Blue Flower

FIBROMYALGIA: WHAT IS IT?

Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) is a pain amplification syndrome brought on by abnormal interactions among hormones, the immune system, neurotransmitters, and the autonomic nervous system.  It is known as a syndrome because it is a collection of symptoms rather than a specific disease process that is well understood.

Widespread pain and profound fatigue characterize FMS.  The pain, which is described as head-to-toe, is felt as aching, burning, shooting, throbbing, and/or stabbing. It may also change location and may become more severe in parts of the body that are used the most.  In some people the pain can be intense enough to interfere with daily tasks, while in others it means no more than mild discomfort. It does not go away on its own although there may be periods of remission.

The fatigue ranges from mild to total, overwhelming exhaustion.  It may come and go and people can suddenly feel drained of all energy…as if their batteries just went dead.

FMS is recognized by the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, the American College of Rheumatology, the Arthritis Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health, and the World Health Organization.

FMS has a 75% overlap of symptoms with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, also called Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction (CFIDS), or Myalgic Encephalopathy (ME). Many experts believe these may be variations of the same illness.

HOW COMMON IS FMS?

FMS is a common illness, affecting 6 to 12 million Americans.  Its name comes from “fibro” for fibrous tissues such as tendons and ligaments, “my” indicating muscles, and “algia” meaning pain.  It is …

· As common as rheumatoid arthritis, and can be even more painful and equally disabling

· Seen more in women than men

· A major reason for visits to rheumatologists

WHAT CAUSES FMS?

The actual cause(s) of FMS has not yet been found but research has begun to produce some insights into this puzzling condition.  It is now known that…

· FMS may develop after some sort of trauma (physical or emotional) or infection

· Those with FMS lack restful, restorative sleep

· FMS is a disorder of neurotransmitters…

· high levels of substance P, a pain transmitter

· low levels of serotonin that affects sleep, modulates pain and immune function

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS AND ASSOCIATED CONDITIONS* OF FMS?

· While symptoms vary from person to person, both in location and severity, some of the more common are…

· Neurological

· Numbness or tingling sensations (paresthesia)

· Headaches (tension or migraine)

· Cognitive (difficulty with concentration and short-term memory)

· “Fibro-fog”

· Impaired coordination

· Skin changes (itching, rashes, sensitivities)

· Sensory

· Low frequency hearing loss

· Dizziness, vertigo

· Blurred vision, dry eyes & mouth

· Cardio-Pulmonary

· Mitral-valve prolapse*

· Neurally mediated hypotension* (NMH)

· Heart palpitations

· Non-cardiac chest pain that may simulate cardiac disorder

· Genitourinary

· Painful menstruation and PMS

· Increased urinary frequency & urgency

· Increased incidence of interstitial cystitis*

· Vulvar vestibulitis (vulvodynia)

Miscellaneous

· Widespread pain and muscle stiffness

· Sleep disorders (insomnia, unrefreshed sleep)*

· Myofascial Pain Syndrome (MPS)* - 75% of those with FMS also have MPS

· Irritable Bowel Syndrome*

· Heartburn* esophageal reflux

· Plantar arch or heel pain

· Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)*

· Joint hypermobility

Increased Sensitivities to:

· Weather changes

· Food

· Noise, odors, smoke

· Medications

· Cold, drafts, heat

· Light

· Environment

· Stress

HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE FMS?

Fibromyalgia is  difficult  to  diagnose, as  there are  no   standard   blood  tests  or  x-rays  that diagnose it, and  many  of  its symptoms are also found in other conditions.  There are now widely accepted   requirements  for  the  diagnoses  of

· FMS based on…

· Review of complete medical history

· Widespread pain for more than three months in all parts of the body

· Pain in 11 of 18 specified tender point sites when they are pressed

HOW IS FMS TREATED?

At the present time, treatment for FMS targets treating the symptoms, not the condition.

· Use of tricyclic anti-depressants to improve sleep

· Medications, such as pain relievers and anti-inflammatories to reduce pain

· Learning to pace yourself & adopt to a changed lifestyle

· Heat, ice, moderate exercise; rest relaxation, meditation, stress reduction

· Alternative/complementary therapies such as massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, herbal supplements, homeopathic remedies, and others