Believe it or not, fibromyalgia is a syndrome that affects the soft tissue and muscles. There was a time when many medical providers did not recognize fibromyalgia as a true condition. Over the years it has become a condition that is recognized, diagnosed, and treated with success.
In order to make an accurate diagnosis, your doctor will need to take a history and perform a physical exam. Typically an individual with fibromyalgia has 11 or more of the 18 known trigger points on exam.
The location of the 18 tender points are located in predictable places on the body, they are not random. When pressure is applied to the tender points of a person without fibromyalgia, he or she feels only pressure. When pressure is applied to the tender points of a person with fibromyalgia, he or she will feel extreme pain.
Common symptoms of fibromyalgia, also known as fibromyalgia syndrome or FMS, may include:
- Deep muscle pain
- Concentration and memory problems — known as “fibro fog”
- Fatigue (often chronic fatigue)
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Morning stiffness
- Sleep problems
- Numbness, and tingling in hands, arms, feet, and legs
- Tender points
Different from the joint pain of osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia pain is often felt over the entire body. Fibromyalgia pain can be a deep, sharp, dull, throbbing, or aching. It is pain that is felt in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments around the joints. The Arthritis Foundation describes the muscle and tissue pain as tender, aching, throbbing, sore, burning, and gnawing.
Next to pain and tender points, fatigue is also a major complaint. Fatigue refers to a lingering tiredness that is more constant and limiting than what we would usually experience. Feeling tired even when they have had adequate sleep, many fibromyalgia patients report their fatigue as being similar to those of the flu. Some compare it to how it feels after working long hours and missing a lot of sleep.
Treatments for fibromyalgia includes:
- Cardiovascular exercise, stretching, water aerobics
- Adequate sleep through sleep hygiene techniques and sleep aids
- Medications including: antidepressants, anticonvulsants, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories
- Trigger point injections
- Avoidance of narcotics
- Avoidance of stressors