Fibromyalgia and the Chronic Pain Condition
What is Fibromyalgia
It’s best to start with a fibromyalgia definition. Fibromyalgia (FM) is a disorder which is characterized by extensive pain in the bones and muscles followed by issues with sleep, fatigue, mood, and memory. Often this condition is misunderstood and misdiagnosed, however many researchers believe that FM magnifies painful sensitiveness by influencing the way the brain interprets pain signals.
Here are some conditions that increase a person’s fibromyalgia risk factors:
- If you are a woman. Women are more apt to develop FM than men are.
- If you suffer from a mood disorder, such as depression or anxiety.
- If you have irritable bowel syndrome, temporomandibular joint disorders, or tension headaches.
- If you have other painful diseases like an infection or arthritis.
- If you don’t exercise very often.
- If other members of your family have FM.
Symptoms can often start after surgery, physical trauma, or compelling psychological stress. Symptoms also may gradually build over time with no particular triggering event. Basically, symptoms are that you ache all over. Here are the most common signs:
- Muscle pain, twitching or tightness, burning to feel
- Tender areas and/or low pain tolerance
- Taxing fatigue
- Sleep problems or insomnia
- Brain fog, trouble focusing
- Feeling worried, depressed, or nervous
- Stomach pain, diarrhea, bloating, constipation, queasiness
- Having to urinate more often
- Dry mouth, eyes, and nose
- Headaches and sensitivity to light, sound, cold or heat
- Tingling or numbness in arms, legs, hands, feet, or face
While there is no cure for fibromyalgia, there are medications and treatments that can help you manage the symptoms. Learning how to avoid triggers that can cause flare-ups is essential. Massage therapy, relaxation, exercise, and other stress-reducing measures can be a great help.
Chronic Pain Syndrome vs Fibromyalgia
Both chronic pain syndrome (CRPS) and fibromyalgia can be chronic and long term medical conditions. They both are closely related to each other. However, CRPS may affect a person’s foot or arm in a very climactic way with changes in skin texture or color, intense pain, and localized swelling. While CRPS is typically more centered in a specific area and more of an obvious problem, the pain associated with FM tends to be more body-wide and less physically obvious.
The issue appears to be in the sympathetic nervous system dysfunction which applies to both FM and chronic fatigue syndrome and other similar diseases.
Is Fibromyalgia an Autoimmune Disease?
An autoimmune disease is when the body starts to attack itself due to the immune system accidentally identifying healthy cells in the body as dangerous germs. Because of this, the body generates autoantibodies that destroy healthy cells. These attacks create damage to tissues which typically results in inflammation.
Fibromyalgia is not an autoimmune disorder as it does not cause inflammation and there is no real evidence that shows FM causing damage to the tissues in the body.
What can make this confusing is that some autoimmune diseases have similar characteristics as fibromyalgia. And actually, it’s not unusual for a person to experience an autoimmune disease and FM pain together. For this reason, it can be baffling when considering if FM is an autoimmune disease.
The symptoms from FM, like limited mobility due to joint pain and less ability to focus during work or activities, can affect your daily life. One major symptom for people with FM is fibro fog or brain fog. This cognitive dysfunction disorder in the brain can be recognized by:
- Being more forgetful
- Having difficulty in conversations
- Being easily distracted
- Experiencing short-term memory loss
These symptoms can cause a person with fibromyalgia to lose the ability to work or lessen their work productivity. It affects their quality of life. Claiming disability can also become problematic when employment is not an option.
Complications from FM can make enjoying normal activities much less enjoyable due to the fatigue and pain that happens with this disorder. The widespread pain can limit a person’s ability to be active, and often individuals with FM withdraw from their usual social life and activities they once enjoyed. Flare-ups are triggered by isolation, depression, or stress, and then this cycle of pain and isolation keeps occurring.
The good news is there are hope and help for people who experience the effects of fibromyalgia. Treatments are available to assist in pain management and flare-ups. Sometimes treatment may help lessen pain gradually, and other times more quickly.
FM Treatments Include:
- Pain medication (used as directed to avoid possible addiction)
- Physical therapy
- Massage therapy
- Exercise (aerobic is best)
- Cognitive Behavioral therapy
- Alternative medicine like acupuncture, tai chi, and others
If you are having symptoms of FM or a similar disorder, it’s vital to see your physician for a thorough evaluation.
In most cases, individuals with FM who create and maintain a good plan for symptom management find their condition improves the most. Despite how severe your condition or symptoms are, there are treatment choices that can assist in helping you live a fulfilling and healthy life.
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