Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder marked by widespread,
unexplained pain in the muscles and joints. It’s not a disease. It’s a syndrome,
which is a collection of symptoms that occur together. Although many people
think of it as an arthritic condition due to the symptoms, it’s not a type of
The condition is often associated with tender points, which are termed “trigger
points.” These are places on the body where even light pressure causes
pain. According to standards published by the American College of Rheumatology
in 1990, a person can be diagnosed with fibromyalgia if they have widespread
pain and tenderness in at least 11 of the known 18 trigger points. Common trigger points include:
- the back of the head
- tops of shoulders
- upper chest
- outer elbows
A consistent dull ache through the entire body is also
common. People with this disorder may also have:
- trouble sleeping
Although the causes are unclear, fibromyalgia flare-ups
can be the result of stress, physical trauma, or an apparently unrelated
systemic illness like the flu. Symptoms may be a result of the brain and nerves
misinterpreting or overreacting to normal pain signals. This could be possibly
due to an imbalance in brain chemicals.
to the National Institute of Arthritis and
Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), fibromyalgia affects around 5 million
Americans. Although it occurs in both men and women, women account for between
80 and 90 percent of all cases.
to the Mayo Clinic,
people with a family history of the syndrome are more likely to develop it
themselves. Also, those with a rheumatic disease like lupus or rheumatoid
arthritis are at a greater risk.
Because its symptoms are somewhat subjective and don’t
have a clear known cause, fibromyalgia is often misdiagnosed as another
disease. This plays a role in some doctors questioning the syndrome altogether.
Although it is more widely accepted in medical circles than in the past, there
are some doctors and researchers who don’t consider fibromyalgia a legitimate condition. According to
the Mayo Clinic,
this can increase the chances that someone with the condition will suffer from
depression as they struggle with acceptance for their painful symptoms.
Treatment of fibromyalgia most often focuses on
reducing flare-ups to ease symptoms. This is a long-term condition. Symptoms
can be treated but the syndrome never goes away. Pain medication and muscle
relaxers can ease discomfort. Physical
therapy, massage, and regular exercise may also reduce pain and help relieve
Things like behavioral therapy can reduce stress
that triggers symptoms and depression that often goes with this disorder. A
better diet and sleep habits can also lessen the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Patients can find help through their doctor, but also through support groups across
Many people are able to ease the symptoms of this
syndrome. However, a stressful event or trauma could bring them rushing back at