Persistent musculoskeletal pain coupled with impairments in cognition, mood, sleep, and exhaustion are the characteristics of the disease known as fibromyalgia. According to experts, fibromyalgia alters how your spinal cord and brain receive severe and nonpainful impulses, increasing pain signals.
The tenderness and pain frequently shift locations on the body and fluctuate. Exhaustion, poor sleep, memory loss, and mood swings are further symptoms. A thorough examination is necessary to make the diagnosis. Although men can also develop fibromyalgia, women are more likely to be diagnosed. This condition typically manifests in middle age, although it can also begin in youth or later in life.
Causes and Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Today, pain points are commonly associated with fibromyalgia. Some of these places coincide with the classic tender spots or trigger points, which are places of sensitivity. The pain locations do not contain all of these previously mentioned tenderness-related places.
A constant, dull discomfort characterizes the pain. A doctor might think you have fibromyalgia if you’ve had muscle and joint pain in four out of the five pain areas listed in the 2016 update to the fibromyalgia diagnosing requirements. As per diagnostic standards, fibromyalgia pain is multisite. Also, the method of diagnosis now focuses on orthopedic pain and how bad the pain is. Earlier, the fibromyalgia diagnosis centered on the duration of pain.
Other signs of fibromyalgia include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Long durations of nonrestorative sleep, or sleep that is not restorative.
- trouble focusing
- wet eyes
- skin infection
- low-abdominal pain
- Urinary bladder problems like interstitial cystitis
Several studies have found evidence that chronic neural stimulation alters the brains and spinal cords of people with fibromyalgia. This change results in the abnormally rapid activation of certain brain chemicals responsible for pain signals. Moreover, pain memory develops when the brain’s receptors become hypersensitive to painful and nonpainful stimuli.
These changes may be due to several factors:
Since fibromyalgia tends to run in families, there seems to be a strong genetic component to the risk of getting it.
Many disorders appear to induce or aggravate fibromyalgia.
3. Psychological or physical incidents
Fibromyalgia can sometimes be traced to a traumatic event like a motor vehicle collision. Moreover, ongoing mental trauma may contribute to the disease.
How is fibromyalgia diagnosed?
If you’ve been in constant pain throughout multiple body parts for three months or longer, your physician might identify you with fibromyalgia. When pain is described as “widespread,” you feel it on all sides of your body, above and below your waistline. They must determine after a rigorous inspection that any other problem does not cause discomfort. To identify fibromyalgia, medical experts often employ an elimination process.
It cannot be found via radiological tests. A medical expert may utilize imaging scans or different blood tests to determine other potential reasons for your severe pain. A blood test called the FM/a test can be used to identify fibromyalgia. The test’s creators insist it is conclusive, while other professionals are less convinced of its value. It identifies cytokine and chemokine proteins.
Understanding the Diagnostic Process
Despite numerous resources and data available, several medical professionals lack up-to-date knowledge of fibromyalgia. A doctor can incorrectly determine that your symptoms aren’t severe or attribute them to depression, stress, or anxiety after running various tests without making a diagnosis.
If a physician fails to take your symptoms seriously, you shouldn’t stop looking for help. Getting a correct diagnosis of fibromyalgia might still take, on average, more than two years. But you may receive a quicker diagnosis if you consult a rheumatologist or other specialist. Treatment options for illnesses that impact the muscles, tissues, and joints are available from rheumatologists.
Examining tender points
When you feel pain in a specific spot on your body that isn’t a joint, you’re likely experiencing a tender point. Pressing against them causes pain. People are sensitive to even the slightest of touches, such as a finger poking them, and may react by winching or flinching.
An individual with fibromyalgia usually has tender points on both sides of their body. They are above and below the waist, specifically the neck, chest, shoulders, hips, and knees. When the doctor taps on the tender spot with their fingernail becoming white, it should be painful in that precise location.
The following are some of the 18 tender points for fibromyalgia:
- Lower neck forward
- The breast’s upper edge
- elbow area of the arm
- the rear of the head, at the base of the skull
- the hip
- Greater outer buttock
- behind the neck
- the shoulders’ backs
In addition to other symptoms, a diagnosis of fibromyalgia is made based on widespread discomfort. Currently, neither a specialized diagnostic procedure nor an imaging test can diagnose fibromyalgia. Since the primary symptoms of pain and exhaustion are also present in various other diseases, doctors will first try to rule out those possibilities.
To identify fibromyalgia, physicians may use the following methods:
Observe your health background
Your physician might inquire about your pain’s position, severity, duration, and any excessive weariness or cognitive problems like disorientation or loss of memory.
In addition, they may inquire about your medical history because some people with fibromyalgia also have another condition at the same time.
Do a physical examination
Your doctor will examine your joints to determine whether or not you suffer from another ailment, such as rheumatoid arthritis, a form of lupus erythematosus.
While blood tests cannot confirm a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, they can help figure out other illnesses that present similarly. For instance, anemia, which can result in lethargy and weakness, can be diagnosed with a complete blood count (CBC).
Radiology examinations such as X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans are not used to identify fibromyalgia; however, they can help determine whether or not other illnesses are present.
X-rays, for instance, can aid in detecting bone abnormalities, while MRIs can assist in identifying soft tissue issues, such as herniated discs.
As fibromyalgia has no known medical cure, treatment is focused on managing the pain.
Psychotherapy, medication, self-management, regular exercise and movement therapies like yoga and tai chi will likely be part of the fibromyalgia treatment plan.
Cognitive behavioral therapy—which focuses on changing patients’ perspectives on pain—can be beneficial when combined with other treatments.
This is where you talk to a professional counselor, one-on-one or in a group setting. Counseling of all kinds may be advantageous for mental well-being.
Various medications are available to lessen the pain and make it easier to rest. You may need to take multiple medications at once.
Rheumatologists are physicians who specialize in arthritis and associated bone, joint, and muscle illnesses. Fibromyalgia is not arthritis, nor does it harm the bones, joints, or muscles. Still, rheumatologists commonly treat it because the signs resemble those associated with arthritis.
One of the essential components of treatment for fibromyalgia is physical activity. Although pain and exhaustion may make exercise challenging, you must remain physically energetic.
According to research, frequent exercise—even at a low intensity—is one of the most effective strategies for managing fibromyalgia. Moreover, exercise can enhance sleep quality and reduce anxiety and despair.
Although obtaining a fibromyalgia diagnosis can be difficult and time-consuming, it is essential for treating the condition well. It’s crucial to see a fibromyalgia specialist if you feel you have it. With the help of a well-thought-out therapy program, many people with fibromyalgia can control their symptoms and live a better life overall.