia does not cause damage to muscle or other tissues. However, it is similar to arthritis because it causes severe pain and tiredness, and can undermine ones ability to go about daily activities. Fibromyalgia is seen as a rheumatic condition. A rheumatic condition is one that causes joint and soft tissue pain.
What is the treatment for fibromyalgia?
Traditional treatment of fibromyalgia is geared toward improving the quality of sleep and reducing pain. A sleep study may aid in this process. Deep level sleep is crucial for many body functions and disturbed sleep may be a strong contributing factor to symptoms.
Several holistic treatments can be used to alleviate the symptoms of fibromyalgia; the goal of most holistic treatments is to help the body to heal itself. One thing that I think is very important is to work with a healthcare practitioner that specializes in CFS and FMS.
Treatments may include:
Nutritional and dietary approaches are often simple and can produce measurable benefits. Of course good overall nutrition is important for everyone, but there are several vitamins and mineral supplements that can improve energy levels and aid in sleep.
Massage therapy improves circulation and helps with the flow of nutrients through the body. It relaxes the muscles and improves range of motion, reduces stiffness and may help with sleep problems.
Acupuncture has been found in some studies to help alleviate pain associated with FMS and also reduce depression and fatigue.
Biofeedback is a relaxation technique that utilizes electronic equipment to analyze the body’s various responses to stress. It too can help reduce sleeping problems and improve daily functioning.
Exercise (you knew I was going speak to this), aerobic exercise combined with resistance training (strength-training) have been linked to a significant improvement in pain and sleep disturbance. Women with fibromyalgia may experience significantly improved daily function and symptom relief after taking part in a program that includes walking, strength training and stretching, according to an article published in Archives of Internal Medicine (JAMA/Archives), November 12th issue.
Unfortunately, a large percentage of patients do not keep up the exercises. Studies have shown that working out with a partner or personal trainer helps to keep the program active.
Remember, the key is to start slowly, watch your symptoms carefully, and find the level of exertion that's right for you right now. Keep the following in mind:
- Push yourself to get moving, but don't push yourself to do more until you know you're ready.
- Expect some setbacks -- you'll need to experiment to find your current level of tolerance.
- Take breaks when you need them, but don't give up!
Fibromyalgia remains a challenging condition, however many strides have been made in the last decade. Clinical studies have demonstrated that patients can reduce their symptoms.
The key is to be proactive, stay positive and motivated. Quality of life can significantly improve by developing a self-management plan and making necessary lifestyle changes.