When every muscle in your body seem to be shouting out in pain, with some tender areas that are unusually painful when touched, and you somehow feel tired as if devoid of all energy, and don't get enough sleep, you may be experiencing symptoms of Fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia is a medical condition characterized by widespread chronic pain in your muscles, ligaments and tendons, as well as fatigue and multiple tender points. Tender points are parts on your body where even a slight pressure may cause pain. They may be found on the neck, shoulders, back, hips, arms, and legs which may hurt when pressure is put on them. More women than men are afflicted with fibromyalgia, and it shows up in people of all ages. It used to be known by other names such as fibrositis, chronic muscle pain syndrome, psychogenic rheumatism and tension myalgias.
Signs and symptoms may vary depending on the the severity of the condition. In some cases, symptoms will probably never disappear completely. At any rate, it may be reassuring to know that fibromyalgia is not progressive or life-threatening. There are available treatments and self-care procedures which can improve this condition and one's general health.
Signs and Symptoms
Many factors can affect symptoms of fibromyalgia such as the weather, stress, physical activity or even the time of day. Common signs and symptoms include:
- Widespread pain - When pressure is applied in specific areas of your body, including the back of your head, upper back and neck, upper chest, elbows, hips and knees, pain accompanied by stiffness is often felt and may persists for several months.
- Fatigue and sleep disturbances - People who suffer from this condition often wake up tired and unrefreshed in spite of getting enough sleep. According to some studies, this sleep problem is the result of a sleep disorder in which deep sleep is frequently interrupted by bursts of brain activity similar to wakefulness, thus, missing the deep restorative stage of sleep. Nighttime muscle spasms in your legs and restless legs syndrome also may be associated with fibromyalgia.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) - Constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain and bloating associated with IBS are common in people with fibromyalgia.
- Headaches and facial pain - Symptoms of headaches and facial pain may be related to the tenderness or stiffness in the neck and shoulders.
- Heightened sensitivity - People with fibromyalgia are usually sensitive to odors, noises, bright lights and touch.
Other common signs and symptoms include:
- Numbness or tingling sensations in the hands and feet (paresthesia)
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mood changes
- Chest pain
- Dry eyes, skin and mouth
- Painful menstrual periods
There is no known cause of fibromyalgia. Recent findings focus around a theory called "central sensitizat ion" which states that people with fibromyalgia have a lower threshold for pain due to increased sensitivity of the brain to pain signals. This is why people with fibromyalgia seem to overreact when a slight pressure is applied on a certain part of the body which would not hurt if done to a person in normal condition. However, what initiates this process of central sensitization still baffle most research experts. Other theories cited as to the cause of fibromyalgia include:
- Sleep disturbances - Some researchers suggest that disturbed sleep patterns may be a cause rather than just a symptom of fibromyalgia.
- Injury - Accidents that cause injuries or trauma, particularly in the upper spinal region, which affect the central nervous system may trigger the development of fibromyalgia.
- Infection - Some researchers believe that a viral or bacterial infection may trigger fibromyalgia.
- Abnormalities of the autonomic (sympathetic) nervous system - When the sympat hetic nervous system fails to function normally during nighttime, it leads to fatigue, stiffness, dizziness and other signs and symptoms associated with the condition. The sympathetic nervous system is part of the autonomic nervous system which controls involuntary bodily functions such as heart rate, blood vessel contraction, sweating, salivary flow and intestinal movements.
- Changes in muscle metabolism - A decreased blood flow to muscles may contribute to decreased strength and fatigue. Such differences in metabolism and abnormalities in the hormonal substance which influences the activity of nerves may play a role.
Psychological stress and hormonal changes also may be possible causes of fibromyalgia.
Seek Medical Advice
Whenever you experience general aching or widespread pain that lasts several months and is accompanied by fatigue, it is time to see your doctor. Many of the symptoms of fibromyalgia mimic those of other diseases, such as low thyroid hormone p roduction (hypothyroidism), polymyalgia rheumatica, neuropathies, lupus, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Only your doctor can tell if one of these other conditions may be causing such symptoms.
Fibromyalgia isn't progressive and does not lead to other serious conditions or diseases. Nevertheless, it can cause pain, depression and lack of sleep. These problems can then interfere with your ability to function at home or on the job, or maintain close family or personal relationships, thus, require medical attention.