What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a medical condition, often identified as wide-spread pain in specific regions of the body, in combination with symptoms of chronic fatigue, and some moderate cognitive dysfunction.
Fibromyalgia has been around for what is thought to be hundreds of years. The medical community, with the help of modern science has been able to better identify and diagnose Fibromyalgia in the last 40 years.
Fibromyalgia has had many names over the years. Eventually it was given the name muscular rheumatism by medical professionals. It was said to cause some body stiffness, pain, fatigue and sleep disturbances.
More than 70 years later it is believed that “fibrositis” was used to describe the sudden pain phenomenon. Fibrositis was used because it was thought that the inflammation and swelling of the body was the root cause of the pain, hence the name. The condition itself at that time was still a very misunderstood one and various unsuccessful treatments were offered to those suffering from the illness.
As the years went on and more research into the condition was done, the name given to the condition had changed once again. In the mid-seventies, it was concluded by researchers at the time that swelling of the body was in fact not the cause of the pain and the condition was termed Fibromyalgia, which comes from Latin and Greek words that mean ” fibrous tissue and muscle pain”.
Today modern medicine has made great strides in understanding and treating fibromyalgia. Where it was once thought that Fibromyalgia was a psychological condition, studies now show that there are very clear biological characteristics associated with Fibromyalgia, such as a slight decrease in blood flow to specific parts of the brain and lower levels than what is considered normal of neurochemicals like serotonin and dopamine.
Fibromyalgia is still being researched today in hopes of gaining a better understanding of the condition, as well as a breakthrough in treatments.
Those who suffer from Fibromyalgia are usually relatively healthy otherwise. While Fibromyalgia is much prevalent in females, it does not discriminate.
One of the most common initial symptoms of Fibromyalgia is chronic fatigue. For this reason, many people are often initially misdiagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome before being formally diagnosed with Fibromyalgia.
Other symptoms include the onset of frequent headaches, occasional dizzy spells, numbness or the sensation of pins and needles to the hand and feet, lower than average blood pressure, and symptoms of irritable bowel (IBS).
Although these symptoms are quite typical of Fibromyalgia, they are unfortunately typical of many other medical conditions, making the diagnosis of Fibromyalgia difficult. Tie in the fact that there are no accepted tests, imaging, or blood work to conclusively diagnose Fibromyalgia, it is understandable why Fibromyalgia remains a challenge to both physicians and patients alike.
Although the exact cause of Fibromyalgia remains unknown, it is suggested that there is a connection between Fibromyalgia and stressful events, repeated injuries as well as specific illnesses.
According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and skin Disease, “Some scientists think that a gene or genes might be involved in fibromyalgia. The genes could make a person react strongly to things that other people would not find painful.” (National Institue of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease, 2014)
Although complex, there is hope for those who are diagnoses with fibromyalgia. Changes to your lifestyle, including diet, exercise and stress management techniques, as well as possibly prescribed medication from your primary care physician can be used to combat symptoms of fibromyalgia. The choices we make every day affects our health. For someone who has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, this is particularly true.
Visit MyPain.ca over the coming weeks to access our full series spotlighting Fibromyalgia, the various treatment and management techniques, and much more.