What Is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a condition that is marked by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and sleep problems that affect your entire well-being. Over 10 million Americans, approximately 2% – 4% of the adult population, suffer from this debilitating condition. Fibromyalgia affects women more than men at a ratio of 8 women to 2 men.
The condition includes widespread pain in all four quadrants of your body, especially in 18 specific tender points that are typical of the condition. Constant, debilitating fatigue with sleep disturbances, and sleep that is not restorative, also known as fibro fog, contributes to the pain and the cognitive difficulties that accompany fibromyalgia.
Diagnosis of Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a highly misunderstood condition and is diagnosed through an elimination process, making it very likely that you may be suffering from fibromyalgia for some time without knowing what is causing your pain.
It often co-exists with other painful and chronic conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), migraines and headaches, and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) – and is often associated with other autoimmune diseases such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. This only makes diagnosis more difficult and can make treatment and self-care very hard, as well.
Diagnosis of fibromyalgia involves the presence of widespread pain for more than three months along with blood tests to rule out other conditions that may cause pain, such as thyroid disorders. When you combine the difficulties in diagnosis, treatment, and the stress of chronic, widespread pain that comes and goes without rhyme or reason, you can begin to understand how debilitating fibromyalgia can become.
Treatment of Fibromyalgia
Pain relievers, antidepressants, and anti-seizure medications are often prescribed to help in managing the pain of fibromyalgia. Treatment of fibromyalgia is usually focused on managing the pain, as the causes of this condition are not fully understood. In addition to medications, many find that alternative therapies like acupuncture and massage therapy, and gentle stretching exercises like yoga or tai chi, are helpful in managing the pain as well as the stress that comes from living with a chronic pain condition. Aerobic exercise has also been shown to help significantly reduce the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
You Are Not Alone
The common misunderstandings that fibromyalgia sufferers face is what made it such an important event when Lady Gaga recently came out publicly and announced that she is facing this debilitating condition. So many fibromyalgia sufferers feel they must suffer in silence as they are often not believed about their symptoms and are thought to be lazy and “faking it.”
It is critical to find support if you are dealing with fibromyalgia, as family and friends often do not fully understand what you may be facing. Fibromyalgia has no visible symptoms, and is very misunderstood.
When those who are facing fibromyalgia share their stories, others can see that they are not alone. By sharing your experience, others can learn how to take care of themselves and manage the pain and fatigue that accompanies fibromyalgia.
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