What Is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a medical syndrome characterized by widespread pain, sleep disturbance, tender points around the body, and a host of other symptoms that range from irritable bowel syndrome to depression. It is a baffling condition and one that is hard to diagnose, commonly misdiagnosed, and difficult to treat. The cause remains a mystery, a cure elusive.
Symptoms vary widely and can change from day to day for individual patients. Most people are able to live with the disease by treating the symptoms. But in some cases, fibromyalgia can be downright debilitating. Some people have given up jobs, abandoned hobbies, and lost relationships because of fibromyalgia.
For years, people questioned whether fibromyalgia actually existed. Even today, there are skeptics who wonder whether the syndrome is real, despite the fact that millions of people suffer from these symptoms. But modern medical research has demonstrated in recent decades that fibromyalgia is very real and that people who have it have Fibromyalgia Defined measurable differences of chemicals and substances in their bodies. These substances are associated with a hypersensitivity to pain.
Like headaches, fibromyalgia may be a symptom complex, with a number of possible causes. Just as headaches can be caused by sinus infections, migraines, muscle tension, or tumors, fibromyalgia may be associated with a neck injury, infections, stress, genetics, or compression of the upper spinal cord. Since each cause may require its own unique treatments, what works for one FMS patient may not work for others.
In the early twentieth century, doctors called fibromyalgia “fibrositis.” The term comes from the Latin roots for muscle (fibro) and inflammation (itis). But over time, doctors came to realize that fibrositis was inaccurate because the condition didn't involve any inflammation. It wasn't until the late 1970s that the term “fibromyalgia” was used. The word blends the Latin term for fibrous tissue (fibro) with the Greek terms for muscle (myo) and pain (algia), and is much more accurate.
Confirming you have fibromyalgia is the first part of the struggle. Achieving relief from it is the next big challenge — and an ongoing one. These days, most people manage fibromyalgia with a host of different treatments that may include medications, diet and exercise, physical therapy, and alternative medicine. Efforts to restore sleep and alleviate depression have become routine therapies for fibromyalgia, too. Like the symptoms themselves, the treatment regimen varies, depending on the patient.
The key to living well with fibromyalgia is knowledge. Knowing as much as you can about this condition can help you minimize pain, improve sleep, and develop coping strategies that lessen the toll of fibro on every front. It will also enable you to better manage your fibromyalgia and help you continue to live a rewarding and independent life.