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Expert’s opinion: What is fibromyalgia?

By Esther Muchene | Tuesday, Apr 11th 2017 at 10:02

Fibromyalgia is a long-term or chronic disorder. It's associated with widespread pain in the muscles and bones, areas of tenderness and general fatigue.

Symptoms like these are considered subjective meaning they can't be determined or measured by tests. Because its symptoms are subjective and there isn't a clear known cause, fibromyalgia is often misdiagnosed.

Symptoms

Fibromyalgia is often associated with areas of tenderness called trigger points or tender points. Doctors use a combination of other consistent symptoms and possibly some medical tests to help them determine a cause.

Symptoms include fatigue, trouble sleeping, sleeping for long periods of time without feeling rested, headaches, depression, anxiety, inability to focus or difficulty paying attention, pain or dull aching in the lower abdomen.

Symptoms may be as a result of the brain and nerves misinterpreting or overreacting to normal pain signals. This may be due to a chemical imbalance in the brain.

Trigger points

Common trigger points include back of the head, tops of shoulders, upper chest, hips, knees and outer elbows. However, these are no longer the focus of diagnosis for fibromyalgia.

Instead, doctors may make a diagnosis if you report widespread pain for more than three months with no diagnosable medical condition that can explain away the pain.

Causes

Medical researchers and doctors don't know what causes fibromyalgia. However thanks to decades of research, they're close to understanding factors that may work together to cause it.

These include infections, genetics, trauma or stress. Another theory suggests that the nerves and receptors in the body become more sensitive to stimulation.

That means they may overreact to pain signals and cause unnecessary or exaggerated pain.

Treatment

There is no cure and the goal of fibromyalgia treatment is to manage pain and improve quality of life. This is often accomplished through a two-pronged approach of self-care and medication. Common medications for fibromyalgia include pain relievers, anti-depressants and anti-seizure drugs.

Other alternative treatment may include physical therapy, acupuncture, meditation, yoga, regular exercise, getting enough sleep at night, massage therapy and a balanced healthy diet.

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