Fibromyalgia Syndrome (also called fibrositis) is characterized by severe pain and tenderness in the body’s muscles and other soft tissues. It is a long-term condition that may also manifest as stiffness, disrupted sleep, inability to concentrate, and fatigue that is not appeased by sleep.
The pain associated with the condition may affect the entire body or be severe in a few areas. Fibromyalgia increases the individual’s sensitivity to pain. Some patients report pain that gets worse in very hot or cold weather.
About 2 to 10 percent of people in the United States have fibromyalgia. Women are more likely to develop the disease than men. There is a prevalent issue of misdiagnosis relating to the condition. It is not uncommon for physicians to conclude that a fibromyalgia patient has arthritis or a rheumatoid disease on the first examination.
There is currently no cure for fibromyalgia. However, a combination of lifestyle modifications, prescription drugs, and alternative therapy can improve the condition and offer patients the chance to live normal lives.
What Causes Fibromyalgia
Researchers cannot tell for sure what the cause of fibromyalgia is. However, the disease is linked to arthritis, traumatic events, and mental disorders. Fibromyalgia is different from arthritis in that the pain is not connected to any visible inflammation. The prevailing theory is that fibromyalgia is the result of problems with the brain and central nervous system.
The brain interprets pain sensations differently. Nociceptors(pain receptors) in fibromyalgia patients are overly sensitized, leading to severe pain where other people might feel slight discomfort. Disrupted sleep patterns, trauma, and anxiety may contribute to the pain associated with fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia risk factors include:
Fibromyalgia is twice as prevalent in women as men. The symptoms are also more severe for women than men. Researchers do not fully understand why this is the case. Estrogen fluctuations may be responsible as many women complain of severe pain right before and after their periods.
Individuals with a family history of fibromyalgia may be more prone to the disease than others.
Physical or Mental Trauma
Certain traumatic events like a vehicle accident or the loss of a loved one can trigger fibromyalgia. Repetitive injuries or stress on a joint can also increase the risk of developing the disease.
Viral infections and other illnesses like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis may increase fibromyalgia risk.
Lifestyle Changes for Treating Fibromyalgia
Lifestyle modifications help with treating fibromyalgia and many other conditions. These changes are implemented by identifying aspects of an individual’s life that may be contributing to the ailment. For fibromyalgia patients, the following lifestyle modifications will help alleviate symptoms:
Dietary Modifications and Proper Nutrition
A significant amount of data shows that reducing or eliminating carbohydrates can help with fibromyalgia symptoms. Processed foods and caffeine-containing beverages may also worsen symptoms.
A healthy diet for fibromyalgia consists of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and whole grains. People with fibromyalgia should reduce their intake of dairy products, sweeteners, and other food additives.
Dehydration is a risk factor for most cases of fatigue. Drinking up to eight glasses of water each day can help fight symptoms of fatigue. Consuming copious amounts of water daily also helps flush toxins from the kidney and liver.
Taking warm baths can also help with symptoms of fibromyalgia. Warm water helps improve blood flow, reduces joint pressure, and relaxes the muscles.
Getting Adequate Exercises
Endorphins (pain-relieving chemicals) released during exercise can help with fibromyalgia pain. Toned muscles are less prone to injuries and do not hurt as much.
Naturally, the associated fatigue might make patients unwilling to engage in strenuous exercises. However, even mild workouts like stretching for a few minutes can significantly help symptoms and improve energy levels if done consistently.
Having a massage can also help improve blood flow and ease the pain. Regular sessions will improve stiffness and inflammation that may contribute to pain.
Getting Adequate Sleep
Quality sleep helps reduce fibromyalgia pain. Individuals with this condition should aim for at least eight hours of sleep daily.
Fibromyalgia patients often struggle to get enough sleep. When they do, they find that sleep is usually not as restorative as they would like. People with fibromyalgia should try to establish and maintain a regular sleep routine; this means that they should try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
Patients who still cannot get enough sleep may need to speak with a professional about strategies that can enhance sleep and sleep quality.
Dealing with Stress
Stress can also exacerbate fibromyalgia symptoms. Adopting techniques to help reduce stress may also help with pain and fatigue. Patients may want to find time to engage in their hobbies and other exciting activities.
Meditative practices like yoga and breathing techniques can also help reduce stress, improve mood, and provide a general sense of well-being.
Other Ways of Treating Fibromyalgia
In addition to lifestyle adjustments, fibromyalgia patients may benefit from some types of alternative therapy:
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice that attempts to restore the balance of life forces by inserting thin needles into specific meridian points. This practice is based on the belief that humans possess vital energy (Chi) that can cause pain and illness if out of balance.
Biofeedback is a type of therapy that aims to reduce stress using a biofeedback machine that reads the body’s stress responses. The idea is to learn how the patient responds to stress and teach the patient to deal with stress using that knowledge.
Emerging research indicates that flotation therapy may provide temporary relief from fibromyalgia symptoms and improve general well-being. Further studies with larger sample sizes will be needed to establish the efficacy of this therapy.
Fibromyalgia is a disease that can cause severe pain, discomfort and affect the quality of life. It has no cure yet, but treatment approaches, including lifestyle changes, alternative therapy, and certain medications, can help individuals with the condition live healthy, productive lives.