FAQ’s on Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia (FM) is a collective set of symptoms that patients may have, making this condition commonly referred to as a syndrome. Patients who have FM are likely to have symptoms that would be close to the ones felt with conditions such as osteoarthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, tendinitis, and bursitis. Approximately 12 million Americans have already been diagnosed with FM, with the majority of these being women who are between the ages of 25 and 60. Next to osteoarthritis, FM is the second most diagnosed musculoskeletal disorder in patients.
What are the causes of Fibromyalgia?
The exact causes behind fibromyalgia, both as to how and why it develops, remain undefined. Research is constantly being made into the inner workings of FM in a goal to discover these, with more and more plausible theories presented every year about which individual factors may contribute to causing and prolonging the effects of FM. General consensus of researchers has declared FM a polygenic condition that is contributed to by improper blood flow in the brain, alterations of the pain receptors, aspects of hormonal imbalance, and certain hereditary factors. In addition to these, FM is thought to require an outside influence to trigger the condition, typically either trauma, environmental factors, or both.
What are the symptoms of Fibromyalgia?
The symptoms of FM will vary on a patient-to-patient basis, with no two patients experiencing FM in exactly the same way. Commonly shared symptoms among all patients include general widespread pain throughout the body coupled with feelings of fatigue and difficulty sleeping. Another shared symptom, and one that must be present for FM to be diagnosed, is the appearance of tender areas of the body that are located over the muscles and that cause pain when touched. These areas, called tender points, are one of the largest indicators that FM is present.
Patients with FM may also have interruptions in their sleep cycle, which can occur as sleep that does not enter the restorative cycles, or may occur as frequent waking during the night. Patients can be left feeling both physically and mentally exhausted upon waking, leading to cognitive complications and feelings of exhaustion.
How is Fibromyalgia diagnosed?
Diagnosis for FM is performed on a patient-to-patient basis, with the unique symptoms exhibited by the patient compared to a set of diagnostic guidelines to see if FM diagnosis is warranted. These guidelines include the presence of widespread pain that has persisted for three or months, and the presence of tender points in no fewer than 11 of 18 accepted locations (Criteria for the diagnosis of fibromyalgia, 2014).
What are the treatment options for Fibromyalgia?
There is not a singular cure for FM, and there is not one treatment that is able to deal with every aspect of a patient’s symptoms. Treatment is achieved as a multi-disciplinary approach tailored to the unique needs of the patient, with a primary focus on symptomatic management. Medications, exercise, and behavior modification have all been shown to have directly beneficial impacts on FM, for both pain relief and for assisting with exhaustion. There are currently three medications that have been deemed safe and effective in the treatment of FM.
Patients will also be encouraged to exercise, as it can help to build energy reserves and to assist with loosening joints to both provide pain relief and to improve their functionality (Effect of a 24-week physical training programme (in water and on land) on pain, functional capacity, body composition and quality of life).
One treatment that has been found particularly effective for FM patients is the application of cognitive behavioral therapy which seeks to change a patient’s perception of how their pain occurs. By changing this mindset, patients are able to develop better skills to cope with their symptoms even if the symptoms do not change in severity. By changing how a patient perceives pain on the mental level, the physical symptoms can be diminished. This form of therapy has been extensively tested, and shown to be effective in providing symptomatic relief to patients in multiple cognitive trials (Tailored cognitive-behavioral therapy and exercise training for high-risk patients with fibromyalgia, 2010), (Cognitive behavioral therapy for fibromyalgia, 2006).