What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes pain all over the body. It can be associated with pain in multiple joints and muscles, and fatigue. It affects between 4-8% of people, and is more common in women than in men. People with a rheumatic disease such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis are at an increased risk for developing fibromyalgia.
Symptoms associated with fibromyalgia can include:
This is a diffuse, chronic and persistent pain all over, including the muscles, joints, and tendons. The pain is often described as burning, aching, stiffness, or soreness. It can vary with times of the day, weather, sleep patterns, and amount of stress. People with fibromyalgia often feel like they constantly have the flu.
Fatigue is one of the hallmarks of fibromyalgia syndrome and can be severe in some people. There may be a close relationship between fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
Most people with fibromyalgia complain of poor sleep- either difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. Poor sleep is known to aggravate fibromyalgia, so improvement of sleep quality is one of the treatments of fibromyalgia.
Anxiety and depression are common in people with fibromyalgia.
Abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation
Many people with fibromyalgia also have a diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome or spastic colon.
Bladder pain, frequent need to urinate
Interstitial cystitis is a common diagnosis in people with fibromyalgia
Headaches (tension or migraine headaches)
Jaw pain, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome
Numbness and tingling in hands and feet
What causes fibromyalgia?
The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown. Although the pain experienced by people with fibromyalgia is very real, no abnormalities may be found on exam or lab tests. It is thought that the cause of fibromyalgia is “multi-factorial”, meaning that various physical and emotional factors (like infections, physical or emotional trauma, genetic factors, etc.) may play a role in development of fibromyalgia. Studies have pointed to a central process in fibromyalgia, which means something in the brain and the nervous system may be responsible. It is thought that people with fibromyalgia may have an impaired pain perception, and a decreased ability to lower pain. This means that the nervous system interprets a stimulus to be much more painful than it really is. For example, while a person without fibromyalgia will perceive a hug as mild pressure on their muscles, the nerves of the person with fibromyalgia may perceive a hug as a painful stimulus and will send signals to the body that will experience pain.
American College of Rheumatology http://www.rheumatology.org/practice/clinical/patients/diseases_and_conditions/fibromyalgia.asp
Arthritis foundation http://www.arthritis.org/
F Wolfe, DJ Clauw, MA Fitzcharles, DL Goldenberg, RS Katz, P Mease, AS Russell, J Russell, JB Winfield, MB Yunus. The American College of Rheumatology Preliminary Diagnostic Criteria for Fibromyalgia and Measurement of Symptom Severity. Arthritis Care & Research,Vol. 62, No. 5, May 2010, pp 600–610