First of all, what is it?
According to the National Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Association (NFCPA), fibromyalgia is “a common and complex chronic pain disorder that causes widespread pain and tenderness to touch that may occur body wide or migrate over the body. Along with other symptoms, pain and tenderness wax and wane over time. Fibromyalgia (FM) affects people physically, mentally and socially (1).”
Although FM can affect anyone at any age, it is significantly more common in adult women. According to the NFCPA, two to four percent of Americans suffer from FM — approximately 10 million people — with an 8:2 ratio of women to men.
There are many challenges for a person with FM or any sort of chronic condition. Healthcare providers must rely heavily on how a person feels and their general state of well-being. Feelings of fatigue, tenderness, and low or poor functionality are common and may exist in combination, but FM symptoms can vary widely and are easily confused with other conditions, such as lupus, thyroid hormone resistance, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. A healthcare provide should use lab tests to rule out these other conditions, but FM may co-exist with those conditions as well. “Cultural attitudes and stigmatization of people with chronic pain issues often cause people with fibromyalgia to become withdrawn from family and friends. Isolation and feeling alone to manage fibromyalgia can contribute to depression (1).”
Is FM curable?
FM is not considered to be a curable condition; however, it is manageable. According to NFCPA, “Multi-disciplinary approaches for management and relief of symptoms are often recommended. Medications, cognitive behavioral therapies, and gentle exercise are the most common combinations. In partnership with a healthcare provider, development of self-management strategies and long-term health goals may reduce the chronic symptoms and the frequency, duration, and intensity of periodic flares (rapid increase of symptoms) (1).”
What are some symptoms of FM?
As mentioned above, FM symptoms can be extremely different. The most common symptoms are fatigue, sleep disturbances (sleep apnea and/or waking up unrefreshed), cognitive difficulties (memory problems or thinking clearly), and stiffness. Other common symptions are depression and/or anxiety, migraines, tension headaches, pelvic pain, irritable or overactive bladder, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), TMJD (including tinnitus), and gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD). Stress is a major contributor to FM that can worsen the symptoms and associated problems of the condition.
Click here to read the results of a 2013 survey by The Oregon Health and Sciences University and the National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association. The survey measures FM symptoms and the impact of FM on the activities of daily life.
- “What is Fibromyalgia?”, (n.d.) Retrieved April 6. 2017 from http://www.fmcpaware.org/fibromyalgia/about-fm.html