Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition that causes widespread pain in muscles, tendons and joints with feelings of fatigue, sleep problems and fibromyalgia pain can even be associated with irritable bowel syndrome. Fibromyalgia can also create tender points — places on the body where even slight pressure is very painful.
Fatigue is seen in up to 90 percent of fibromyalgia patients and can be related to abnormal sleep patterns. Patients with fibromyalgia pain do not get enough restorative sleep, also called rapid eye moving (REM) sleep, leading to chronic fatigue symptoms. The following symptoms can also be seen in fibromyalgia patients in different combinations:
- Poor concentration, forgetfulness, memory problems
- Irritability, mood changes, depression, anxiety
- Abdominal pain associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Bladder problems including frequent urination
- Migraines and tension headaches
- Paresthesias – numbness and tingling sensations in different parts of the body
It is believed that a process called central sensitization is the reason behind the painful symptoms, causing those with fibromyalgia to have a lower threshold for pain. Central sensitization leads to increased sensitivity in the brain to pain signals.
Current research has found that there are elevated levels of a nerve chemical, called substance P, in patients with fibromyalgia. In addition, another chemical, serotonin, is lower in patients with fibromyalgia.
With repeated nerve stimulation, fibromyalgia can lead to changes in the brain and processing of pain signals. These changes can cause disturbances of pain perception leading fibromyalgia patients to become over-reactive to pain signals.
There is no known cause for fibromyalgia, but symptoms can often develop after a physical or emotional trauma.
Additionally, genetics and infections can trigger fibromyalgia pain.
Women are more susceptible to getting fibromyalgia, as well as those with a family history of fibromyalgia or rheumatic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
Learn more in this Fibromyalgia video.
To be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a person must have widespread pain lasting at least three months and at least 11 out of 18 total possible tender points. Blood tests also are done to rule out conditions with similar pain symptoms. Once these are excluded, then the diagnosis of fibromyalgia (a diagnosis of exclusion) can be made and fibromyalgia pain management treatment can be discussed.
Fibromyalgia Pain Management Treatment Options
There are a number of treatment options that help with fibromyalgia pain management, which include:
- Physical Therapy
- Myofascial Release
- Trigger Point Injection
- Massage Therapy
- Treatment of Underlying Contributing Pain Generators
- Behavioral Health