Fibromyalgia, according to the Mayo Clinic, is “a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues.” Even in 2017, health care professionals don’t know exactly what causes it. The situation is better than it was some years ago, when many doctors believed that the disorder was a figment of the sufferer’s imagination, but the disease remains challenging to diagnose and treat.
Possible Fibromyalgia Causes
Fibromyalgia lowers a patient’s pain threshold, so that what is not painful for healthy people causes a fibromyalgia patient pain. Although doctors don’t know what causes it, some probable causes and influences include:
Genetics: People who have family members with the condition are more likely to contract the disease.
Infections: There are some illness and infections that might precipitate the disease.
Stress: People subject to long-term stress seem to be susceptible to the malady.
Physical or mental trauma: The disorder also strikes people who have undergone trauma and those who suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Depression: Depressed patients seem to be at higher risk of the disease.
Pain is a major symptom of the disease, especially the tender or trigger points that are found in pairs at the neck, upper chest, elbows, knees, back and hips. These are points that cause pain even when they’re gently touched, and the pain can be debilitating. But trigger points aren’t the only symptoms. Patients also suffer painful muscles, overall stiffness in their joints, aching bones, and tingling and numbness in their extremities. Other symptoms include incessant fatigue even after a night of sleep, sleeping problems such as insomnia, anxiety, and depression. Other bodily symptoms might include constipation with irritable bowel syndrome and headache. The patient may be especially sensitive to light and sound.
The condition impairs memory and cognitive functioning and can lead to a condition called “fibro fog.” The patient can walk into a room and forget what they’ve come for. They may have problems speaking, concentrating, or remembering things that should be easy for them to recall. The majority of sufferers are women.
Diagnosing fibromyalgia is largely a process of elimination, as the symptoms are nonspecific. This means they might be the symptoms of many other diseases. Only after other diseases are ruled out is a diagnosis of fibromyalgia reached.
Healthcare professionals recognize 19 trigger points in patients with fibromyalgia. Until recently, a diagnosis of the disease required the patient to have at least seven of these paired trigger points. Now, the doctor asks the patient if they’ve had widespread pain that seems to have no underlying cause for at least three months.
To rule out autoimmune diseases such as lupus, the doctor gives the patient a blood test called FM/a. This discloses markers released by the immune systems of people with the disorder. The doctor also gives the patient a physical exam and evaluates the patient’s other symptoms before making a diagnosis.
Some non-medical treatments for the condition include alternative therapies such as acupuncture to reduce pain and promote relaxation. Lifestyle changes may also be effective, including practicing yoga; avoiding alcohol, caffeine and heavy foods that can interfere with sleep; taking a warm bath before going to bed; and sleeping in a cool room.
For care of fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions in the Boise area, contact Pain Care Clinic of Idaho. We offer medical acupuncture, Scrambler Therapy®, InterX Therapy and other modern and traditional treatments and lifestyle guidance for chronic and acute pain.