By Apollo 24/7, Published on - 15 June 2021
Fibromyalgia is a condition that results in widespread pain throughout the body and is often accompanied by sleep problems, memory and mood issues, and fatigue. Unfortunately, fibromyalgia is often misdiagnosed and misunderstood with chronic fatigue syndrome and other bone or joint-related disorders due to its striking similarities with them. However, in fibromyalgia, the pain is distributed equally on the upper and lower torso. Some people may also experience pain like pins and needles, along with numbness known as paresthesia (burning, prickling, and tingling sensation). Fibromyalgia occurs twice as often in women than in men.
Research suggests that stressful events in life often trigger fibromyalgia, which could include both physical and emotional stress:
The three main symptoms of fibromyalgia include experiencing pain all over the body, fatigue, and cognitive difficulties.
Pain: Usually, the first signs of fibromyalgia are widespread body pain and stiffness. Affected people may experience elevated sensitivity to pain. The pain felt is usually constant, dull, and can last for a minimum of 3 months.
Fatigue – Chronic or long-term fatigue is a common symptom of fibromyalgia. The fatigue is assumed to be the result of the body’s reaction to the pain. Fatigue and sleeping disorders go hand in hand which is also the reason why many people wake up tired.
Impaired cognitive skills – Fibromyalgia can lead to impaired cognitive abilities termed as brain fog or "fibro fog" where a person experiences difficulties remembering events, recalling certain conversations, thinking quickly, or having trouble working in distracting environments. However, few studies suggest that fibromyalgia may not be the only cause of brain fog.
The other symptoms of fibromyalgia include:
Anxiety and depression - Fibromyalgia is indirectly associated with the psychological and emotional well-being of a person. Anxiousness and feeling low can lead to increased sensitivity towards pain. The depression caused due to traumatic events in life can lead to low confidence and hopelessness in men and women, making social activities minimal and challenging.
Unexplained headaches - Besides body, joint, and musculoskeletal pains, headaches such as migraines are common in people with fibromyalgia.
Insomnia - Insomnia, a sleep disorder, is a prominent marker of fibromyalgia. People with insomnia have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep for as long as they wish.
Irritable bowel syndrome (rare) - People with chronic fibromyalgia are known to have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) characterized by pain, tenderness, and discomfort in the abdominal region. Medical studies indicate approximately 70% of people who have fibromyalgia also suffer from IBS.
Low sexual desires - Research hints that some men and women with fibromyalgia may experience low libido due to fibromyalgia.
Unfortunately, there are no specific tests that can diagnose fibromyalgia. However, the doctor may ask you specific questions regarding the type of pain, duration of pain, family history, triggers, stress levels, and lifestyle. The doctor may recommend blood tests to rule out other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and osteoarthritis.
X-rays may also be prescribed sometimes to eliminate the probability of other health conditions.
Fibromyalgia and its symptoms may disrupt the usual way of living and work-life balance. However, there are ways to manage it and enjoy life effectively which include:
People with fibromyalgia may often feel low, fatigued, and have disturbed sleep patterns. However, all these symptoms can be managed with proper diet, exercise, good sleep habits, de-stressing activities, and relaxation techniques. Support of partners and loved ones can make people with fibromyalgia feel and live better.
For any questions on musculoskeletal health including fibromyalgia, you can talk to an orthopaedician.
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