What Is Fibromyalgia? A Definitive Guide to Understanding Fibromyalgia


How Is Fibromyalgia Diagnosed?

There is a new diagnostic criterion that doctors consider, and this includes:

  • Widespread pain that lasts for at least three months
  • Accompanied with other symptoms such as fatigue, waking up tired, and mental fogginess
  • No other underlying condition that could explain the symptoms

Your doctor will want to ensure that your symptoms are not caused by another underlying problem or condition that has similar symptoms. This is why your doctors will likely do a lot of blood tests, ask you many questions, and even perform a physical exam.

They will look for rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome, and lupus, as these may initially present with generalized aches and pain.

Mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, will frequently cause generalized aches and pain that mimic the beginning stages of fibromyalgia.

They may also look for neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis and myasthenia gravis. This is due to the fact that fibromyalgia causes numbness and tingling for some, mimicking symptoms of these neurological disorders.

It is important to make sure that these illnesses are not the cause of your current symptoms.

What Causes Fibromyalgia?

While it is not fully understood what the exact cause of fibromyalgia is, there are a number of factors that may contribute to the origin of this mysterious illness.

  • Genetics. There seems to be a genetic component to fibromyalgia, as it is frequently seen in family groups, although it is generally not considered hereditary.
  • Certain infections. Some infections, such as hepatitis C; Epstein-Barr virus; Lyme disease; and parvovirus, have been seen to trigger fibromyalgia.
  • Injury or physical trauma. In many cases, injuries, such as a car accident, can trigger the onset of fibromyalgia.
  • Emotional trauma. In some cases, psychological trauma, severe emotional stress, or abuse, as well as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) seem to be contributing factors for fibromyalgia.
  • Autoimmune Disorders. Fibromyalgia is frequently seen in people that already have an autoimmune disorder, such as Rheumatoid Arthritis; lupus; osteoarthritis; and ankylosing spondylitis.

In many cases, people that develop fibromyalgia have more than one of the above factors.

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How Is Fibromyalgia Treated?

There is a variety of ways to treat fibromyalgia. It is important to remember that each individual is different and must find the right fibromyalgia treatment for them. In most instances, a mixture of things is needed to treat the many symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Before trying a new medication or other forms of treatments, it is best to talk with your doctor and do research to ensure that it will not interfere with other medications or any other conditions that you have.

Some of the most common methods that are used to treat fibromyalgia are:

  • Medication. A number of medications may help to address some of the symptoms of fibromyalgia. There are both prescription and over the counter pain medications. There are also some medications initially developed for depression and seizure disorders that have been successful in lessening the pain of fibromyalgia for some. Muscle relaxers may also be beneficial in reducing muscle stiffness and help you to improve the amount and quality of sleep that you get.
  • Vitamins and Supplements. It is common for many with fibromyalgia to be deficient in some necessary vitamins and minerals. A blood test can check for vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Many have found relief from some of their symptoms when they take a supplement for Vitamin D, magnesium, or potassium. Some have also benefited from taking 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) and S-Adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe). These natural supplements have been helpful in some cases to decrease many of the symptoms of fibromyalgia. A natural sleep aid may also be beneficial for some to get better rest, which will in turn help relieve a number of symptoms, including pain, fatigue, brain fog, and promotes a better mood.
  • Exercise. Exercise and fibromyalgia do not seem to mix well at first glance. But it has been proven time and again that some form of exercise is necessary to successfully treat fibromyalgia. Many have seen the benefits of gentle stretching exercises, such as Pilates. Others have found resistance training to be helpful in reducing pain, in addition to improving their overall wellbeing. Water aerobics has proven beneficial for many as well. It is believed to be even more helpful than other exercises at improving pain levels, sleep, overall mood, and increasing agility.
  • Heat and/or Cold. Using heating pads or blankets, hot water bottles, or ice packs have been helpful for many. Different people are affected differently by heat and cold, so you have to find what will best work for you.
  • Lifestyle Changes. Many lifestyle changes can make a big difference in the number of symptoms that you have. Learning to pace your activities is an absolutely vital key to successfully living with fibromyalgia. Take steps to improve your sleep habits. Reduce stress and learn methods to better cope with stress as it occurs. Journaling, breathing exercises, practicing mindfulness, and participating in enjoyable activities can help with stress and ultimately lessen fibromyalgia symptoms.

Next page: More fibromyalgia treatmnt options. Can fibromyalgia be cured? And lifestyle advice for people with fibromyalgia. 

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