Fibromyalgia (the name of which stems from the words “muscle pain”) is considered an arthritis-related disease, though it does not directly impact the joints. It is typically characterized by long-lasting, widespread pain throughout the body, and chronic fatigue. Approximately two percent of the population suffers from this disorder.
The symptoms of fibromyalgia are both many and varied, although some are more commonly experienced than others. Fibromyalgia pain is commonly experienced in soft tissues, such as muscles and tendons.
It can vary from mild to severe pain, and is often described as aching or throbbing, although sharp pain can also be experienced. Even the facial muscles can be chronically impacted by pain from this disease.
Diagnosis is in part dependent upon the identification of “tender points” – which are different from the “trigger points” associated with other disorders.
Tender points, a common fibromyalgia symptom, are specific areas of the body where even slight pressure elicits a pain response. These eighteen body parts, as listed in the diagnostic criteria, include the back of the head, the sides of the front of the neck, and the outside of the elbows, among other areas.
Tender points can be distinguished as such by the fact that the pain in these areas does not typically radiate, nor is it elicited without mechanical pressure on that specific part of the body.
The fatigue commonly associated with fibromyalgia is long-lasting and often described as debilitating exhaustion. It can be present upon waking in the morning and last throughout the day. Even with a full night’s sleep, the fibromyalgia patient often suffers from this symptom. All the same, doctors believe a full night’s sleep is critically important to the fibromyalgia patient.
Some doctors posit that fibromyalgia’s common coexistence with fatigue, sleep disturbances, and restless leg syndrome may be the answer to its cause, which is currently unknown. They believe that lack of sleep may cause the disorder itself, rather than being merely a symptom of it; they believe fibromyalgia sufferers may never truly experience the state of deep sleep that allows us to rest and our bodies to recharge.
Other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia include headaches, numbness and tingling, and, sometimes, morning stiffness. Some disorders that commonly coexist with fibromyalgia include rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus (commonly called SLE or lupus), endometriosis, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, and anxiety.
Fibromyalgia symptoms may come and go – even improving or worsening during specific parts of the day. Symptoms may also worsen (dependent upon the individual) in response to weather changes, stress, or exertion; clearly, the causes of this kind of exacerbation can vary widely.
Like the autoimmune disorders lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia is more common in women than in men. It is commonly preceded by a traumatic or stressful life event or illness, although this is not always the case. There are theories that the trigger for this condition may be a virus or some other disease, but there is, as of yet, no proof to support this theory.
Written By: Updated: June 28,2011