What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia (FM) is a chronic pain syndrome that amplifies pain sensations. People with fibromyalgia experience symptoms of widespread body pain, fatigue and stiffness.
Most people with fibromyalgia find their symptoms are worse in the morning. Symptoms can be aggravated by stress, physical activity and lack of sleep.
While the exact causes of fibromyalgia aren’t fully understood by health experts, they believe that it is a neurologic problem related to how the body transmits and interprets pain signals to the brain.
Dr. Pamela Squire, MD, CCFP, DCAPM, ISAM, CPE, discusses What is Fibromyalgia.
Dr. André Bélanger MD, CFCP, discute Fibromyalgie.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Stiffness and Pain
While no patients experience the same fibromyalgia symptoms, there are some common ones, including:
Pain and stiffness throughout the entire body. While pain can be severe, there is no tissue damage as there is nothing actually wrong with the muscles or joints.
Most people who have fibromyalgia have episodes of fatigue, often severe.
People who have fibromyalgia may have depression, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, remembering and sleeping and other emotional changes.
Some patients experience migraines, headaches, restless legs syndrome, irritable bowel and irritable bladder.
Diagnosis of Fibromyalgia
To diagnose fibromyalgia, a physician will use the process of elimination to rule out other diseases. Because fibromyalgia doesn’t damage tissues, it can be challenging to diagnose.
Your physician will take a complete medical history, perform a physical exam and order blood tests to confirm the diagnosis.
Causes of Fibromyalgia
While the exact cause isn’t known, fibromyalgia is thought to happen because the brain and nerves amplify pain signals in the joints and muscles a local physiotherapist might help..
Experts believe that fibromyalgia is problem caused by the body sending painful signals, with the nerves and brain not able to turn off these signals as they normally would. This abnormal processing of pain signals may be triggered by a prior injury or an autoimmune/viral illness.
If your brain receives pain signals over a long period of time, the nerves called descending inhibitors die off. These nerves normally shut off pain signals, but now they can reach the brain in a limitless way.
As a result, the brain becomes so sensitized to pain that even light touches can feel incredibly painful.
Who Gets Fibromyalgia?
Women are more often affected by fibromyalgia than men, and it’s most common in middle-aged people. For most patients, fibromyalgia occurs following an emotional or physical injury.
Treatments for Fibromyalgia
Most fibromyalgia treatments work to relieve specific symptoms. Fibromyalgia treatments include:
Some days, you may feel better, while other days you feel extremely fatigued and run down. People tend to overdo it on their good days, which can lead to a fibromyalgia flare.
By moderating activity, people may feel consistently better, rather than experiencing such drastic physical ups and downs.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be helpful for people with fibromyalgia. Sometimes called talk therapy, it involves teaching patients how to cope with the pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia.
A healthy fitness routine is important if you have fibromyalgia. It’s essential to start slowly and work with your doctor or physiotherapist to ensure you don’t strain yourself. Some examples of exercises that are good for fibromyalgia include walking, swimming and cycling.
Improved Sleep Hygience
By getting enough sleep and practicing healthy sleep hygiene, you may find your pain and fatigue is reduced.
Like with many conditions, having a healthy lifestyle makes a huge difference. For patients with fibromyalgia, reducing stress, getting proper nutrition and maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce pain and improve quality of life.
It’s important for patients with fibromyalgia to understand that no medication can cure the disease. However, the right medications can help to decrease pain and stiffness. Here are some common medications for fibromyalgia:
One of the most commonly used medications for fibromyalgia is amitriptyline. It belongs to a family of medications called tricyclic antidepressants. Your rheumatologist will prescribe you the lowest dose possible in order to reduce grogginess.
Analgesics (Pain Relievers)
These include over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen or other anti-inflammatory drugs. If a patient requires a stronger medication, they may benefit from short acting opiates such as codeine or Tylenol 3. You must be careful when taking these narcotics as it’s easy to become dependent on them.
Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors
These drugs may reduce fibromyalgia pain, and include Cymbalta (duloxetine) and the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor known as Prozac (fluoxetine).
Some patients find relief from stifness and pain with over-the-counter muscle relaxants.
Lyrica and Gabapentin
These medications work by blunting pain signals in the spinal cord.