Fibromyalgia is a painful condition that involves muscles, tendons, and joints. It may affect the muscle areas of the low back, neck, shoulder, chest, arms, hips, and thighs. It is a chronic problem that can come and go for years. Symptoms may be brought on by a change in the weather, being in cold or damp places, stress, hormone changes, or in response to activity. It is a common condition that occurs in both men and women in all age groups, including children. It most often affects women ages 20 to 50.
FREQUENT SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Pain and aches in the muscles, often described as "hurting all over all the time."
Fatigue and sleep problems.
Areas of the body are tender to the touch (tender points). Common tender points are the front of the knees, the elbows, the hip joints, and around the neck.
Feeling stiffness in mornings; having swollen joints, and the hands and feet may be numb and tingly.
Headache, anxiety, and depression.
Other symptoms may also occur, such as digestion, bowel, and urinary problems; vision changes; emotional or mental changes; allergies; dry eyes and mouth; and painful menstrual periods.
The cause is unknown and there are many theories. Research is ongoing into finding possible causes.
RISK INCREASES WITH
Females ages 20 to 50.
Having a relative with the condition. It appears to run in families.
There are no steps that will prevent fibromyalgia.
The symptoms vary and may improve on their own or can be helped with treatment. The condition does not lead to more serious illness, nor is it life-threatening.
Stress or other problems may cause the pain symptoms to worsen or flare up, usually only for a short time.
DIAGNOSIS & TREATMENT
There is no special test to diagnose fibromyalgia. Your health care provider will do a physical exam, check the tender points in your body, and ask about all the symptoms you have. These same symptoms occur in other health problems. Tests such as blood work and X-rays may be done to be sure of the diagnosis.
There is no cure for fibromyalgia. Taking steps to reduce the symptoms is the main goal.
Treatment steps vary. They may include prescribed medications and injections, exercise, physical therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic care, or massage therapy. Counseling can help reduce stress and anxiety and promote well-being.
Make changes in your life that may be needed to help you cope day-to-day. Maintain your social life and contact with friends.
Join a local support group so you can talk with others about self-help ideas that work.
Keep your activity levels about the same each day.
Get as much sleep as you need.
To learn more: National Fibromyalgia Association, 2200 N. Glassell St., Suite A, Orange, CA 92865; (714) 921-0150; website: www.fmaware.org.
For minor pain, use over-the-counter drugs such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Drugs may be prescribed for symptoms of pain, depression, anxiety, and sleep problems. They will take a few weeks to work and side effects are common.
A daily exercise program is important. It will improve your fitness level, help reduce muscle pain, and let you sleep better. Talk to your health care provider about an exercise routine that will suit your needs.
Eat a healthy diet. Your health care provider may help you plan your diet. Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
NOTIFY OUR OFFICE IF
You or a family member has some of the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Symptoms continue or worsen despite treatment.
New symptoms develop. Drugs used in treatment may cause side effects.