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Fibromyalgia

A chronic disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and tenderness in localized areas.

Fibromyalgia is pain that is felt in the muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints throughout the entire body. Researchers think it may be the result of overactive pain receptors in the brain. Genetics may play a role in developing the condition, since fibromyalgia has been known to run in families. It also affects more women than men.

Symptoms

Unlike osteoarthritis which only impacts the joints, fibromyalgia pain is felt throughout the entire body. For some patients, it is deep and sharp; for others, it may be dull or aching. Muscles and tissues around the joints are tender and painful when touched or pressed.

In addition to pervasive pain that lasts for months, other symptoms of fibromyalgia include:

  • Fatigue and disrupted sleep
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Headaches, including migraines
  • Cognitive problems, such as poor concentration and memory

Diagnosis

  • There is no blood test for fibromyalgia, but other blood work may be ordered to rule out other conditions.
  • A complete physical history will be taken, including history of infections, since some illnesses may trigger fibromyalgia. Information on previous physical or emotional trauma, such as an accident or injury, is also important since that may trigger fibromyalgia.
  • Your National Spine & Pain Center physician will also conduct a thorough physical exam, including palpating your muscles and tender points to identify your pain trigger points.

The type and extent of treatment often depends on factors such as your age, activity level, overall health and severity of the condition.

Treatments

  • Medications such as over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatories are a good place to start. Prescription, non-narcotic pain relievers may be helpful, as may antidepressants that can address the anxiety and fatigue that can come with fibromyalgia. In addition, several new targeted medications for treating fibromyalgia are now available.
  • Physical Therapy: Physical therapy, including aqua therapy, may help reduce inflammation and muscle tightness and improve strength and flexibility.
  • Alternative Therapies: Some patients have found relief through acupuncture, massage therapy, yoga and tai chi.
  • Counseling: Because fibromyalgia can lead to depression, mental health counseling can be helpful in developing coping skills for dealing with the pain and anxiety that accompanies fibromyalgia.

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