Fibromyalgia is believed by researchers to be defective amplification of pain sensations by the body. It is characterized by musculoskeletal pain throughout the body, as well as fatigue, sleep problems, mood issues and memory problems.
People often first notice fibromyalgia after surgery, infection, significant psychological stress or physical trauma. For some people, the symptoms develop over time without such an event.
Signs and Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Women more frequently experience fibromyalgia than men. Tension headaches, TMJ disorders of the jaw, irritable bowel syndrome, depression and anxiety may also result.
There is no cure for the disease. But fibromyalgia may be helped through control of symptoms. Stress reduction, relaxation and exercise are the most effective means of helping fibromyalgia patients.
The following symptoms are often part of fibromyalgia:
- Widespread pain. Fibromyalgia pain is most frequently described as dull aching for more than three months. It occurs on both sides of the body and throughout a large region between head and toes.
- Fatigue. Long periods of sleep are often not enough to stop the feeling of awakening tired. Sleep is often interrupted through sleep disorders, restless legs, apnea and pain.
- Cognitive problems. “Fibro fog” is a cognitive difficulty which disrupts attention, focus and concentration.
- Other problems. Fibromyalgia can also be associated with depression, abdominal pain or cramping and headaches.
Causes of Fibromyalgia
There are a multitude of factors which may cause fibromyalgia, although research is still not clear. These suspected factors include:
- Genetics: Fibromyalgia has been shown to run in families. This points researchers to a possible genetic mutation.
- Infections: Fibromyalgia seems to be triggered by certain illnesses.
- Physical or emotional trauma: PTSD and other disorders are linked to fibromyalgia’s onset.
Risk factors for the disease include gender, with the disease affecting women more often than men. Family history and rheumatic disease are also risk factors. Rheumatoid arthritis and lupus are two rheumatic diseases linked to fibromyalgia.
Top 10 Treatments for Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia treatments include both lifestyle changes and medication. The primary goal of treatment is to make symptoms more bearable and improve your overall health. The symptoms of each patient with fibromyalgia are different and there is not one treatment which works for all symptoms.
There are four methods of treating fibromyalgia, which may be used alone or combined for individual benefit and comprise the top ten treatments for fibromyalgia. Those four methods include medications, therapy, lifestyle changes and alternative medicine.
Three Medication Treatments
Reduction of pain and sleep improvement are the two primary goals of prescribed medication for treatment of fibromyalgia. Commonly ordered or prescribed medications include:
- Pain relievers: Pain relievers which may be purchased over-the-counter are most often the first course of treatment for fibromyalgia. These include acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, and others. Prescription pain relievers may be prescribed, such as tramadol. Narcotics are less often prescribed due to addictive nature of these medications, which can lead to dependence and even worsening of pain as the patient becomes more tolerant to the medication.
- Antidepressants: Milnacipran and duloxetine often work to ease pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia. Other antidepressants the doctor may prescribe include amitriptyline or fluoxetine, which help sleep.
- Anti-seizure medications: These medications formulated to help seizure disorders also pay reduce pain. Gabapentin, pregabalin and other such medications can reduce fibromyalgia symptoms. Pregabalin was the first FDA approved drug for fibromyalgia treatment.
Psychological counseling has been proven effective for treatment of fibromyalgia through provision of coping mechanisms. Self-confidence and strategies for dealing with stress work well for patients of the disorder.
Five Lifestyle Changes
There are five methods of self-care which help treat fibromyalgia symptoms. Those five methods are:
- Stress reduction. Overexertion and emotional stress are common causes of fibromyalgia symptoms. Each day should include relaxation time, aside from which effective management of daily routine proves helpful to people with fibromyalgia. Stress management using deep breathing, meditation and other techniques can help reduce symptoms.
- Sufficient sleep. Getting enough sleep is key to patients with fibromyalgia, as fatigue is one of the most difficult symptoms of the disorder to deal with. Good sleep habits must include limited daytime napping and a regular sleep schedule.
- Regulation of energy and activity. Sticking to a consistent daily activity level with moderation will help ensure fewer flare-up days and greater life quality across the board.
- Maintenance of a healthy lifestyle. Eating healthy foods and limiting consumption of caffeine is important. Each day should include balance and fulfillment through enjoyable activities.
- Regular exercise. Regular exercise may hurt more at first, but will ensure gradual decrease of symptoms. Consistency of appropriate exercises such as swimming, biking, walking and water aerobics will improve energy, reduce flare-ups and help provide regular sleep. Relaxation exercises, stretching and maintaining good posture also help.
Rounding out the top ten treatments for fibromyalgia is a method of alternative medicine treatment. That is acupuncture.
Although acupuncture has not been proven to be effective for fibromyalgia in particular, it is proven effective for other physical ailments. This form of Chinese medicine is founded in restoration of balance among life forces within the body. These forces are balanced through insertion of tiny needles into the skin at varied depths on specific areas of the body.
Western doctors believe that acupuncture works because the needles alter blood flow and neurotransmitters in both the spinal cord and brain. Studies have proven acupuncture effective as often as they prove the method of treatment ineffective for the disease. This is something individual patients must determine for themselves, according to whether their symptoms improve using the ancient Chinese medical practice.