Fibromyalgia. Just hearing the word can bring about fear and frustration for those who suffer from it. Fibromyalgia is known for widespread musculoskeletal pain felt throughout the body and particular tender points. If you have fibromyalgia, you may also experience extreme exhaustion, memory problems, moodiness, and problems with sleep. According to what researchers have discovered, fibromyalgia magnifies the pain sensations in the body by negatively impacting the way your brain processes signals of pain.
Sometimes symptoms of fibromyalgia may come on over time, little by little, with nothing seeming to trigger them. In other cases, fibromyalgia begins after a physical trauma, infection, significant psychological stress, or surgery. Women get fibromyalgia more often than men. Fibromyalgia is often accompanied by other health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, TMD (temporomandibular disorders), tension headaches, and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Research has shown that some patients saw an improvement in fibromyalgia after incorporating exercise, stress-reduction, and relaxation techniques into their life.
The symptoms of fibromyalgia are numerous and may be different for each person. The following is a list of the most common symptoms associated with fibromyalgia.
- Extreme exhaustion: People who suffer from fibromyalgia often wake up as tired as they were when then went to bed, even though they felt like they slept well. The problem may be their sleep was disrupted by the pain of fibromyalgia. In addition, those with fibromyalgia often have other sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome.
- Widespread pain: To be considered widespread, the pain must be present on both sides of your body and both above and below the waist. The pain of fibromyalgia is described as a constant dull ache. To be diagnosed with this condition, you must have this type of pain for at least three months.
- Fibro fog: Fibro fog entails cognitive difficulties in which you may have problems paying attention, focusing, and concentrating on mental tasks.
It is not uncommon to see fibromyalgia accompanied by the following other health conditions.
- Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD)
- Bladder syndrome or internal cystitis
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Migraines and other headache types
What Causes Fibromyalgia?
Doctors and researchers are at a loss as to what brings about fibromyalgia. A number of theories abound. But researchers do agree that more than one of the following factors is probably at work.
- Infections: It seems as if some illnesses seem to aggravate or even bring on fibromyalgia symptoms.
- Physical or emotional trauma: Psychological stress can trigger fibromyalgia whereas physical trauma, such as being involved in a car accident, can also bring about this condition.
- Your genes: Fibromyalgia tends to run in families, and this means there may be certain genetic mutations you have making you more susceptible to developing it.
What Are the Risk Factors?
- Being female: Women have fibromyalgia more often than men.
- Having other health conditions: If you have osteoarthritis, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis, you may be more susceptible to getting fibromyalgia.
- Genetics: Having a family history of relatives with fibromyalgia automatically puts you at higher risk.
Why Does Fibromyalgia Cause Pain?
An in-depth study of fibromyalgia has revealed that repeated stimulation of nerves makes the brains of those with this condition change. The brain begins to have abnormal increases in certain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Also, the pain receptors in the brain seem to develop a type of memory of the pain it is feeling and then it becomes more sensitive to this type of pain. This means the brain begins to exaggerate pain signals.
The pain and sleep disorders you experience with fibromyalgia can cause you not to be able to perform your daily routine, go to school, go to work, or participate in social activities. The frustration in trying to find answers for this condition can lead to depression and anxiety.
Traditional Care for Fibromyalgia
If you seek the care of your primary care physician, he or she will probably recommend both self-care and medication to try to control your symptoms. Fibromyalgia is different for each person, making it hard to care for and cope with.
Medications used for fibromyalgia are aimed at reducing specific symptoms, such as sleeplessness and pain. Your doctor may recommend one or more of the following medications.
- Antidepressants: Cymbalta (duloxetine) and Savella (milnacipran) may help both the pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia. Your doctor may also recommend amitriptyline or cyclobenzaprine (a muscle relaxer) to help you sleep better.
- Anti-seizure medications: Some medications used to care for epilepsy can be helpful with the pain of fibromyalgia. Neurontin (gabapentin) and Lyrica (pregabalin) can both help alleviate some symptoms.
- Pain relievers: Some over-the-counter pain relievers (Tylenol, Advil, Motrin IB, and Aleve) may be helpful in reducing the pain. A prescription pain reliever (tramadol) may be suggested also. It is not recommended to take narcotics for fibromyalgia as they can lead to dependency and may actually increase the pain over time.
The Path to Natural Help for Fibromyalgia
An area seeing great success in helping fibromyalgia patients is that of upper cervical chiropractic care. We focus on making sure the top bones of the neck are not inadvertently putting stress on the brainstem due to a misalignment. This has been seen to be linked to fibromyalgia symptoms. The brainstem communicates with the brain about what is happening in the body. If it malfunctions and tells the brain there is pain, when there is no pain, fibromyalgia may be the end result.
We use a gentle method, rather than popping the neck or back, to get results. We help the bones move back into place naturally without adding further pain or stress to the body. Many patients report seeing an improvement in or end to fibromyalgia after only a few visits to our office.
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