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Fibromyalgia
(Fibromyositis; Fibrositis)

Definition:
Fibromyalgia is a complex, chronic, and disabling disorder that causes widespread pain and stiffness in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments, along with unrefreshing sleep and fatigue.

Causes:
The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown.

The following conditions are commonly associated with fibromyalgia:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Physical or mental stress
  • Viral infection
  • Inadequate sleep
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Eating disorders
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Irritable bladder
  • Severe menstrual cramps
  • Premenstrual syndrome
  • Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
  • Tempromandibular joint disease (TMJ)
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Raynaud's disease, which impairs blood flow to the hands and feet
  • Tension headaches
  • Migraine headaches
  • Skin complaints (itchy, dry or blotchy skin)
  • Lightheadedness or balance problems
Risk Factors:
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.
  • Sex: female
  • Age: 20–60 years old
  • Physical or mental stress
  • Physical trauma (i.e., accident, injury, or severe illness)
Symptoms:
Symptoms vary from person to person.

Common symptoms include:

  • Generalized fatigue or tiredness
  • Reduced physical endurance
  • Generalized aches and pains of muscles, tendons and ligaments
  • Muscle tightening or spasms
  • Pain in specific areas of the body, especially:
    • Neck
    • Shoulders
    • Chest
    • Back (upper and lower)
    • Hips and thighs
  • Insomnia or poor sleep
  • Sensations of numbness or swelling (although swelling is not actually present)
  • Chronic headaches, including migraines
  • Morning stiffness, worst on first arising

Factors that may trigger or worsen symptoms include:

  • Weather changes, especially cold, damp weather
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Overexertion
  • Medical illness
  • Surgery
Diagnosis:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a thorough physical exam. There are no specific tests for fibromyalgia.

The doctor will look for the following signs to determine if you have fibromyalgia:

  • Widespread pain lasting three months or longer
  • Tenderness (on physical exam) in at least 11 of 18 specific areas of the body
Treatment:
The goal of fibromyalgia treatment is to relieve or control the symptoms. Treatments include:

Medication
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory, acetaminophen, or other analgesic drugs, to reduce pain
  • Cortisone or lidocaine injections into specific areas of tenderness or pain
  • Low dose antidepressants to help relax muscles, decrease pain, and improve sleep
Physical Therapies
  • Instruction and guidance in gentle, low-impact exercise and stretching
  • Application of heat to painful areas
  • Massage
  • Relaxation training
  • Trigger point therapy
  • Biofeedback
Lifestyle Changes
  • Eating a healthful diet
  • Learning to cope with physical and mental stress
  • Regular, moderate, low impact exercise with your doctor's approval. Try gentle exercise that does not strain painful areas, such as:
    • Walking
    • Biking
    • Swimming, preferably in warmer water
  • Regular stretching exercises
  • Maintaining a regular sleep schedule
Prevention:
There are no definite guidelines for preventing fibromyalgia because the cause is not known.
 
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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