Understanding and Coping With Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a condition which causes chronic pain and tiredness. The pains are generally felt all over the body, with tenderness in local areas such as the neck, back and knees. Also known as FMS (Fibromyalgia Syndrome) the aches come from the muscles and fibrous tissue. There can be other side effects to fibromyalgia and it is not fully known how it is caused, but it is thought to be neurological. Signals may be sent to the central nervous system and mixed up to cause pain and sensitivity. This is due to low levels of serotonin which lowers the pain threshold. The pain comes over a sufferer in waves, but if the sensations carry on for three months or more it could be fibromyalgia. Diagnoses can take place once the patient has gone through a series of tests and questions. Running through a check list to point out where the painful areas are and how severe they are can help doctors to identify the problem.

As many of the symptoms are similar to other health complaints, it is important to narrow it down to FMS. This way it can be treated and sufferers are aware of a real medical condition which is not psychological. Tests are carried out by the doctor to define painful places in the body and where they are located. A routine laboratory test is good for screening illnesses relating to the condition such as thyroid problems, but cannot diagnose fibromyalgia itself. Pressure is applied to specific tender points where the pain is typically felt. Light pressure will cause enough discomfort and the pain will stay in those areas only rather than triggering to other muscles. Becoming diagnosed with fibromyalgia can offer relief as patients can finally get help and support.

There are other theories which relate to the cause of fibromyalgia, other than neurological. These include links with hormones, stress or trauma or genetics. Damage to the body tissue or viruses such as HIV and AIDs could be traumatic or damage the system which is an idea linked to the cause. Studies are ongoing to get to the root of the illness, as people who have other physical problems also suffer from fibromylagia. Arthritis, which is an inflammation of the joints appears in some people who also have FMS, so arthritis could possibly lead to the condition.

Having low levels of certain hormones are also noticed in FMS patients. These hormones include serotonin, which causes the tolerance to pain as well as regulating sleep pattens, moods and appetite. The hormone noradrenaline helps the body to react to stressful situations, and also links with those who suffer from stress with FMS. The other hormone which is low in patients is dopamine which helps to control mood and behaviour. This can make the pain difficult to cope with. A number of people with under active thyroid, which produces hormones to regulate the metabolism have had FMS.


The Feelings of Fibromyalgia

Widespread pain and feelings of sensitivity when being touched is the first symptom of FMS. Along with this, difficulty with sleeping and general fatigue are associated. The pains vary from person to person and can be changeable. Aches may be severe and sore over the body, or areas such as neck, head and hips could be painful and uncomfortable. Being stiff and finding it hard to balance can be a tell tale sign.

General signs may be tiredness, insomnia and restless leg syndrome which is an involuntary twitching of the legs usually at night time. But more worrying symptoms could be shortness of breath, anxiety and depression, cold or numb hands (Raynaud's Phenomenon) and dizzy spells.

Fibromyalgia tends to effect women more than men, commonly between the ages of 25 and 55. Women who are diagnosed can have painful periods, and all patients may have symptoms of bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, needing to urinate often or pins and needles. Although it is an exhausting illness to live with it is not life threatening. It may last for months but could subside eventually. High risk groups of people who may develop fibromyalgia tend to be women, those going through the menopause, people with brain injury or have poor physical health.


Dealing with the Pain

The pain and the side effects can be relieved once diagnoses has taken place. As each patient deals and reacts in different ways to treatment, some may work better than others. Painkillers may be prescribed to help with day to day living. Paracetamol or Ibuprofen may be not be effective, in which case stronger analgesics will be given. Doctors will not prescribe anything which is likely to be addictive because of taking them over a long length of time. If a patient has depression along with FMS, an antidepressant can also be given. Medicines for neurological diseases, such as Parkinsons disease may be suitable for some patients. These are anti-seizer drugs and have been found to reduce certain forms of pain.

Natural ways to cope with the medical syndrome can be trial and error. Looking at individuals, their lifestyles and side effects, suggestions would be made sensibly. Certain forms of exercise may relieve the aches and pains. The level and type of exercise would vary and could also make the stiffness feel worse to begin with, but the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. If a patient is able, aerobic exercise or swimming would help with the aches. Going out into the fresh air and walking, cycling or jogging could combat the linked depression also.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or CBT is a therapy offered to people suffering from extreme anxiety or depression. The therapy is a series of sessions to alter the way a patient thinks and deals with things. As a form of counselling, talking through problems with daily living and working out coping strategies, CBT could prove to be positive for some sufferers. This can be carried out with other alternative therapies to relax and relieve symptoms. Massage or acupuncture works for many. It could help to distract and aid relaxation to give respite from the constant pain, or help with sleep and mood. Other complimentary therapies can also provide comfort and relief.


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