What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a poorly understood disorder. It is a chronic syndrome that causes a stiff, burning pain in or near the joints, not dissimilar to the pain of arthritis. Unlike arthritis, however, the joints are not deformed or damaged.

What are the Symptoms of Fibromyalgia?

Most people with fibromyalgia complain of the pain commencing in one area of the body, then radiating outwards. Cold weather, physical exertion, insomnia and stress can make the pain worse. As many as one in 50 people may experience fibromyalgia during their lifetime, with the large majority of sufferers being women. Many people with fibromyalgia also experience secondary symptoms, including chronic fatigue, depression and migraine headaches. Some people also complain of bladder and menstrual problems.

What are the Causes of Fibromyalgia?

The precise cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but research is ongoing. The higher incidence of stress and depression among sufferers has been interpreted by some experts as a psychosomatic cause of the disease, but others assert that these mood disorders may actually occur as a result of being in significant, regular pain. It may be that there are many causes of the illness, including genetic factors, brain chemical abnormalities, insomnia and muscular abnormalities. A combination of some or all of these factors may instigate the illness. Many other complaints present similar symptoms to fibromyalgia, which makes it very difficult to diagnose. Fibromyalgia may also occur as the result of certain other illnesses and complaints. Neck injuries, Ankylosing Spondylitis and some surgical procedures may precipitate the condition.

Traditional Medical Treatments for Fibromyalgia

In many cases, the symptoms can be managed effectively, although there is no particular curative treatment for fibromyalgia. Some medications can improve sleeping patterns and reduce pain levels, but for the most part, recovery or part-recovery depends upon the patient’s own lifestyle. Pursuing a graded exercise regimen and practising relaxation techniques are known to help in reducing pain levels. Many people with fibromyalgia avoid exercise as it causes pain, but fibromyalgia is a muscular complaint, and exercising those muscles is the only definite way to improve the condition. It is crucial that people with fibromyalgia do not fall into habits of self-dosing; for example, taking pills or alcohol to aid sleeping, and taking caffeine in significant amounts to counteract fatigue. Toxins are not likely to improve the condition at all. Often the condition is a lifelong one, but it can be managed, and if a reduction in levels of pain and fatigue are achieved, it need not be debilitating.

Complementary/Alternative Treatments for Fibromyalgia

Acupuncture, some herbal and nutritional supplements (magnesium, SAMe) and massage therapy have the best evidence for effectiveness with Fibromyalgia.