What is fibromyalgia?

May 24, 2016

Topic: What is fibromyalgia?

What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition that affects the entire musculoskeletal system. It is characterized by symptoms of widespread body pain, the National Fibromyalgia Association explained. The pain patients experience is typically most intense in the muscles, with many individuals describing it as deep and throbbing. In many cases patients also report stabbing and shooting pains, as well as twitching. 

In addition to severe pain, fibromyalgia is typically accompanied by irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, migraines and rashes. Perhaps the most significant accompanying symptom, however, is fatigue. The NFA elaborated that many fibromyalgia patients also experience a sleep disorder: They find themselves unable to sleep in a deep state for extended periods of time. This likely contributes to the intense feelings of tiredness that many people with the condition report. 

Fibromyalgia patients are also at an increased risk of mental health problems - particularly depression and anxiety. Furthermore, a recent study published in BioMed Central found that the socioeconomic consequences of the illness are significant. For example, many patients lose money due to missed days at work and medical expenses. The average fibromyalgia patient will spend around $3804 a year due to the condition, with the majority of the money being spent on physician consultations and medication. The study also found that on average, patients with a job missed five days at work every three months.  

"On average, patients miss five days of work every three months."

What causes fibromyalgia?
There is still not a clear consensus in the medical community over what causes the condition, but as the NFA reported, a growing number of orthopaedic researchers are beginning to agree that fibromyalgia is likely engendered by disordered sensory processing. In other words, the condition is the result of a problem within the central nervous system. The source also noted that for many patients the condition will begin after severe injury or illness. Orthopaedic research has also shown that some individuals may be more genetically prone to the disease than others. 

How is fibromyalgia treated?
Fibromyalgia unfortunately cannot be cured. There are, however, many ways to manage the condition. According to Healthline, the first line of treatment is usually medication. For milder cases over the counter medications such as ibuprofen are recommended. In chronic cases a physician may prescribe stronger medications. Patients are also commonly prescribed anti-depressants to help manage symptoms of anxiety and depression. 

Fibromyalgia patients struggle with chronic pain and it can negatively impact daily life.Fibromyalgia patients struggle with chronic pain and it can negatively impact daily life.

Physical therapy.
Physical therapy has also proven to be effective in some cases. Strategies such as deep tissue massage and electrical nerve stimulation have been shown to reduce the severity of symptoms in many patients, Healthline elaborated. 

For patients struggling with mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety, cognitive behavioral therapy has also proven to be an effective form of treatment, the source noted. The therapy can help improve mood and curtail insomnia, helping to relieve pain in the process.

Exercise can also help.
Regular exercise is also highly effective at managing fibromyalgia symptoms, Healthline explained. Care must be taken however to avoid orthopaedic injury. The sources explained that some of the best forms of exercise for fibromyalgia patients are as follows:

  • Walking, even if it's a short distance everyday, is a useful exercise.
  • Yoga is a great way to deal with pain. Not only does it stretch important muscles, it can also help clear the mind and relieve depression and anxiety. 
  • Light weightlifting can help build up muscles strength and improve overall fitness. Healthline explained that strength training has been shown to ease pain associated with fibromyalgia.
  • Warm water workouts have been shown to have a notably positive impact of fibromyalgia patient. Warm water aerobics and swimming are particularly beneficial. 

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