There are many facts about fibromyalgia that you should know; however, one of the simplest facts to know is that it is a widespread pain condition. People who have fibromyalgia experience musculoskeletal pain all over their bodies. They also usually have trouble with fatigue, sleep, mood, and memory. The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown; however, doctors do know that it occurs more in women and can come after physical or emotional stress. Among the many facts about fibromyalgia, one of the more disheartening ones is that there is no known cure. However, there are plenty of treatment options that are very successful at relieving symptoms.
One of the facts about fibromyalgia is that it is not a condition that can be diagnosed by lab work; rather, it is diagnosed with a physical exam. To diagnose fibromyalgia, a doctor will gently press 18 established tender points, and if the patient is tender at 11 of these points a diagnosis of fibromyalgia will be given. These points cluster around the neck, shoulders, chest, hips, knees, and elbows. A person who has fibromyalgia will find gentle pressure at these points very painful. It can feel like someone is digging into the muscle when they are only lightly touching it. Because of this, the diagnosis process is very unpleasant for fibromyalgia patients; however, finding out that their widespread pain has a name can be a relief.
2. Tender Points Vs. Trigger Points
Many of the fibromyalgia tender points are also known trigger points. A trigger point is a firm nodule in the muscle that feels tight and ropey. When you press on a trigger point you feel pain radiate to other areas. This is different from a painful area that is only a tender point, because tender points are localized and do not produce radiating pain. It can be helpful to know if you have any trigger points since there are various methods to release them.
3. Prescription Treatments
Although fibromyalgia is not a curable condition, there are prescription treatments that can help ease the pain. Currently, three prescriptions have been approved by the FDA for fibromyalgia treatment: Cymbalta, Savella, and Lyrica. Cymbalta and Savella are antidepressants that down-regulate pain messages by increasing serotonin levels. Lyrica is an antiepileptic medication that also minimizes pain signals. While these three medications are the only ones approved by the FDA for fibromyalgia, they are not the only options for patients. Muscle relaxants can be helpful for tight muscles, and opioid-analgesics can be used for pain. Also, sleeping medications can be helpful for patients who have trouble sleeping because their pain wakes them up at night. There are actually many prescription medications that can be used to treat the symptoms of fibromyalgia, and it is helpful to find a doctor who will help find the best medications for the individual.
4. Hands on Therapies
Prescription medication is not the only option patients have when they are looking to treat fibromyalgia. There are many different types of hands on therapies that can be quite helpful. At first it may seem like hands on therapy will be painful, but usually it is relaxing and eases pain. Actually, a lot of patients choose massage over prescription medications to manage fibromyalgia. Osteopathic manipulation is another great option for patients because it is very gentle and allows tight muscles to relax using strain-counterstrain methods. Acupuncture is also very helpful for some people; however, it is important to find an acupuncturist who has experience treating fibromyalgia. If you have fibromyalgia, trying hands on therapy can be really useful, especially if you have not found prescriptions to be helpful.
There have been several small studies conducted on the benefits of supplements for fibromyalgia patients, and the results have been promising. One study demonstrated that supplementing with magnesium and a B-complex vitamin can help relieve pain. It is believed these nutrients work because they are both needed to break down sugars in muscles to make energy. Other studies have shown that supplementing with 2,500 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids a day can be beneficial in reducing inflammation that causes pain. The antioxidant vitamins, vitamin E and C, are also useful in relieving pain. Sam-e is another supplement people with fibromyalgia can try. It has been shown to work at relieving pain in a similar manner to antidepressants. However, Sam-e can interact with antidepressants, so if you are taking an antidepressant it is not an option for you. In fact, it is generally wise to consult with your doctor before starting a vitamin regimen to make sure the vitamins don’t interact with any of your medications.
Eating a nutritious diet can be very helpful in relieving some fibromyalgia symptoms. In fact, several studies have demonstrated that eating vegan or vegetarian diets that are rich in raw fruits and vegetables can be very beneficial at reducing symptoms. One of the more recent studies on a mostly raw, vegan diet had incredibly impressive results. The editor of the journal the study was published in noted that fibromyalgia patients in the study had 3 times more improvement than those following the Mayo Clinic’s fibromyalgia treatment! If this type of diet seems too extreme, just adding more fruits and vegetables into your diet can help. Also, all fibromyalgia patients should remove aspartame from their diet, because it has been shown to cause fibromyalgia pain.
Even though people who have fibromyalgia can hurt so much that any movement seems impossible, exercise is still important for fibromyalgia patients because it prevents muscles from getting tighter and atrophying. However, exercise should be much gentler for people with fibromyalgia. For people in a lot of pain, warm water therapy is often recommended. Not only does the warm water feel nice, it also allows patients to move with much less pain. Other activities like Tai Chi and gentle yoga are also good forms of exercise for people with fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia can be a very debilitating disorder. However, with proper treatment many people have fewer symptoms and live much more normal lives. If you have fibromyalgia, I encourage you to find a doctor who is experienced at treating this chronic pain condition and can help you feel better. Do you know anyone who has fibromyalgia?