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Fibromyalgia Syndrome

Fitness for mind and body.

Fibromyalgia, often referred to as FMS (fibromyalgia syndrome) is of puzzling origin and affects three to six million people in the United States, most of them women.

Woman with Fibromyalgia Syndrome

Fibromyalgia syndrome is a widespread musculoskeletal pain and fatigue disorder for which the cause is still unknown. The symptoms are very much the same as those of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and often the two are treated in a similar manner. In fact, most experts in the field of FMS believe they are one and the same.

This ailment was originally called fibrositis because it was believed there was swelling in the muscles, but research has since disproved that theory. There was also a time when this ailment was diagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis or an emotional disorder. Although the American College of Rheumatology now clarifies it, it remains a controversial disorder.

It is important to know the symptoms of FMS to determine if you think you may have this debilitating ailment. Physicians often overlook it and some don't yet believe in it.

Fibro Pain Areas Fibromyalgia causes pain in the muscles, ligaments and tendons--the fibrous tissues in the body. Symptoms and degrees can vary from patient to patient, but there are several that are quite common in most FMS sufferers. Muscles will twitch and/or burn and some describe them as feeling sore, as if they've overworked them. Energy levels can be low. This can vary in degree, but is common, causing lack of concentration and a feeling of being weighted down, as if bricks were tied to your arms and legs.

Sleep disorder usually strikes FMS patients. It is interesting to note that patients diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome have the same sleep disorder patterns as FMS patients. This includes restless leg syndrome, jerking of the arms and teeth grinding during sleep. Irritable bowel syndrome occurs in 40 to 70 percent of FMS patients.

Chronic headaches including migraine or tension-type headaches occur in about 50 percent of FMS patients. Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction syndrome (that is a mouth full, let's refer to it as TMJD!) is another common occurrence although this could be attributed to jaw and facial tenderness, leading to symptoms similar to TMJD. About 50 percent of FMS sufferers are sensitive to odors, noise, bright lights, medications and various foods. Other common symptoms include:

  • Menstrual periods that are very painful
  • Pain in the chest area
  • Waking up with stiff joints
  • Memory impairment
  • Tingling sensations throughout the body and muscle twitching
  • Irritable bladder
  • The feeling of swollen extremities
  • Skin sensitivities
  • Dry eyes and mouth
  • Frequent changes in eye prescription
  • Dizziness and impaired coordination

Factors that can further aggravate symptoms are changes in the weather, stress and/or depression, cold and drafts, hormone changes, anxiety and over-exertion.

The causes of FMS and CFS are not known. It is thought that perhaps an accident, viral infection, lupus, hypothyroidism or another disorder such as rheumatoid could be triggers for the onset of FMS.

With the lack of knowledge, how is FMS treated?

It is important to note that currently, there is no cure. Treatments will focus on helping patients control their symptoms in the hope they can resume a normal life. The sleep disorder problem is often addressed first due to the fact that improper sleep is a major contributing factor to many of the other symptoms associated with FMS.

Medications are often used and include Elavil, Flexeril, Sinequan, Paxil, Serzone, Xanax and Klonopin. Types of medications and dosage levels vary from patient to patient.

Some doctors feel a holistic approach is better and will include more attention to exercise, nutrition, and sleep and pain control. One form of exercise commonly used with FMS is water exercise classes.

The best way to treat a FMS patient is with a patient-centered approach. This is due to the fact that every patient diagnosed with FMS has a different combination of symptoms. If the treatment applied isn't geared to the individual needs it will not be effective in helping them return to normal life.

FMS patients need to attempt to help themselves as much as possible, also. Learning what factors aggravate symptoms, what lifestyle modifications help conserve your energy and minimize pain are a few ways one can apply self-help. Finding a doctor one trusts and who will partner with them in their care is crucial.

Fibro Freebie Download

Living with Fibromyalgia - Drugs Approved to Manage Pain (PDF document from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration).

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