What is Fibromyalgia? and Fibromyalgia Symptoms

What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibro (Latin for Fibrous TissueMyo (Greek for muscleAlgeria (Greek for pain

Fibromyalgia is a symptom complex that medical professionals are still working on the mysteries of to this day. It is a chronic illness mainly presented through widespread chronic pain, fatigue, and heightened reaction to physical pressure—regular being more than three ongoing months of consistency.

Fibromyalgia most commonly affects women between the ages of 25-55 years. However, anyone can be affected. Diagnosis is a long and challenging process that can bring about a lot of stress. A cure has not yet been discovered. However, treatment is prescribed to manage the symptoms present.

Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

Can include but not limited to:

  • Widespread muscle pain
  • Morning stiffness of joints
  • Tender to touch (extra sensitive to 18 Trigger Points as pictured)
  • Poor quality sleep (getting to, staying, or waking up) Some experience NREM (non-rapid eye movement) preventing deep sleep.
  • Brain fog and loss of simple thought processes
  • Fibromyalgia Tender (Trigger) Points
  • Fatigue
  • Restless legs
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vision problems
  • Jaw pain
  • Migraines or tension headaches
  • Numbness and tingling of limbs
  • Irritable bowels or bladder
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Increased menstrual pain in women

Causes and Risk Factors

Although the cause of Fibromyalgia is not officially known, multiple common risk factors are said to contribute. Risk factors are characteristics that are said to increase the chances of developing Fibromyalgia. 

  • Gender – much more common in females. Although statistics vary, it is said between 75-90% diagnosed are women.
  • Genetics – It is known to be hereditary (As a sidebar, my mother Lorraine also has FM)
  • Environment
  • Trauma
  • Excess stress
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Depression or Anxiety (unknown if these are a cause or result of Fibromyalgia.)
  • Diseases and other illnesses

Although it must be noted that not everyone with Fibromyalgia has these traits – it is in the early stages of research still. Below is a list of possible risk factors identified by medical professionals.

Diagnosing Fibromyalgia

The Diagnosis of Fibromyalgia is a long, often grueling process, initially carried out by a General Practitioner. I’ve briefly summed up a portion of the process below, but do not let the small paragraph fool you. This condition can take many years before someone puts the pieces together and gives a diagnosis.

The process begins by going over current symptoms that are currently being experienced. Including but not limited to sleep patterns, brain fog, widespread pain, and pressure sensitivity. Symptoms must have been ongoing for a minimum of three months and remaining at a relatively constant level. Following that, the GP may test the 18 trigger points (diagram above) as heightened pain in at least 11 of these spots is suggested to diagnose Fibromyalgia. This method is used much less often now as it’s become apparent that not everyone who has Fibromyalgia will have heightened pain on these trigger points.

Along with the trigger test, complete sets of blood tests are taken and tested thoroughly. These are used to rule out any other possibilities, such as vitamin deficiency or auto-immune diseases. Inflammatory markers will not show as a result of a blood test for someone with solely Fibromyalgia. However, if inflammatory markers are present, that is not to say the patient doesn’t have Fibro and another underlying condition.

At any point, the GP may refer the patient to a pain specialist. A specialist has the advantage of offering expertise if the GP is not confident with their knowledge of Fibromyalgia, a treatment plan including drug referrals, and group pain management courses.

Treatment of Fibromyalgia

There is no cure for Fibromyalgia. However, it is treated by managing the symptoms experienced.

Symptom management strategies are as follows:

  • Common pain relief medication
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Anti-epileptic medication
  • Low dose tricyclic antidepressants
  • Gentle exercise
  • Acupuncture
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Osteo/ Chiro/ Physiotherapy
  • Diet changes
  • Vitamin D supplements
  • Meditation

This is done through a variety of ways of which we will go further into detail about later.