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This debilitating condition is only recently being accepted by the medical establishemnt as a real condition or syndrome. Regardless, Self-care is crucual in the treatment of this condition and patients need to understand as much as they can the triggers for their pain, and different methods of relieving it.

What is it?

Fibromyalgia, sometimes called fibrositis, is a very common condition that is associated with widespread aching, stiffness, and fatigue, and originates in muscles and soft tissues. People with fibromyalgia are found to have multiple tender points in specific muscle areas. Most individuals complain of aching and stiffness in areas around the neck, shoulders, upper back, lower back, and hip areas. Many patients have no underlying disorders while others who develop fibromyalgia may have conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, arthritis of the spine, or Lyme disease. Some people have symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, tension headaches, and numbness or tingling of the extremities.

What Happens?

Pain - People describe the pain as deep muscular aching, burning, throbbing, shooting and stabbing. Quite often, the pain and stiffness are worse in the morning and you may hurt more in muscle groups that are used repetitively.

Fatigue - The fatigue has been described as "brain fatigue" in which patients feel totally drained of energy.

Sleep disorder - If you wake up feeling as though you have just been run over by a Mack truck--what doctors refer to as “unrefreshed sleep”-- it is reasonable for your physician to assume that you have a sleep disorder.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome - Constipation, diarrhea, frequent abdominal pain, abdominal gas and nausea represent symptoms frequently found in roughly 40% to 70% of fibromyalgia patients.

Chronic headaches - Recurrent migraine or tension-type headaches are seen in about 50% of fibromyalgia patients and can pose as a major problem in coping for this patient group.

Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction Syndrome - This syndrome, sometimes referred to as TMJD, causes tremendous face and head pain in one quarter of FMS patients. Most of the problems associated with this condition are thought to be related to the muscles and ligaments surrounding the joint and not necessarily the joint itself.

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Syndrome - Sensitivities to odors, noise, bright lights, medications and various foods.

Why does it happen?
The cause of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome remains elusive, but there are many triggering events thought to precipitate its onset. A few examples would be an infection (viral or bacterial), an automobile accident or the development of another disorder, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or hypothyroidism.

Aggravating factors - Changes in weather, cold or drafty environments, hormonal fluctuations (premenstrual and menopausal states), stress, depression, anxiety and over-exertion can all contribute to symptom flare-ups.

Can I stop it?

Physical treatments are often beneficial, including heat treatments, occasional cold application, massage, and regular stretching and range-of-motion exercises. Supervised aerobic conditioning exercises are valuable. Certain medications have an important role. Various medications to improve sleep and relax muscles, such as amitriptyline and cyclobenzaprine, are widely used. Hypnotic agents, anxiolytic drugs, and anti-depressant medications, may be appropriate. Local anesthetic or corticosteroid injections may be appropriate for painful local tender points. Attention to mental health, including psychological consultation, may also be important, since depression may precede or accompany fibromyalgia.

Should I see a doctor?
Your doctor will be able to prescribe medications for the various symptoms of fibromyalgia as well as rule out any other serious conditions that may be present.

Treatment
In general, fibromyalgia is treated with a combination of medication and self-care. The emphasis is on minimizing symptoms and improving general health. Recent studies also show that a brief, multidisciplinary treatment program at a special care centre may reduce some symptoms of fibromyalgia, especially in people whose symptoms are more severe.

Self-care
Self-care is critical in the management of fibromyalgia. Important aspects of self-care include taking these steps:

- Reduce stress
- Get enough sleep
- Exercise regularly
- Pace yourself
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle
- Use eyedrops as needed

 

This material is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for the medical advice of your doctor or any other health care professional. Always consult with your physician if you are in any way concerned about your health.
© 2002 SLPM Self care Ltd.

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