Fibromyalgia, formerly known as fibrositis, is one of the most common muscle diseases, affecting over 6 million people in the United States. It is a chronic condition that produces intense pain in various parts of the body including muscles, tissues and joints. Although there is pain in the tissues, no inflammation occurs so there is no damage in the internal body organs. Restless sleep, anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue, and irregular bowel function come with this ailment.
The cause of this condition is unknown. But researchers have found that people who have this ailment have increased levels of substance P, a nerve chemical signal. These people also have a nerve growth factor in the spinal fluid. Patients with fibromyalgia also have very low levels of the brain chemical serotonin, which is natural antidote to pain. Some studies suggest that this may originate from a oversensitive nervous system. Other experts believe that this occurs with psychological distress or trauma.
The main symptom of this illness is pain all over the body. It usually occurs on the sides of the body, affecting also the neck, shoulders, arms, back, chest and buttocks. Tender points or localized areas that are painful to touch include elbows, knees, back of the head, and breastbone.
As mentioned earlier, pain is not due to inflammation. Instead, it is caused by increased sensitivity to stimuli and extremely low threshold for pain. In fact, people with this condition feel pain due to stimuli that will ordinarily not cause pain in other people such as noise, bad weather, and so on.
Apart from that, the patient would also feel tired all the time. About 90 percent of people with this ailment experience fatigue due to poor-quality sleep. These people wake in the morning feeling exhausted like they did not sleep at all.
Both these primary symptoms of pain and tiredness limit a person’s physical activities. They also affect a person’s social life, family relationships, and employment. Other than fatigue and pain, fibromyalgia also makes it hard for people to focus and remember things.
Mood changes, forgetfulness, depression, anxiety, irritability, tension headaches, numbness of body parts, abdominal pain, vision problems, nausea, dizziness, muscle twitches, skin problems, menstrual cramps, and frequent urination are other symptoms of this condition.
As if these symptoms are not enough, overlapping conditions may also occur such as chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ), multiple chemical sensitivity, myofascial pain syndrome, restless leg syndrome, and costochondritis.
Luckily, treatments are available for this ailment. These include prescription drugs, massage therapy, physical therapy, acupuncture and chiropractic. Taking in vitamin supplements will also help alleviate some of the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Moderate exercises can also lessen the pain felt in the body through improved circulation and flexibility. It is also important to undergo lifestyle changes that would include proper stress management and well-balanced diet.