Fibromyalgia

 

Fibromyalgia is a medically unexplained syndrome characterized by chronic widespread pain and a heightened and painful response to pressure (allodynia). Other core symptoms are debilitating fatigue, sleep disturbance, and joint stiffness. Some patients may also report difficulty with swallowing, bowel and bladder abnormalities, numbness and tingling (paresthesia) and cognitive dysfunction.

Living with chronic widespread pain can be tough. But the more you learn, the better you will feel. There is hope for people with this kind of pain, which may be diagnosed as a condition called fibromyalgia.

Knowing the facts can put you on the road to better health. The Fibromyalgia Patient Handbook and Tip Pamphlet to the right will give you a place to start. It is also crucial that you see a healthcare professional. Talk about how you feel. He or she can help you understand and manage your pain.

Related Materials and Articles:


Two Takes on Fibro
Two new national surveys about fibromyalgia -- compare the perceptions of people who have the condition with those of the general public. The research reveals the surprising differences between public perceptions and the private realities of fibromyalgia.  Click here to view survey

 

 

 

 

 

Communication Tools

Fibro Pain Map

This interactive tool can help you with pain management goals by helping you create a picture of your pain that you can share with your health care provider when you visit.

iconOnline Tool
Fibro Log

The Fibro Log can help you track the everyday things that have an impact on your pain.

iconOnline Tool
iconPrintable Tool (PDF)
Opioid Induced Constipation Conversation Guide

Having to live with chronic pain is difficult enough without the added burden of opioid induced constipation. This ACPA tool will help you to have a meaningful conversation with your health care provider.

iconOpioid Constipation Conversation Guide
DPN Pain Map

DPN person lets you create a detailed picture of your pain, where it is, how it feels, and how much it hurts. This graphic representation provides a lot of important information in an easy to understand and accurate way.

iconOnline Tool
Ability Chart

This tool will help you to identify the areas where you struggle and how much trouble you have with each of them.

iconAbility Chart - Arthritis version (PDF)
Quality of Life Scale

The Quality of Life scale is provided in two formats, graphical and text. We invite you to explore both formats to see which one might better help you to communicate with your health care provider as well as family and friends.

iconGraphical Format PDF
iconText Format PDF
CARE Card

This graphical tool will help you to understand how your medication should be taken, what things you should avoid while taking it as well as possible side effects.

iconPrintable Tool (PDF)
Prepare For Your First Visit PDF

Fill out this helpful summary before your next visit.

iconPrintable Tool (PDF)
Daily Activity Checklist PDF

This checklist can help you to see where you are having difficulties with everyday activities.

iconDaily Activity Checklist
Where Does It Hurt? / Nerve Man

With this online tool you can learn about the different parts of the body where nerve pain can manifest.

iconOnline Tool
Fibro Log

The Fibro Log can help you track the everyday things that have an impact on your pain.

iconOnline Tool
iconPrintable Tool (PDF)
ACPA MedCard PDF

A medication and allergy card that easily fits in your wallet or purse.

iconPrintable Tool (PDF)
Pain Log

The Pain Log can help you track the everyday things that have an impact on your pain.
Pain  Log - Spanish version PDF

iconOnline Tool
Fibro Pain Map

This interactive tool can help you with pain management goals by helping you create a picture of your pain that you can share with your health care provider when you visit.

iconOnline Tool
Follow-Up From Your Visit

The ACPA Follow-Up tool provides you with this simple guide to ensure that you complete all the treatments/advice/recommendations.

iconPrintable Tool (PDF)
Fibro Pain Map

This interactive tool can help you with pain management goals by helping you create a picture of your pain that you can share with your health care provider when you visit.

iconOnline Tool
Fibro Log

The Fibro Log can help you track the everyday things that have an impact on your pain.

iconOnline Tool
iconPrintable Tool (PDF)
Opioid Induced Constipation Conversation Guide

Having to live with chronic pain is difficult enough without the added burden of opioid induced constipation. This ACPA tool will help you to have a meaningful conversation with your health care provider.

iconOpioid Constipation Conversation Guide
Quality of Life Scale

The Quality of Life scale is provided in two formats, graphical and text. We invite you to explore both formats to see which one might better help you to communicate with your health care provider as well as family and friends.

iconGraphical Format PDF
iconText Format PDF
Daily Activity Checklist PDF

This checklist can help you to see where you are having difficulties with everyday activities.

iconDaily Activity Checklist
Where Does It Hurt? / Nerve Man

With this online tool you can learn about the different parts of the body where nerve pain can manifest.

iconOnline Tool
Pain Log

The Pain Log can help you track the everyday things that have an impact on your pain.
Pain  Log - Spanish version PDF

iconOnline Tool
ACPA MedCard PDF

A medication and allergy card that easily fits in your wallet or purse.

iconPrintable Tool (PDF)
CARE Card

This graphical tool will help you to understand how your medication should be taken, what things you should avoid while taking it as well as possible side effects.

iconPrintable Tool (PDF)
Prepare For Your First Visit PDF

Fill out this helpful summary before your next visit.

iconPrintable Tool (PDF)
Follow-Up From Your Visit

The ACPA Follow-Up tool provides you with this simple guide to ensure that you complete all the treatments/advice/recommendations.

iconPrintable Tool (PDF)

Videos

Fibromyalgia 101

A look at what Fibromyalgia is, its causes and how to live life in spite of the pain.

Fibromyalgia PSA

Idaho’s First Lady Lori Otter offers a message of hope for those living with chronic pain.

Living With Fibromyalgia

If you have fibromyalgia---or any other long-term pain condition---you may have been told that you will need to "learn to live with it." In this presentation, Penney Cowan, ACPA founder and executi

Opioid Induced Constipation

Having to live with chronic pain is difficult enough without the added burden of opioid induced constipation. This ACPA video will help you to have a meaningful conversation with your health care provider. 

A Car With Four Flat Tires

A person with pain is like a car with four flat tires. 

Pain Matters

This Discovery Channel documentary explores what chronic pain is, its individual and societal impact, and the future of pain management through the stories and struggles of six individuals living with chronic pain.

Using NSAIDs Safely and Effectively

The only safe way to use NSAIDs is to take the lowest effective dose for the shortest period of time.

Implantable Medical Devices

This video covers what you need to know about medication pumps and neurostimulators.

Veterans In Pain: Learning to Live With the Pain

Many of our veterans are returning home with life-changing injuries. Chronic pain is one of the major obstacles to returning to a full life.

Opioid Safety: Public Service Announcement

Opioid Safety: Public Service Announcement

Using Opioids Safely

If you use opioids to help manage your pain, it's important to take them, store them, and dispose of them properly. Watch this video to learn more.

Consumer Guide to Pain Medication and Treatment

If you have chronic pain, it’s important to be an active part of your treatment team. Understanding the medications and other treatments you may be offered is important. This video guide contains information about medications, devices, treatments and procedures; including safety information for storing and disposing of your medication.

Relaxation Guide

Tension increases pain. This five-minute relaxation exercise can help you let go of physical stress and begin to reduce your sense of suffering. If you enjoy this short relaxation experience, you may want to send for the longer audio version, available in our on-line store.

What Is Chronic Pain?

If you live with chronic pain, you know that chronic pain is different. Ed Covington, MD, director of the Cleveland Clinic Pain Management Program, explains some of the physiology of pain.

Meet Penney Cowan

Our founder talks about how the ACPA can support you.

What ACPA Groups Offer

Hear members' thoughts about the value of the kind of peer support offered by ACPA groups.

Is There Life With Pain?

Hear how some people with pain see their lives now.

AgrAbility:Growing Well With Pain

Penney Cowan talks about chronic pain and pain management with farmers and ranchers.

Welcome to the ACPA

Since 1980 we have been providing peer support and teaching coping skills to people with pain and their families.

Related Resources

FibroCenter for people with Fibromyalgia
http://www.fibrocenter.com/

A community of support, education and understanding which offers information to empower the fibromyalgia community and to foster positive dialogue.

Fibromyalgia: a Comprehensive Approach: What You Can Do About Chronic Pain and Fatigue by Miryam Williamson
ISBN #:0802774849

This is a good source for information and practical advice about fibromyalgia. Each chapter includes a case history that helps the reader understand...

March 2013 Chronicle [PDF]

March 2013 Chronicle

National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association
http://www.fmcpAware.org

A Global Community for Advocacy, research, education and support.

National Fibromyalgia Association
http://www.fmaware.org/

The National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA) is the largest nonprofit [501(c)3] organization working to support people with fibromyalgia and other...

Facts

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
  • fatigue
  • problems sleeping
  • headaches
  • 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.

 

FAQs

I was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia. What is fibromyalgia? What are the risk factors for this condition? How is it treated and what type of practitioners should I be seeing?

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes pain, stiffness, and tender spots on the body.  It also makes people tire quickly.  It involves muscles, ligaments, and tendons, and it is difficult to diagnose because there is no definitive test for fibromyalgia.  Muscle and body stiffness are usually worse in the morning and improve as the day goes on.  Back, neck, or shoulder pain is common.  Many people with fibromyalgia also have trouble sleeping and some have depression or anxiety.

We don’t know what causes fibromyalgia, and even the risk factors are not entirely clear.  More women than men get fibromyalgia, and it usually develops in adulthood or middle age.  A family history of fibromyalgia and a personal history of rheumatoid disease (such as arthritis or lupus) increase your risk.  Some people believe that poor sleeping habits, mental or physical trauma, and repetitive activities (such as difficult physical labor or intense sports) increase the risk.  Some research suggests a connection between Lyme disease and fibromyalgia, two conditions that are often confused because they have similar symptoms.

Treatment is aimed at controlling fibromyalgia’s symptoms, since there is no cure for the condition.  The treatments you should have depend on your symptoms.  Usually, muscle aches and stiffness are treated with heat, massage, stretching, and exercise.  If those non-drug treatments don’t do the job, pain medications or steroid injections can be used.  Relaxation and stress relief techniques can help reduce aches and pains and also lessen sleep problems, depression, and anxiety.  Acupuncture gives some people relief from stiffness and pain.  Also, medication can be used to treat sleep problems, depression, and anxiety.

You would likely benefit from seeing a team of health care professionals, including:

  • A doctor (MD or DO) or physician assistant to keep track of your overall health and prescribe medications as needed
  • A physical therapist to teach and oversee your exercise and stretching plan
  • A mental health counselor (optional) to help you manage sleep or mood problems
  • A licensed acupuncturist (optional) if acupuncture is helpful for you

Beyond your medical team, there are many self-help groups and other peer organizations that support people living with fibromyalgia.  Although fibromyalgia treatment is different for every individual, these groups can be helpful with common-sense tips and advice on how to manage your own care and find what works for you. Good luck!

Important:

This information should not be used as a substitute for necessary consultations with a qualified health care professional to meet your individual needs. Always consult a medically trained professional with questions and concerns you have regarding your medical condition.

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Development of this new ACPA web site was made possible through an unrestricted educational grant from Medtronic Foundation and Purdue Pharma.

Medtronic Foundation and Purdue have no influence on the editorial content of the site. Ongoing funding also comes from memberships/donations from a range of individual contributors.

Last Updated: 7/30/2014
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