Fibromyalgia: understanding this mysterious condition
According to the Mayo Clinic1, Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Sometimes symptoms begin after a physical trauma, surgery, infection or significant psychological stress, but in other cases symptoms just gradually appear over time with no specific triggering event.
Women seem to be more likely to develop fibromyalgia than men, and unfortunately there is currently no cure for the condition. There are, however, measures that can help if you’ve been diagnosed with fibromyalgia.
It’s important to check with your doctor right away if you notice the onset of any bothersome or troubling symptoms. Fibromyalgia can be difficult to diagnose because x-rays and blood tests often come back normal, so be persistent if you truly feel something is wrong. You know your body better than anyone else, so don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself.
The most common symptoms of fibromyalgia include2:
- Widespread pain. Often described as a dull ache that has lasted for at least three months. To be considered widespread the pain must be on both sides of your body and above and below your waist.
- Fatigue. Even after reporting long periods of sleep, people with fibromyalgia can wake up tired. Sleep is also often disrupted by pain, restless leg syndrome, and sleep apnea.
- Cognitive difficulties. Called “fibro fog,” it’s difficult to focus, pay attention and concentrate on mental tasks.
Unfortunately there is currently no cure for fibromyalgia, but there are treatment options available to help you manage the condition. Your doctor may prescribe pain relievers, antidepressants, and/or anti-seizure drugs, all of which can help manage the pain and sleep issues associated with fibromyalgia.
Physical and talk therapy are also known to be helpful. Physical therapy can help improve your strength, flexibility and stamina, while advice from an occupational therapist can help you make adjustments to your work area or the way you perform certain tasks so that they cause less stress on your body. Counseling can give you the tools you need to help you cope with and manage your everyday stress, and to deal with the stress the condition itself may be causing you.
As with any disease, self-care is critical. Live as healthy a lifestyle as you can including getting enough sleep, eating a healthy balanced diet, exercising regularly, and reducing your stress and managing your mental health. Meditation and yoga may also help you manage both the mental and physical symptoms of fibromyalgia.
If you believe you may have fibromyalgia, talk to your doctor. Be thorough when reporting your symptoms and don’t let your health care provider brush you off or dismiss what you’re feeling. Often a diagnosis is made only when doctors have ruled out every other potential condition that could be causing your symptoms.3
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