Fibromyalgia (fī'brō-mī-āl'jē-ə) affects more than 6 million people in this country. Most of them are women, but it does occur in men as well.
People with fibromyalgia may experience the following symptoms:
- chronic, widespread pain all over the body
- tenderness, soreness and flu-like aches
- problems sleeping
- morning stiffness
- memory and concentration difficulties
- difficulty performing daily functions
Many people live with pain for years before fibromyalgia is found as the cause. Now, more healthcare providers are aware of the condition. This means that it can be addressed sooner. And there is a growing list of treatments that may help.
Little is known about the cause of this type of pain, but the central nervous system may play a role. There is no cure for fibromyalgia but there are treatments that can help. Many people have found ways to have a good quality of life in spite of fibromyalgia.
You Need a Proper Diagnosis
There are no blood tests or X-rays that can detect fibromyalgia. This makes the condition hard to diagnose. But guidelines from the American College of Rheumatology can help you and your healthcare provider figure out if you have the condition:
- History of widespread pain that has lasted at least three months
- Pain in at least 11 of the 18 “tender points” of the body, which are clustered around the neck, elbow, knees and hips2
Do you have these symptoms? If you do, your healthcare provider should be able to help you find the causes. Your healthcare provider should know the basics about fibromyalgia. But if he or she does not, you may need to speak to a specialist. Fibromyalgia is often treated by rheumatologists, pain specialists or neurologists. These specialists may help you get a diagnosis. They may also provide you with the appropriate management plan.
People of all ages may have this kind of pain, but it is most common in those between 20 and 50. Some people may have both fibromyalgia and other chronic conditions, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis4 or hypertension. Treating the pain of fibromyalgia can impact the management of other disorders. And treating associated conditions can affect the pain of fibromyalgia. It’s important that you and your medical team identify and treat all of your chronic conditions.
You Deserve To Feel Better
There are a number of ways you can help control your pain and live better. Not all methods may work for you. Using more than one approach may work best. It’s vital for you to take an active role in your care. Taking an active role helps you best manage your condition. Among the steps you can take are:
Exercise: Staying active is key to maintaining health. This may be tough at first. Try taking small steps. Build up to a program that you can do. Walk, bike or swim to help feel better. These activities don’t have to be hard. Any movement will help. Becoming more flexible and maintaining flexibility may help reduce pain. You may want to work with a physical therapist. He or she can design a plan that will work for you. Check with your healthcare provider at the start of any exercise program.
Sleep: Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the best things you can do. Go to bed and wake up at the same time. Taking naps during the day may interfere with your ability to sleep a full 8 hours at night. If you are having difficulty sleeping at night, try not taking naps during the day. Try to get at least eight hours of sleep. Your healthcare provider can give you other sleep tips. He or she may also talk to you about medications that may help.
Nutrition: Eating well is central to good health. Drinking lots of fluids also helps. Having a balanced diet means eating plenty of fruits, vegetables and healthy proteins. Don’t skip breakfast or other meals. Try to avoid snacks with lots of sugar. Instead, eat healthy snacks such as raw fruits, vegetables and high-protein snacks.
Stress-Relief Techniques and Complementary Medicine: Research shows meditation can help. It’s also a known stress-reliever. Massage may help as well. It boosts circulation and stimulates nerves. Tai chi, acupuncture and chiropractic treatment also may help relieve symptoms.
Medication: In some cases, your healthcare provider may suggest medication to treat the pain. Medication may also help relieve other symptoms. Medication is one of the tools to help you better manage your symptoms of fibromyalgia. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best plan for you.