When asking the question what is fibromyalgia it’s worth letting you know what this word actually means, it has been derived from Latin “fibro” meaning fibrous or something that pertains to tissue. The rest of the word is derived from Greek, “myo” which means muscle and “algia” which means pain.
Fibromyalgia is perhaps one of the least understood of chronic pain conditions. Despite a number of people suffering from the condition, medical experts have yet to pin point exactly what causes it. In fact, in most cases it can be very difficult to spot the symptoms. On this page I want to talk to you a little bit about this condition.
As you may know, fibromyalgia is a condition which causes severe pain and tenderness in the body. It also often leads to severe tiredness. There are often a few extra symptoms. We will discuss those soon. These tend to be the most prevalent though. Now, as I mentioned before, nobody really understands this condition. There is no cure for it either. If you have fibromyalgia then you are going to be dealing with it for life. There are a couple of fibromyalgia pain relief options available though.
Whilst the pain is similar to that of arthritis it is worth noting that this condition does not affect the joints. It only affects the muscles and related soft tissues in the body. It can appear just about anywhere…often without warning! This is one of those conditions that can disappear for months at a time only to return quite quickly and lead to rather severe pain.
What is Fibromyalgia and Why is it Considered to be a Syndrome?
Whilst it is not known how fibromyalgia actually begins, research has shown that there are small changes in the chemical composition of the brain and nervous system in those that are suffering from the condition. One of these chemicals is known as a neurotransmitter. The job of this chemical is to carry messages from the nerves in the body to the brain cells and then back again. This could mean that the messaging system is slightly affected and thus pain occurs because the brain does not know how to translate these messages properly. This idea is further enhanced by the idea that there is an increased amount of the chemical ‘ Substance P ‘ in the brain and spinal cord. This again could lead to severe problems. Whatever the cause though, it is generally agreed that those who are suffering from fibromyalgia are more sensitive to pain signals in the body then they really should be. This causes over stimulation in the brain and it believes that it is in pain when it really is not. Nobody knows what causes this.
This is actually a rather common condition. Around 1 in 50 people will have to deal with the condition at some point. It is especially common in women. It normally occurs after the age of 25, although it can occur in slightly younger people too. Many people find that their symptoms clear up quite naturally (i.e. they did not do anything to make it happen), other people will find that they are dealing with the condition for life.
Signs and Symptoms of Fibromyalgia Syndrome
There are a number of symptoms related to fibromyalgia. If you are experiencing any of these then it really is suggested that you get in touch with a doctor as soon as possible. It is worth noting that many of these symptoms of fibromyalgia can actually be linked to other less-serious conditions. Therefore if you are suffering from one or two of them it does NOT necessarily mean that you are dealing with this condition:
- Pain: This is the ‘number one’ symptom of fibromyalgia. Almost any area of the body can be affected by pain. In the majority of people the pain will be limited to one specific area. It is normally the neck or the back. However, a few cases people may discover that they experience pain ‘everywhere’ at the same time. This is not pleasant to say the least. The pain will often disappear for periods of time before returning. The pain will be made worse by exercise, the temperature, and even stress. Pain includes general aching and tenderness in the muscles and soft tissues of the body.
- Tiredness: This is another common symptom of fibromyalgia. Tiredness can often be quite severe. Quite often people with the condition will wake up from a night’s sleep exhausted. They tend to perk up throughout the day. It is likely that the tiredness is related to the fact that the body has been tirelessly fighting against the pain.
- Irritable Bladder: Generally speaking, those who suffer from fibromyalgia tend to use the toilet a great deal more often. There is no explanation as to why this occurs. Remember though, just because this happens does NOT mean that you are suffering from the condition.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome: This condition is common in those who are dealing with fibromyalgia. There will be severe abdominal pains and bloating. This is also a chronic condition for which there is no cure.
- Restless Leg Syndrome.
- Painful Periods for Women
- A tingling sensation in the extremities (i.e. your fingers and toes)
- Swollen feet or hands. Well, they are not actually swollen. However, the patient believes that they have a ‘swollen’ feeling about them.
- Chronic Fatigue
How is Fibromyalgia Diagnosed?
One of the major problems with fibromyalgia is that it is notoriously difficult to diagnose. This is because the symptoms mentioned previously can apply to a number of different conditions. There is no real tell-tale sign that fibromyalgia is actually occurring. Generally speaking, the doctor will look for pain in the body that is quite widespread. If it has been present for around three months then they will be confident that they may be dealing with a case of fibromyalgia.
A common technique used by doctors is to search the body for any tender spots. Once they have found one they will press lightly on it with their thumbs. If somebody is suffering from fibromyalgia then they will wince in pain. If not, the pressure will not be enough to have any effect on the person.
Sadly there is very little else that the doctor can do when it comes to diagnosing the condition. It is much a case of pain observance and relying on what the patient has to say. There is nothing that they can check by sending off samples to a lab. It is a case of looking for the pain. This means that some people may be treated for another condition all together….just to be sure that they are not suffering from something other than fibromyalgia.
Now, whilst fibromyalgia is a chronic condition it is not that serious. There is no damage to the body as a result of this condition. There is no shortened lifespan either. Sure, there is pain that needs to be dealt with, but apart from wincing in agony there tends to be no long-term effect. As stated before, the symptoms of this condition can disappear for years at a time. In younger people the symptoms may never return. It is very rare for somebody to be suffering from almost constant pain as a result of fibromyalgia.
Is There Any Fibromyalgia Treatment Available?
Sadly there is no known cure for fibromyalgia. It is unlikely there will be for the foreseeable future either. This is because without knowing what causes the condition it is VERY difficult to treat. There are a number of things which have been known to help quell the pain though. These include:
- Regular Exercise: This is not always going to be effective. However studies have shown that least 20 minutes of exercise a day should help keep the pain at bay. You do not have to do anything too intense either. In most cases a speedy walk should be suffice.
- Heated Pools and Baths
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: There are many medical experts out there who believe that fibromyalgia is a psychological problem as opposed to a physical one. This notion has been backed up by the success of CBT. This involves dealing with your thoughts that could lead to the condition. Many people find that it allows them to get control of the pain and stop it from interfering with their life.
- Painkillers. All you really need are standard ‘over the counter’ painkillers to deal with the condition. The doctor may be able to prescribe something stronger in certain situations.
Read more about Fibromyalgia natural treatment.
If you believe that you may be dealing with fibromyalgia then it is important that you get to the doctor as soon as possible. It is better to start treatment as soon as you can. It will make it far easier to bring under control. Remember, suffering from this condition is not ‘the end of the world’. Despite there being no cure it is fairly easy to manage and there is plenty of help out there (much of which can be found in this website) to make the condition slightly easier to deal with.
We hope this has answered your question on what is fibromyalgia and we advise that you seek medical attention if you think you might have it. Click Here to read more about natural methods to treat fibromyalgia syndrome. For more explanation about fibromyalgia please watch this video:
Neurons image courtesy of Juliendn