Pain is never something anyone ever wants to get used to, as evident by how much pain killers is consumed around the globe today, and many times for the slightest of pains too. However, some people have been confined to a lifestyle of constant pain all over their body, in a condition known as fibromyalgia.
Such pain should never have to become a norm, and I understand this perfectly, which is why I will educate you on what you need to know about fibromyalgia, it’s symptoms, causes, treatment options, complications, and how to live with it.
What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic long-term condition that is characterized by widespread pain and fatigue all over the body. It is also called fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) because this condition is more of a collection of different symptoms rather than just one specific illness. This implies that people with fibromyalgia typically have other accompanying symptoms alongside the pain.
Many times, when people hear long-term pain, they think about arthritis. Fibromyalgia, like arthritis, is a very common illness in the UK today. However, the two conditions are not the same. The major difference between the two is that arthritis affects the joints, while fibromyalgia affects muscles and fibrous tissues.
This condition can affect anybody, but, on average, women are close to seven times more likely to be affected by the condition. It often begins between ages thirty and fifty, though children and older adults can also come down with the condition. Estimates suggest that about one in twenty people have fibromyalgia.
The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but scientists believe it has something to do with changes in the way the central nervous system handles pain signals around the body. There is also a link to poor sleep quality and genetics.
In most people, a traumatic event serves as a trigger for the condition. This means that the condition may appear after an accident, the death of a loved one, childbirth, an infection, or an operation.
Symptoms of fibromyalgia
The symptoms of fibromyalgia vary with people. These symptoms may be mild in some and chronic in others. Certain factors, like stress levels, environmental changes, and physical activity, may also make the symptoms better or worse in individuals. Below are the primary symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Pain is the major marker of fibromyalgia. And not just any type of pain now, widespread pain. The pain may present as burning, aching, or stabbing all around the body. The most affected areas, or ‘tender points,’ are commonly the neck and back regions.
2. Fatigue and stiffness
This condition causes extreme tiredness and stiffness. The fatigue is usually sudden and very draining, people have described it as ‘something suddenly pulling the plug.’ The stiffness happens when the individual has been in the same position for an extended period, especially after sleeping.
3. Extreme sensitivity to pain
Having to cope with pain in your body is one thing; being extremely sensitive to them is another. People with this condition may find that even the slightest of pains last for a very long time. In severe conditions, simply touching the person may be painful.
4. Poor sleep quality
People with fibromyalgia often find their sleep non-restorative. This means while they may fall asleep quite easily, the sleep is not refreshing, and they wake up tired and grumpy.
Other common symptoms are headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, dizziness, diarrhoea, cognitive disturbances, etc.
Complications associated with fibromyalgia
Perhaps the most prevalent complication from fibromyalgia is depression and anxiety. And when you think of it, it’s not surprising at all. People with fibromyalgia have to live with widespread pain for months and even years, not to mention the lack of restorative sleep, and they have to cope with this alongside their normal day-to-day activities. Many of them are also low on important hormones that prevent depression. Depression and anxiety are not to be taken lightly at all, and the individual may have to see a psychiatrist after some time.
Currently, there is no cure for fibromyalgia, so all treatment options are directed towards treating the symptoms. The implication of this is that the chances of the symptoms disappearing completely are low. The treatment options available now range from medicinal to certain therapeutic activities.
Some of the medications used are:
- Painkillers, like paracetamol, tramadol
- Antidepressants, like amitriptyline, fluoxetine
- Muscle relaxants, like diazepam
- Anticonvulsants, like pregabalin
Other treatment options are:
- therapy, usually psychotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy
- exercise routines
- relaxation techniques, like yoga
Living with fibromyalgia
The most important thing to note in living with this condition is that you can still lead your normal lifestyle. Don’t allow the pain to relegate you to depression and hopelessness. One trick is to find people to confide in that will offer you the support want, either family members, friends, or even support groups. Exercising regularly is also advisable. And finally, ensure you see a doctor.