The term Fibromyalgia literally means muscle pain but there are many other characteristics to the syndrome. Symptoms include widespread pain, exhaustion, tenderness in trigger points on the body, burning sensation on the skin or pain when touched, a feeling of heaviness in the limbs, digestion disorders, sleep difficulties, increased sensitivity to pain and stimulus, problems with memory or concentration (fibro fog), migraine and headaches, balance problems and others. Symptoms can be mild to severely debilitating. Sufferers will often describe an aching all over. Fibromyalgia is a chronic illness that affects the whole body which is why there can be so many varied symptoms.
Some medical professionals believe that fibromyalgia involves a malfunctioning of the central nervous system in some way. Additionally it may include auto immune issues and wide spread inflammation. The current research suggests that fibromyalgia may be triggered by a combination of genetic, neurobiological and environmental factors.
Diagnosis is not easy as there are no obvious injuries or abnormal test results to confirm the condition. When diagnosing Doctors may look for widespread pain in all four quadrants of the body for a minimum duration of three months, and at least 11 of 18 specified tender points. Not all Doctors currently consider tender points as an accurate diagnostic technique since the number of tender points that may be active at any one time will vary.
A diagnosis can be important as many other illness can have similar symptoms. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, for example, is known to have a lot of overlapping symptoms with fibromyalgia.
Treatments tend to be for individual symptoms rather than an overall treatment. In addition to pain management medication, a good diet, supplements and massage are sometimes suggested. Gentle exercise, such as walking, tai chi or water-based exercise, can help to manage symptoms such as pain, fatigue and sleep disturbance. However, care should be taken because for some people this may worsen symptoms. Since depression can often co-exist with fibromyalgia, counselling and relaxation practice may assist.
At present there is no cure and sufferers should not be made to feel as though they should try harder to feel better.