Just thought you would like to know more about fibromyalgia. The following is a whole litany of what iit is and how diagnosed and how treated. HOpe it helps for Charlotte and Carol K.
God Bless You all,
The name "fibromyalgia" has largely replaced the term "fibrositis," which was once used to describe this disorder. The "itis" means "inflammation" - a body process that can result in pain, swelling, warmth, redness, and stiffness. Early reports of this condition described inflammation in muscles. However, during the past 50 years investigators have proven that inflammation is not a significant part of fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia is a form of "soft-tissue" or muscular rheumatism rather than "arthritis of a joint." The word "rheumatism" refers to pain and stiffness associated with arthritis and related disorders of the joints, muscles, and bones. Fibromyalgia mainly affects muscles and their attachments to bones. Therefore, although fibromyalgia may feel like a joint disease, it is not a true form of arthritis and does not cause deformities of the joints.
Unfortunately, because certain syndromes lack physical and laboratory findings (signs), but depend mostly on a person's report of complaints and feelings (symptoms), these syndromes are often viewed as not being real or important. In the past, fibromyalgia suffered from this type of negative thinking.
Over the past ten years, however, fibromyalgia has been better defined through studies that have established guides for its diagnosis. These studies have shown that certain complaints, such as generalized muscular pain and tender points, are present in people with fibromyalgia and not commonly present in healthy people or people with other rheumatic conditions. These diagnostic features separate fibromyalgia from other types of conditions that have chronic muscle and bone pain.
Although the general physical examination is usually normal, and individuals may look well, careful examination of their muscles will demonstrate very tender areas at specific locations. The presence and pattern of theses characteristic "tender points" separate fibromyalgia from other conditions. Not all physicians are familiar with the evaluation of these tender points. However, most rheumatologists (specialists in arthritis and rheumatism) do know when and how to perform such an examination.
The tender areas in fibromyalgia are similar in location to sore and tender areas in other common muscle and bone pain disorders such as tennis elbow and trochanteric bursitis (inflammation of the outer side of the hip). They are found in many locations and are almost always on both sides of the body. People often are not aware of the exact location or even the presence of many of these tender points until they are specifically examined by a doctor.
The fatigue in fibromyalgia is similar to the in another condition called chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Some people with fibromyalgia have symptoms of CFS, and vice versa. for example, many people with CFS have the tender points and symptoms considered to be diagnostic of fibromyalgia. Because there is an overlap in these two common syndromes, it may not be possible to separate these two conditions, and one doctor may give a diagnosis of fibromyalgia whereas another may call the condition chronic fatigue syndrome.
As with other chronic illnesses, people with fibromyalgia may report difficulty concentrating or performing simple mental tasks. There is no evidence that these problems become more serious. Similar problems have been noted in many people with sleep disturbances of all kinds or with mood changes.
People with fibromyalgia may have feeling of numbness and tingling in their hands, arms, feet, legs, or sometimes in their face. These feeling can suggest other disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome, neuritis, or even multiple sclerosis. Therefore, people with fibromyalgia often undergo numerous tests for such conditions, only to find that the test results are normal.
Because the complaints of fibromyalgia are so general and often bring to mind other medical disorders, many people undergo complicated and often repeated evaluations before they are diagnosed as having fibromyalgia. Furthermore, since not all doctors have been trained to recognize this disorder, it is important for people to see a rheumatologist or other doctor who is very familiar with the diagnosis and treatment of this condition.
In recent years, studies have shown that in fibromyalgia the muscle is especially vulnerable to decreased circulation and minor injury. Therefore, smoking and inappropriate exercise or poor posture may aggravate fibromyalgia. Research has also looked at the role of certain hormones or body chemicals that may alter pain, sleep, and mood. Eventually, this research should result in a better understanding of fibromyalgia, as well as more effective treatment, and even prevention!
Medications that promote deeper sleep and also relax muscles help many people with fibromyalgia. These include amitriptyline (Elavil), doxepin (Sinequan), cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril), and related medications. Although these medications are also used to treat depression, in people with fibromyalgia they are generally used in very low doses and only at bedtime. Thus, they are not specifically used as antidepressants or tranquilizers in the treatment of fibromyalgia but may relieve pain and improve sleep.
Although many people sleep better and have less discomfort when they take these medications, the improvement varies greatly from person to person. In addition, the medications may have side effects such as daytime drowsiness, constipation, dry mouth, and increased appetite. These side effects are rarely severe, but can be disturbing and may limit the use of these drugs. Therefore, a number of different medicines may need to be tried and doses adjusted in consultation with a doctor.
Gently stretch your muscles and move your joints through an adequate range of motion daily and before and after aerobic exercise. Physical therapy may be helpful and could include techniques such as: heat, ice, massage, whirlpool, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation to help control pain. Physical therapists may also be consulted to design a specific exercise program to improve posture, flexibility, and fitness.
You and your family should understand that fibromyalgia is a real cause of chronic pain and fatigue and must be dealt with as with any chronic illness. Yet, fibromyalgia is not life-threatening and causes no deformity. Although symptoms may vary, the overall condition rarely worsens over time.
Often just knowing fibromyalgia is not a progressive, crippling disease allows people to stop additional expensive testing and to develop a more positive attitude toward their condition. Relaxation techniques, such as meditation, visual imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, or biofeedback may also be helpful. You should examine your own sleep patterns and avoid aggravating factors such as excess caffeine and alcohol. If you feel depressed or very anxious, it is important to get help from a mental health professional. The more you learn about your condition, and the more you take an active role in finding the best means to lessen your symptoms, the better the outcome.
Support groups and educational classes organized by the Arthritis Foundation have been a source of help for many people with fibromyalgia. Just knowing that you are not alone can be a source of support.
Some people with fibromyalgia have such severe symptoms that they are unable to function well at work or socially. These individuals may require greater attention in a program that employs physical or occupational therapists, medical social workers, rheumatology nurses, mental health professionals, rehabilitation counselors, and sleep specialists.
With proper therapy, most people with fibromyalgia improve and are able to deal with their complaints. However, a better understanding of the causes and aggravating factors in fibromyalgia is needed so that better treatment and even prevention can be developed.