Fibromyalgia is an illness that affects muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons. It is characterized by chronic widespread pain and sensitive areas where even slight pressure causes intense pain.
These so-called tender points give rise to severe fibromyalgia pain on application of pressure. They are usually located at the front of the neck, on the tops of the shoulders, between the shoulder blades, on the top of the chest, on the back of the head, inside the knees and on the hips and elbows.
Other typical symptoms of severe fibromyalgia include sleep disorders, chronic fatigue, joint stiffness and anxiety along with depression, headaches, digestive and urinary problems.
Long believed to be a musculoskeletal or neuropsychiatric condition, fibromyalgia is more common in women than in men. Recent research has shown that abnormalities in the central nervous system affect brain regions linked to clinical symptoms, perhaps as a result of childhood stress or prolonged stress. Fibromyalgia is often seen in patients with chronic fatigue, post-traumatic stress disorder, irritable bowel syndrome and depression.
Making a diagnosis of severe fibromyalgia is very difficult and takes years, because the illness takes a long time to develop and many symptoms are common to other diseases.
There is a lot of discussion about whether an objective diagnosis is possible at all for fibromyalgia. In most cases, laboratory tests appear normal and many symptoms are similar to those of other rheumatic conditions such as arthritis or osteoporosis.
Typically, widespread and severe fibromyalgia pain must be present on both sides of the body and must also occur below and above the waistline. Additionally, 18 key trigger points need to be tested for pain.
Several tests may be necessary to rule out other diseases. Differential exclusion of rheumatoid arthritis and inflammation usually confirms fibromyalgia.
There is no known cure or universally accepted treatment for fibromyalgia. Treatment is typically aimed at symptom management and includes prescription medication, behavioral intervention, exercise, as well as alternative and complementary medicine.
Specific treatments can be used to alleviate inflammation and pain and offer relief from sleep disorders, fatigue and depression.
Physical therapy and exercise can help with muscle and joint pains, and even ease pain somewhat at trigger points. Acupuncture, massage, and chiropractic care also help patients cope with severe fibromyalgia.
There is increasing evidence implicating soft tissue changes in fibromyalgia. Prolotherapy reduced pain levels and improved functional ability, suggesting that tendons and ligaments are a major source of severe fibromyalgia symptoms.
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Written By: Updated: June 30,2011