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What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia, referred to as FM,is a chronic health condition characterized by chronic aching pain and tenderness and stiffness in muscles and soft tissue as well as extreme fatigue that has existed for over 3 months. Pain can be widespread including the neck, shoulders, upper and lower back, elbows, and hips. Some individuals may have simultaneous disorders like rheumatoid arthritis,lupus or irritable bowel syndrome. It occurs more frequently in women than in men and especially those of childbearing age.
Signs and Symptoms
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by fatigue, widespread pain in your muscles, ligaments and tendons, and multiple tender points — places on your body where slight pressure causes pain. Previously, the condition was known by other names such as fibrositis, chronic muscle pain syndrome, psychogenic rheumatism and tension myalgias.
The level of pain may vary from day to day. Sometimes it may be from head to toe and sometimes it may be more in one area. Every day can be a new experience in pain. You may experience muscle weakness. This might affect such things as your ability to open lids on jars. You may find yourself having no strength in your arms or legs.
It's common for people with fibromyalgia to experience heightened sensitivities to things such as noise, bright lights, smell or touch. You may get migraine headaches, insomnia or facial pain.You may experience numbness or tingling in your arms or legs, restless leg syndrome, indigestion, nausea or balance problems.
Fibromyalgia's symptoms can include depression, cognitive difficulties including memory problems.It can leave you feeling overwhelmed and interfere with your normal coping mechanisms especially if you get no break from the symptoms and continually live with sleep deprivation.
Although the intensity of your symptoms may vary, they'll probably never disappear completely. It may be reassuring to know, however, that fibromyalgia is not progressive, crippling or life-threatening. Treatments and self-care steps can improve symptoms and your general health.
Some symptoms such as depression or sleep deprivation may be symptoms,and may be precipitating or perpetuating factors.
The cause of fibromyalgiais unknown. There may be many pathways to this condition and varying predisposing or perpetuating factors. Some of these contributors may be:
- Changes in the neurotransmitters in the brain.
- Disturbed sleep patterns
- Injury or trauma may be a triggering event which can affect the central nervous system such as a car accident.
- Viral or bacterial infection may be a triggering event.
- Abnormalities of the autonomic (sympathetic) nervous system.
- Changes in muscle metabolism that might bring decreased blood flow and decreased muscle strength and fatigue.
- Psychological stress.
- Hormonal changes.
Treatment for Fibromyalgia
While there is no known cure for fibromyalgia, the condition apparently does not damage tissue and can go into periods of remission. It requires a comprehensive team approach that may include cognitive behavioral therapy,
stress reduction,and medication to help with sleep and pain. Temporary relief may occur with a variety of interventions such as massage, hot or cold applications, gentle stretching to reduce tight muscles, strengthening of other muscles as it can leave people in poor shape. Gentle exercise in a pool may help tolerance of activity. Exercise must be done gently as it can cause further pain if overdone. Rest is vitally important. Conserving energy and changing lifestyle are necessary to adjust and cope with this chronic health condition that can also impact mental health due to living with the pain, lack of sleep and limitations brought about by the disease.
Management by a physician is a central treatment which can include various medication to: improve sleep, relax muscles, decrease inflammation, and reduce pain. Some doctors, usually specialists such as rheumatologists or neurologists may be in the best position to see for diagnosis or treatment. Correct diagnosis is crucial as some doctors view this diagnosis with skepticism and may have no idea how to provide treatment.
There are many varied
symptoms with FM.Anyone living with this disorder knows how difficult everyday tasks can be. Treatmentmay also include a team including an occupational therapist or physiotherapist, and psychologist, psychiatrist or counselor. There are many internet sites that offer online informationabout FM symptoms, treatment suggestions, doctors sensitive to FM, research articles, online support with other fibro sufferers or online counseling via chat rooms or email. Online ecounseling or chat rooms offer easily accessible options for support without having to physically exert yourself. You can connect around the world with others suffering from FM or engage in a counseling session without leaving your home.
Impact of Fibromyalgia
fibromyalgia does not progress or lead to other diseases, the ongoing unrelenting pain can limit activities, social connections, loss of ability to work and financial stress, bring feelings of depression or despair, and sleep deprivation. So there are many losses and adjustments that are very challenging to cope with. It may also bring great frustration finding medical care with physicians who take this disorder seriously. The pain of this illness is very real regardless of the causation or initial triggers.Professionals experienced in pain management would be very helpful as some pain medication can be addictive and you may need to take various pain medications.
If you are going through a
tough time, e-mail counseling can be one resource to help you cope. Online counseling is available on this site via e-mail with Patricia Roles who is a registered social worker with over 30 years counseling experience in hospital and psychiatric social work. This is an alternate way to get professional help and support over the internet without leaving your own home. It is less expensive than face-to-face counseling.
Face-to-face counseling is also available for individuals and families living in Vancouver. Contact number: 604-375-9215.© Patricia Roles, Virtual E-counseling Room, e-mailtherapy.com, Vancouver, BC, Canada