Fibromyalgia is a condition that we seem to hear more and more about. This condition went from being an uncommon and unrecognized diagnosis to fairly common. There are still a fair number of individuals who do not recognize the condition as “real”, but that would be like saying Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) isn’t real. Just because there are no measurable physiological changes, does not make it less real for those experiencing it.
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), fibromyalgia is a “common and chronic disorder characterized by widespread pain, diffuse tenderness, and a number of other symptoms.” Additional symptoms include the following:
- sleep disturances
- cognitive and memory problems (sometimes referred to as “fibro fog”
- morning stiffness
- irritable bowel syndrome
- painful menstrual periods
- numbness or tingling of the extremities
- restless legs syndrome
- temperature sensitivity
- sensitivity to loud noises or bright lights
Despite the symptoms that occur, the body does not show any physiological cause for them. The condition is often diagnosed by ruling out other conditions because the symptoms are often similar to those of other conditions. There are also common tender points that are assessed in order to help diagnose the condition. Even though pain may appear near joints, the condition is not arthritic in nature. It does not cause inflammation or damage to the joints, muscles, or other tissues; but it does interfere with daily activities due to the pain and fatigue produced.
The true cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but it appears to affect the way pain is processed in the body. A typically non-aggravating stimulus causes pain in a person with fibromyalgia due to the heightened response of their pain receptors. This condition has been linked to several triggers including stressful or traumatic events (ex. car accidents), repetitive injuries, illness, and certain diseases; but may also occur spontaneously. It most commonly occurs in women 18 and older, but can also occur in men and children. Those with rheumatic conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and ankylosing spondylitis may be more likely to have fibromyalgia; as are those who have a family member with fibromyalgia. Research is still being done to understand the cause of this condition.
Check out our next blog on the best treatments for fibromyalgia.