• Widespread pain in most of your body for months together without a pain free period
• Morning stiffness/don’t feel like leaving the bed
• Abnormal tingling and numbness in arms and legs
• Generalised fatigue
• Lack of freshness after overnight sleep
• Depressed mood/irritability
• Have you visited multiple doctors, been subjected to various investigations without any definitive diagnosis?
Fibromyalgia is an increasingly recognized chronic pain illness which is characterized by widespread musculoskeletal aches, pain and stiffness, soft tissue tenderness, general fatigue and sleep disturbances. The most common sites of pain include the neck, back, shoulders, pelvic girdle and hands, but any body part can be involved.
The exact cause of this condition is not known. However, the pain pathways, hormonal changes and immune system disturbances have all been studied and found in patients with fibromyalgia. This suggests a deeper and multifactorial causation of the condition.
The condition may often be a challenge to diagnose. This is because there are no clear cut sensitive tests that diagnose the condition with conviction. Much of the diagnosis is based on detailed examination of the patient and presence of symptoms.
• Pain all over the body > 3 months duration
• Day time tiredness/Fatigue
• Sleep difficulties
• Brain fog/depression
• Morning stiffness
• Muscle knots, cramping, weakness
• Short term memory loss
• Presence of multiple tender points
• Affects 7-8 percent of the general population
• Occurs in people of all ages, even children
• More common in women, although men develop fibromyalgia too
• Symptoms are chronic but may fluctuate throughout the day
• Roughly 25% of people with fibromyalgia are work-disabled
• Three drugs are FDA-approved for fibromyalgia treatment
• Fibromyalgia is Manageable with medications and exercises
The mainstay of treatment is physical therapy. Optimal physical therapy can only be carried out once adequate pain relief is achieved. Adequate pain relief can be achieved by a combination of nerve medicines to quieten the nerves and safe pain killers, which are continued for longer periods of time.
You can manage your pain by a simply understanding the disease and realising the importance of lifestyle modifications. A long-term commitment has to be made to improve your quality of life .The wellness approach to fibromyalgia includes:
Alteration of daily activities/Lifestyle modifications : Maintaining a proper posture during sitting, standing, work and sleep are important to minimise muscle stiffness. Managing stress and pacing your daily activities will help your overall well being.
Exercises : An exercise programme that includes stretching of muscles and mobility of all joints of the body is started. You can even start with just 5 minutes a dayapproach with either gentle walks or stretching exercises. This can gradually be increased to 15-20 minutes every day. Proper rest should also be a part of your daily programme. Aerobic exercises can also be a part of your treatment once the pain has reduced considerably.
Swimming/Aquatic Therapy : Swimming or hydrotherapy can help relieve muscle stiffness and improving flexibility of muscles. Regular swimming can go a long way in improving your quality of life.
Yoga : Regular yoga exercises can help in relaxing stiff muscles and achieving flexibility of the body. Yoga results in both relief of pain as well as relaxation of mind.
Maintaining a regular sleep/wake cycle : A regular 6-8 hours sleep is essential to minimise the fatigue and stiffness of muscles.
Therapy : Massage, ultrasound, vibrations and other muscle strengthening therapies including electrical nerve stimulation can help you in relaxing muscles and release pain. Pharmacological agents (medicines) prescribed by your doctor will also help in getting ready to start your daily exercises and work routine.