If you have unexplainable pain all over your body and have trouble sleeping, you may be experiencing the first warning signs of a condition known as fibromyalgia. Certain parts of your body may be more tender than others, and you’re likely more susceptible to pain than someone without the condition.
What to Know About Fibromyalgia?
According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, fibromyalgia affects millions of people, including adults and children. It’s more common in women than men, with the instances of fibromyalgia in America at 6.4% (7.7% in women and 4.9% in men). If you’re between 20 and 55 years old, most women’s primary source of common, musculoskeletal discomfort is fibromyalgia. Many studies indicate that adolescents get it as frequently as adults. But many pain symptoms can be managed.
Know the Symptoms
People with fibromyalgia report common symptoms, including:
- Pain and stiffness throughout their body
- Fatigue and weariness
- Mental health issues
- Trouble sleeping
- Problems with concentration, memory, and thinking
- Severe headaches, which may include migraines
- Tingling or numbness in the extremities
- If you have discomfort in your face or jaw, you may also have a disorder of the jaw called temporomandibular joint syndrome
- You could have digestive troubles, like stomach pain, bloating, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome
What Are The Causes?
Repeated nerve stimulation may be a cause of fibromyalgia, as well as chemical imbalances in the brain. In some people, the brain’s pain receptors develop a kind of memory for pain and become sensitized – and over-react as a result. But there are other possible causes, too:
- Genetics and family history. Certain genetics could make you more susceptible to getting fibromyalgia.
- Other illnesses.
- Emotional or physical trauma, like a broken marriage or car accident.
What Are The Risk Factors?
There are certain risk factors that could increase your chances of developing fibromyalgia. Women get it more often than men, but what about other risk factors? They may include:
- Your age. Fibromyalgia most often develops during middle age, but the chances only increase as you get older.
- Instances of lupus or rheumatoid arthritis mean that you’re more likely to get fibromyalgia.
- Repetitive injuries from stress on joints and bones. The most common types are tendinitis and bursitis.
- Obesity may also predispose someone to develop fibromyalgia.
You’re Not Alone
There are many challenges when dealing with pain from fibromyalgia, but you’re not alone. There are numerous resources to help manage the pain, which could lead to a relatively active and pain-free lifestyle. Your healthcare provider may be able to offer specific resources, but the American College of Rheumatology has compiled a resource list as a starting point:
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
- National Fibromyalgia Association
- National Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Association
- National Fibromyalgia Partnership, Inc.
- The American Fibromyalgia Syndrome Association, Inc.
How Is It Diagnosed?
To get treated for fibromyalgia, you must first get diagnosed. This involves a thorough examination by a healthcare provider who, in the past, would look at 18 specific points on your body to determine pain levels when each one was pressed firmly. But recent guidelines from the American College of Rheumatology have done away with that practice. Now, it’s a matter of recognizing widespread pain throughout the body for three or more months.
To meet the criteria for diagnosis, your healthcare provider will look for pain in four or more of these areas:
- Left upper area (arm, jaw, or shoulder)
- Right upper area (arm, jaw, or shoulder)
- Left lower area (buttock, hip, or leg)
- Right lower area (buttock, hip, or leg)
- Axial region, including your neck, back, chest, or abdomen
If your healthcare provider determines a medical reason for your pain, you can be treated accordingly. But in the case of non-specific pain, you may be referred to a mental health professional for a psychiatric evaluation.
Rheumatologists and other healthcare professionals can offer treatment options to manage fibromyalgia pain. You may be referred to ketamine therapy, but other ways to reduce pain may be realized through various kinds of psychotherapy, medicine, and self-help methods, like physical exercise or movement therapies, including yoga or Tai Chi. Depending on your mental health, you may be prescribed antidepressants or other medication.
If you have pain all over your body and it has begun affecting your quality of life, don’t wait until it becomes all-consuming. A healthcare professional is best equipped to make an accurate diagnosis and offer customized treatment plans based on your symptoms, pain, and overall health.