Fibromyalgia is a condition that is characterized by chronic pain and heightened response to pressure. It affects two to four percent of people worldwide with higher incidences in women than in men with a ratio of 9:1. Fibromyalgia literally means muscle and connective tissue pain, but other symptoms may also arise.
The condition is now considered both a musculoskeletal disease and a neuropsychiatric condition because of the symptoms that affect both the musculoskeletal system as well as the brain. In fact, those who have fibromyalgia have shown differences in the structure and function of their brains as compared to healthy individuals.
Fibromyalgia is also described as a central sensitization syndrome because physiologic pain and impairments are thought to arise from neurobiological abnormalities.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
The most definitive symptoms of fibromyalgia include fatigue, widespread pain, and allodynia or a heightened painful response to pressure. There may also be muscle spasms, nerve pain, palpitations, weakness in the extremities, and even muscle twitching. The chronic pain and fatigue experienced may also affect the sleep leading to chronic sleep disturbances.
Patients suffering from fibromyalgia may also experience “fibrofog” or cognitive dysfunctions. These may include problems with memory (both short-term and long-term memory), impaired concentration, diminished attention span, impaired speech, cognitive overload, and inability to do multi-tasking
Fibromyalgia may also occur along with other co morbid conditions including:
- Myofascial pain syndrome
- Temporomandibular Joint Disorder
- Functional Bowel Disturbance
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Genitourinary problems
- Dermatological conditions
Patients may also suffer from symptomatic hypoglycemia as a result of co morbid conditions. Most patients suffer from widespread pain, but some may only have localized discomforts in the lower back, neck, shoulders and hips.
Treatments for Fibromyalgia
Since fibromyalgia has no definitive cause, there is also no definite treatment for the condition. However, treatments aim at supportive managements to reduce the symptoms of the patients. Managements for fibromyalgia consist of medication therapy, exercise, behavioral managements, and even alternative medicines.
Medications for fibromyalgia do not cure the diseases, but improves the symptoms of patients, both physical and cognitive symptoms. Medications for fibromyalgia include:
Antidepressants are used to significantly reduce fatigue, depression, and sleep disturbances. The most common antidepressants used are Tricycle antidepressants; however, more side-effects are experienced; thereby the rise of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors and Selective Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors, which have lesser side-effects.
Centrally acting analgesics such as Tramadol is also administered to reduce pain associated with fibromyalgia. Tramadol is an opioid analgesic that acts in the pain center of the brain. Tramadol plus paracetamol is preferred because of its effective and long lasting effects, and it is relatively safer than codeine and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Anticonvulsants or anti-seizure drugs are also given to fibromyalgia patients to reduce neuropathic pain. Common anticonvulsant drugs used are pregabalin (Lyrica) and gabapentin (Neurontin).
- Muscle relaxants
Muscle relaxants are also prescribed to reduce muscle spasm or twitching.
Physical Therapy and Exercise
Physical therapy and exercise are used to improve the functioning of the affected muscles and connective tissues. Those who undergo these treatments have improved sleep and physical functioning. Exercises may include cardiovascular exercises and even tai chi.
Behavioral therapy aims at improving the cognitive symptoms of fibromyalgia. Cognitive behavioral therapy acts by allowing the patient to assume proper behaviors through cognitive restructuring.
Patients suffering from fibromyalgia can also seek alternative therapies aside from the above managements. Alternative therapies may include acupuncture, acupressure and chiropractic care. Chiropractic care from your local Wesley Chapel chiropractor in particular improves nerve pathways in the spine to reduce physical limitations in fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia is not fatal or degenerative, but it may cause persistent symptoms that cause patients to have reduced quality of life. Treatments aim at improving the symptoms so patients can return to their optimum level of functioning.