What is Fibromyalgia and How Do I Know if I Have It?

Fibromyalgia is a rheumatic disease that causes muscle and joint pain.

Fibromyalgia is a common central nervous system disorder, but even so, it is commonly misdiagnosed and misunderstood. The staple symptoms include widespread muscle pain, joint pain, and fatigue that can lead to depression and isolation, especially if left undiagnosed. Knowing what fibromyalgia is, whether or not you may have it and how it can be treated is essential in caring for yourself both mentally and physically.

Let’s discuss some of the basics regarding fibromyalgia.

What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a rheumatic disease that causes muscle and joint pain, as well as trouble sleeping and chronic fatigue. Patients have tender points in the body, otherwise called trigger points.

At this time, researchers aren’t sure what causes fibromyalgia. It’s believed that a combination of physical and emotional stressors is responsible for the condition. Some researchers believe that fibromyalgia patients have genes in the body that process certain stimuli as being painful. This is only a theory at this time, and no genes have been identified or isolated.

What are the Symptoms?

  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Tender points in the body
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Morning stiffness
  • Headaches
  • Tingling or numbness in hands and feet
  • Mental cloudiness
  • Painful menstrual periods
  • Anxiety or depression

Who is Most Likely to be Affected by Fibromyalgia?

Although fibromyalgia can affect anyone, scientists estimate that between 80 and 90 percent of the 12 million people affected with the condition are women. Most people are diagnosed during 25 and 60 years of age; although children are not exempt. People with certain conditions are also more likely to have fibromyalgia, such as those with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or spinal arthritis. Women who have a family member with fibromyalgia are also more likely to have the condition.

How is Fibromyalgia Treated?

Treatment for fibromyalgia includes a variety of therapies. People with the condition should have a care team that includes an internal medicine doctor, rheumatologist, physical therapist or pain management specialist. With a strong, diverse team, fibromyalgia symptoms can be managed appropriately. The most common treatments for fibromyalgia include:

  • Taking medications as prescribed
  • Adequate sleep
  • Regular exercise
  • Healthy diet
  • Physical therapy

How Do I Know if I Have the Condition?

If you suspect that you have fibromyalgia, it’s important to see the right types of doctors. Fibromyalgia can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are vague and can be attributed to other conditions. On the flip side, you don’t want to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia if you don’t have it, so it’s critical that you take careful note of your symptoms and report everything to your doctors. Some of the most common conditions that are confused with fibromyalgia include chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis or other types of pain problems.

What Happens if I Am Diagnosed?

If you are diagnosed with fibromyalgia, it’s important not to panic. First of all, it’s good to have a diagnosis, because then you can move forward and begin treatment that will relieve your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Your treatment regimen may include a combination of medication, exercise, stress reduction and sleep strategies. Physical therapy can be helpful in managing fibromyalgia pain as well.