Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a medical condition with many misconceptions surrounding it. The main issue is that unaffected people think the symptoms are not real and merely made up. This is largely caused by the several diffuse symptoms associated with Fibromyalgia. The hard-to-define symptoms and lack of specific tests also make the condition hard to diagnose and it is believed a large number of people have Fibromyalgia but have not been diagnosed. Many of the symptoms can also vary in intensity depending on the current situation, further complicating the condition and its diagnosis. The most common symptoms are listed below.
- Muscle pain: The pain is more or less constant and affects several areas and body parts over prolonged periods of time. Typically the pain is dull and constant but can also seem burning or sharp.
- Heightened sensitivity: Being extra sensitive to pain but also smells and other sensory input. For instance, accidentally hurting yourself can feel painful for much longer than before the Fibromyalgia occurred or a light touch that would normally not be painful hurts.
- Fatigue: Feeling tired and exhausted even after sleeping for a long time or sleeping restlessly are common symptoms of Fibromyalgia. This can also express itself as sleep apnea (issues breathing during sleep) or restless leg syndrome.
- Memory and mood issues: Sometimes these types of symptoms are bundled together and called "fibro-fog". Trouble focusing and paying attention are common issues and often come together with mood disorders such as depression. When occurring together with the other symptoms these cognitive issues make the other symptoms harder to handle as well, creating the potential for a negative spiral by amplifying the pain and fatigue.
Another misconception about Fibromyalgia is that these symptoms are not severe enough to cause any significant harm. On the contrary, people suffering from Fibromyalgia can testify how it interferes with both their personal and professional lives. Mainly, this is because of lack of sleep and constant pain, but having to explain what fibromyalgia is and that it, in fact, actually exists causes more stress and further aggravates the condition.
Causes and groups at risk
The exact cause of Fibromyalgia is unknown. Ongoing research continues to reveal information as to what lies behind Fibromyalgia. The central nervous system and brain seem to process pain signals differently in Fibromyalgia that could cause the muscle pain. In relation to this, the molecules in the brain responsible for conveying messages are out of balance potentially causing the cognitive symptoms and mood issues. Taken together, these changes in the nerves and brain chemistry altogether affect not only how the body experiences pain but also sensitizes the system to more easily feel further pain and react to what would normally not be painful. Some evidence implicates inflammation as being part of the pathology as well, although it is not clear how.
Fibromyalgia can affect anyone but some groups appear to be more at risk for developing the condition than others. Women are afflicted more often than men and the condition is most likely to occur in people between 30-50 years of age. Fibromyalgia also seems to run in families. So it is also possible there is a genetic component that makes certain people predisposed. There are also some diseases and infections that either cause Fibromyalgia or make the symptoms worse. In many cases, a physical or emotional trauma may also cause symptoms. Injury, giving birth, or loosing someone close have all been suggested as causes of Fibromyalgia.
Management of Fibromyalgia pain
Sadly, and perhaps expectedly, no one knows the cause, and Fibromyalgia has no known cure. In addition, variation in location and degree of severity of symptoms differ between individuals making a general treatment procedure quite hard to create. Several ways of managing the symptoms, especially the pain, are listed below but it should be mentioned that people respond to them with varying success. Sometimes the best pain management method for one person does not work at all for another. A combination of methods to achieve the best effect may be required for some people as well. Just remember to consult with a doctor before mixing any pharmaceuticals or herbal medicine to stay clear of negative interactions.
10 ways of dealing with fibromyalgia pain
- Pharmaceuticals: Both over the counter and prescription drugs have been used to treat the symptoms of Fibromyalgia. The most common type of drug is probably a pain reliever. Antidepressants and anti-seizure drugs have also been successfully used to treat conditions associated with Fibromyalgia. Some prescription drugs have side effects that either can occur immediately or after prolonged use. As Fibromyalgia tends to be a life long condition with no known cure, using drugs for prolonged periods of time is often necessary. This may increase the risk of developing side effects, or a tolerance requiring an increased dosage to achieve the desired result. For this reason, many people in pain avoid becoming dependent on pharmaceuticals to manage their pain or discomfort and simply choose to live with it. It’s a tough decision to make.
- Physical therapy: Having an expert to help gain strength through physical therapy has been known to help some sufferers manage their Fibromyalgia pain. Physical therapy performed in water has become popular. Since the body is not under as much strain in water, pain associated with movement decreases. Warm water also helps loosen the muscle to further add to the feeling of well being.
- Exercise: This method is similar to physical therapy and allows you to set your own schedule, so that it does not interfere in normal daily activities such as work. The important thing to remember here is to start slow and progress to higher intensity and duration as you become stronger to not aggravate the situation. Slow and steady wins the race here.
- Stress reduction: Allow yourself time to relax and unwind. Decompressing at the end of a taxing situation or the end of the day may also help to decrease pain and other symptoms of Fibromyalgia. Many people experience worse pain during times of stress. Finding ways to decompress is important. Breathing and mindfulness exercises can help if you find it hard to let go.
- Sleep: A body rejuvenates and recharges during sleep. A bad night's sleep can make anything worse, pain in particular. Even if the pain itself is no worse than before, your patience and mood for managing the pain is severely compromised when not sleeping properly. Prioritizing a good night's sleep can really be worth your while, and honestly, if you are successful it is not that much of a sacrifice to sleep a bit longer, right? Try to lower noise and light levels such as television before going to bed. Avoid coffee and caffeinated drinks late in the evening so the quality of your sleep can improve. As mentioned before, exercise also has the potential side effect of improving your sleep, just do not do it too late in the evening or make it a strenuous workout.
- Acupuncture: This is an ancient Chinese treatment utilizing needles that are inserted in various places in the skin. This is believed to change the local blood flow in a beneficial way although studies looking at the effects on Fibromyalgia are not conclusive. Acupuncture is becoming more of a mainstream treatment. The side effects are minimal so seeking out treatment from a qualified acupuncturist could be worth a try.
- Yoga and Tai Chi: These ancient arts combine both relaxation and gentle exercise based on gentle movements and inner focus. The effects can be very calming and beneficial.
- Massage: Massage can help the muscles relax and ease pain. Deep tissue massage for some is wonderful; some people report feeling sore and almost bruised after certain types of massage. Not all massage techniques or masseuses are the same. Choose both the method and the masseuse that works best for you.
- Herbs: Long used as an alternative to pharmaceuticals, different herbs have been used to treat disease and symptoms for centuries. Although awareness of Fibromyalgia has been quite recent, pain management through herbs and their derivatives has been done for centuries and seemingly works for many people. Herbs are either used as supplements and taken as pills or used externally on the areas that hurt. Some herbs that have been successfully used for the treatment of Fibromyalgia are Eucalyptus oil, Grape seed extract and Jojoba. All these natural, herbal ingredients are found in products such as Clear Koala. They work by soothing and lowering inflammation, reducing pain, thereby improving sleep quality and stabilizing the mood. There are very few side effects to herbal remedies, and should one occur, it is typically mild. For example, some people have experienced a mild rash like skin irritation as a side effect. Usually lowering the amount of a product used, the frequency of use, or temporarily discontinuing altogether, eliminates the issue. Even people who tend to use typical pharmaceuticals can benefit from trying an herbal based treatment instead. Consult with a qualified professional if there is ever any question about effectiveness or interaction.
- Essential oils: Essential oils are a variation of the herbal treatment. They are concentrated liquids extracted from herbs or plants and are used for a multitude of purposes. One of them is as a topical treatment for relieving pain in muscles or joints. As mentioned above, Clear Koala is one such product and is used as a topical treatment for relieving pain in muscles and joints. It is worth mentioning that these oils are not intended to be ingested. Essential oils by themselves can be quite strong and should be diluted if used straight or blended with other beneficial oils, which are precisely selected and combined to produce a desired effect. Examples of oils used to treat Fibromyalgia are lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus, sandal wood, nutmeg, and ginger among others. Essential oils are commonly used for stress relieving, relaxing, and for their anti-inflammatory properties, all of which are helpful to manage pain and other symptoms associated with Fibromyalgia. To learn more about what causes inflammatory pain click here.
Fibromyalgia is primarily an undefined and individual condition and you may wish to test what works best for you. The information above is suggested merely as a good starting place. Some of these suggestions are easily done whereas others require medical or professional help. If you are interested in trying an herbal treatment or essential oil, Clear Koala produces a spray with natural ingredients that are known for their beneficial effects.