Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia (new Latin, fibro-, fibrous tissues, Gk. myo-, muscle, Gk. algos-, pain, meaning muscle and connective tissue pain; also referred to as FM or FMS) is a medical disorder characterized by chronic widespread pain and allodynia, a heightened and painful response to pressure.

Fibromyalgia symptoms are not restricted to pain, leading to the use of the alternative term fibromyalgia syndrome for the condition. Other symptoms include debilitating fatigue, sleep disturbance, and joint stiffness. Some patients may also report difficulty with swallowing, bowel and bladder abnormalities, numbness and tingling, and cognitive dysfunction.

Fibromyalgia is frequently comorbid with psychiatric conditions such as depression and anxiety and stress-related disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder. Not all people with fibromyalgia experience all associated symptoms. Fibromyalgia is estimated to affect 2–4% of the population, with a female to male incidence ratio of approximately 9:1. (1)

Pressure points are tender spots on the body, can be present in Fibromyalgia. You may have none or all of these pressure spots, but pain in these areas can point to fibromyalgia.

Symptoms:

Pain

If you have fibromyalgia, one of your main symptoms is likely to be widespread pain. This may be felt throughout your body, but could be worse in particular areas, such as your back or neck. The pain is likely to be continuous, although it may be better or more severe at different times.

The pain could feel like:

  • an ache
  • a burning sensation
  • a sharp stabbing pain

Extreme sensitivity

Fibromyalgia can cause you to become extremely sensitive to pain all over your body, and you may find that even the slightest touch is very painful. If you hurt yourself, for example if you stub your toe, you may find that the pain continues for much longer than it normally would.

You may hear this described in the following medical terms:

  • hyperalgesia – when you are extremely sensitive to pain
  • allodynia – when you feel pain from something that should not be painful at all, such as a very light touch

If you have fibromyalgia, you may find you are very sensitive to other things as well, such as smoke, certain foods and bright lights. Being exposed to something you are sensitive to can cause your other fibromyalgia symptoms to flare up.

Stiffness

Fibromyalgia can make you feel stiff.  The stiffness may be most severe when you have been in the same position for a long period of time, such as when you first wake up in the morning.

Fibromyalgia can also cause your muscles to spasm, which is when they contract (squeeze) tightly and painfully. This can affect your sleep (see below).

Fatigue

Fatigue (extreme tiredness) as a result of fibromyalgia can range from a mild, tired feeling to the exhaustion often experienced during a flu-like illness. Sometimes, severe fatigue may come on very suddenly and can drain you of all your energy. If this occurs, you may feel too tired to do anything at all.

Poor quality sleep

Fibromyalgia can affect your sleep. You may find you often wake up tired even when you have had plenty of sleep. This is because fibromyalgia can sometimes prevent you from sleeping deeply enough to refresh you properly. You may hear this described as ‘non-restorative sleep’.

Cognitive problems (‘fibro-fog’)

Cognitive problems are problems with mental processes, such as thinking and learning. If you have fibromyalgia, you may have:

  • trouble remembering and learning new things
  • problems with attention and concentration
  • slowed or confused speech

Headaches

If you have pain and stiffness in your neck and shoulders from fibromyalgia, you may also have frequent headaches. These can vary from being mild headaches to severe migraines, which may also involve other symptoms, such as nausea (feeling sick).

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

If you have fibromyalgia, you may develop irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) as well. IBS is a common digestive condition that causes pain and bloating in your stomach. It can also cause constipation (when you are unable to empty your bowels) and diarrhoea (passing loose stools).

See the Health A-Z topic about IBS for more information.

Other symptoms

Other symptoms of fibromyalgia can include:

  • not being able to regulate your body temperature (feeling too hot or too cold)
  • restless legs syndrome (unpleasant sensations in your legs and feeling like you need to move your legs to get some relief)
  • tingling, numbness, prickling, or burning sensations in your hands and feet (paresthesia)
  • tinnitus (the perception of a noise in one or both ears that comes from inside your body)
  • unusually painful periods (in women)
  • anxiety
  • depression (see below)

Depression

It is possible for fibromyalgia to lead to depression. This is because the condition can be difficult to deal with, and low levels of certain hormones, such as serotonin, can make you prone to developing depression.

Depression can cause many symptoms, including:

  • constantly feeling low
  • a lack of interest in the things that you usually enjoy
  • feeling tearful. (2)


(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fibromyalgia
(2) http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Fibromyalgia/Pages/Symptoms.aspx

69 Comments

  1. Pingback: First World Problems « Halfway Between The Gutter And The Stars

  2. My girlfriend has fibromyalgia. I always remember how impressed I am with her when I’m reminded what it is she’s suffering through; she’s currently in Thailand with me pursuing a career as an English teacher.
    It’s so easy to forget she has it; there’s no visible symptom.
    It’s such a crappy illness, and I had no idea it was so prevalent.

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  4. My mom always thought she had this. After MANY MANY years of self treating, she finally found out in her early 70’s she had Lupus, not Fibro.

    I best friend just found she has fibromyalgia. She just thought it was just the stress of her job and some issues in her life. But when the pain wasn’t ceasing with OT meds, she started having second thoughts. One day she had bumped her head really hard on something and decided to go to the ER to have it checked. Well, she didn’t have a concussion, but they did find interesting things in her MRI. After a couple of other tests, it was determined that she had fibromyalgia. Her doctor is prescribing some meds to help with some of the pain.

    Since describing some of these symptons, I’m now wondering if my husband has it! Constant headaches, RLS, depression, occasional neck pain…..hmmmmm.

    • I’d be interested in what was found in your friend’s MRI (I can give you my private email address if you don’t want to say it on here) – of course, only if you’re okay with that. I’d also be interested in which medication she’s been given. I’m glad she’s being helped though; it can be hard to find good help for fibro, so she sounds in good hands.

      Lupus is something doctors are possibly looking at in me now, rather than fibromyalgia. I only know about it from Wikipedia really, but I do hope your mum is okay. Any sort of chronic pain can be a nightmare, but sometimes it’s comforting to know what’s causing it.

      Your husband certainly has symptoms of fibro. You could try checking him for the pressure points, and see if they’re more tender than the rest of his body. Lots of conditions mimic fibro and vise-versa, so it’s worth him seeing a rhuemetologist (terrible spelling today!) to rule out anything like arthritis or just a simple trapped nerve. It’s strange the symptoms a trapped nerve can have. Of course, it might be nothing, but if you or him are worried, get it checked out :)

    • My mom has Lupus and Sjogren’s Disease. I have been told by many friends that I need to get checked out for Fibro, and honestly, I have almost all the symptoms. I worry I will go to a doc that doesn’t believe in it though, and passes me off as a hypochondriac. I’ve been getting treatment for the mental side of life since 2004, and it has helped me sooooo much. It doesn’t help with the pain though, or some other random things my body confuses me with. Was it hard to find a doc that was willing to treat Fibro for you?

  5. I too have fibromyalgia. I have so far refused the normal protocol of medication indicated for this–the side effects are too frightening. I’ve dealt with anxiety, panic and depression most of my life, much of it related to, I believe, growing up in a very unstable household–so the symptoms overlap with other conditions. Probably very common, don’t you think.

    It was a relief to get a diagnosis but I don’t always go for mainstream medicine when dealing with issues. So far, I’m managing OK. Thanks for sharing.

    • Yes, I think it’s very common. I certainly think that chronic pain and an unstable life go together.

      I’m trying to avoid pretty much all medication for fibro, especially now I’m waiting on tests by a neurologist to investigate my symptoms. I do take amitriptyline at bed time when I remember, because it helps me sleep better, but the side effects aren’t great. Lots of tiredness and fog in the morning. I’m sure if I stuck with it the side effects would calm down, but I’m not sure it’s worth taking the medical route if it makes some of the more annoying symptoms worse.

      I’m glad you’re managing ok.

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  7. I have fibromyalgia as well. Do you recommend any therapies that aren’t medicinally related? My mother and I both avoid the offered medications, I do it for personal reasons. Some people say exercise helps, but I don’t know how to go about it. I’m so stiff when I wake up, and I can barely move. Send advice my way, it’s very much appreciated. Thanks!

  8. I am so happy to have found your blog. It is nice to know and share this illness with other people that are suffering from it. Sometimes, I feel like I am going crazy and I just can’t take it anymore. It has effected every part of my life and makes me feel like I am not the same person I once was.
    You have a great blog and I love your honesty.

  9. Lots of male sufferers too – unfortunately. I was diagnosed with the illness and have found daily life a challenge these past few years with all of the above. Great that someone has blogged the information. I also turned my experience into a funny story called “Being Frank” that you can find on my blog. I really helped to do that too.

    Brian.

  10. I enjoyed reading about your story. I have lupus and ankylosing spondylitis but manage fairly well most days. I’ll be looking forward to reading about your journey, your struggle, and your laughter as you navigate the ocean of life.

    By the way, I like the word “kumquat” too. :) It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

  11. Have you ever been tested for food allergies? I was recently diagnosed with several, and the symptoms I endure (especially for those with a corn allergy — it’s simply in everything from food to shampoo) are frighteningly similar. I don’t know that avoiding foods can cure or fix or in any way get rid of fibromyalgia, but you might find some added relief. I was shocked by this revelation. I’m 36 and I’ve suffered in silent frustration for years upon years.

  12. I’m a little less than a month from finally having a definitive (we’ll see), at 40,diagnosis of Fibromyalgia. While I have a myriad of symptoms, it so far has not had a dramatic impact on my life. I was diagnosed as having arthritis as an 8-year old child, which my specialist now says I don’t have & never have had, so it would seem that I perhaps have had this since I was 8 (lucky me!).

    I have been in chronic pain since at least 8 years old, so I find my pain tolerance is unbelievably high, but I have really bad days & that means at those times I have to medicate. Luckily, at this point, I can do that with OTC meds (advil sent from Canada), but the pain is getting worse. My hands (makes typing feel like torture sometimes), elbows (can’t carry anything in my hands & have my arms hang by my sides because it feels like my elbows are being torn apart) & thighs (if I am sitting down & lift my legs it feels like my muscles are being ripped off the bone) are the worst.

    Then there’s the exhaustion & the impact to my short-term memory – I find myself forgetting simple words that I use daily at work, which makes things difficult. I used to wake up anywhere between 4-30 times a night, I was such a light sleeper. My OH used to joke that all he had to do was breathe the wrong way & I would wake up. Of course, as I now know, this has had a pretty dramatic impact on my fibro. I now take a 10mg sleeping pill Mon-Thurs & the difference is night & day! I sleep a full uninterupted night of sleep & I’m no longer falling asleep when sitting in meetings. On the weekends, I have naps & so far it is working for me.

    I could go on & on, but you know how it goes, so I wont, lol! I wish you the best in your journey & I look forward to following you in my small way.

    • Hi, nice to meet you! Your description of fibromyalgia sounds very much like my own experiences. The pain is awful, and I feel for you; I’ve had similar pains for years and it can be soul-destroying. Do you mind me asking if the pill you take is amitriptyline? No real reason, just nosy because I’ve been taken off them and my symptoms have actually improved somewhat, if only the fluffy-headed thinking.

      Good luck with the diagnosis, and I hope you get the answers you want. Your sleep has improved, and I suspect that will make a huge difference. I know when I get the occasional bit of ‘real sleep’ I feel much better. It’s just so hard to come by at the moment.

      Take good care of yourself, and let me know about the diagnosis if you wish.

  13. Thank you for having such a great blog. This description and blog are right on. My attention span is short due to fibro-fog and I try to keep my blogs short and to the point because I can’t blog for a long period of time because of my carpal tunnel and fibro but I also realize that my audience has a short attention span as well. I love your blog and will read more when I can. Thanks hon. xoxo

  14. Liked your blog a lot.. esp because it spoke about the pain I am struggling with since the last 4 years.. Although I have been aware of it.. it feels better to know that your blog is making more people aware of it. It is a living nightmare. :C :'((

  15. I just wanted to say that you’re pretty amazing. I was first diagnosed with fibro in 1993. I’d probably actually had it for at least two years before that, but didn’t know it. What I did know was that law school was kicking my ass when it shouldn’t have. That made the school’s administration very UNeager to deal with the situation and, instead, invited me to leave. I had no choice because I didn’t have the money to fight them. I try not to waste time hating the son of a byach who kicked me out because it’s non-productive. The upside, however, is that I found something else I was good at and never fully exploited. I’m trying to do so now. I still want that law degree, though. If for nothing else, I want to wave it in the admin’s little face and tell him where to go while smiling from ear to ear.

  16. I had fibro before there was a name for it. That was depressing. I limped sometimes and sometimes and most of the time, I was a Salsa dancer, I could press on, Now, I also have sciatica, osteoarthritis, knee degeneration, and frozen hips. Yet, I keep active and still think I can run and dance. I sometimes can. Thank you for your blog and I wish there was one when I suffered in silence thinking I was dying. Aloha

  17. thank you for this blog, i guess it just confirms what i already know, i haven’t spent much time reading on it(except for when i was diagnosed 10 years ago) although i swear i have had it much longer, and it just gets worse, i cry most days, its comforting to see i am not alone, finally people who understand. i am so glad i have been introduced to this website, and look forward to reading peoples post. THANK YOU FOR THIS, IT MEANS MORE THAN I CAN SAY, GOD BLESS YOU ALL AND MAY YOU HAVE A PAIN FREE DAY.

  18. What a great blog you have here. I read that they are looking at you for Lupus. Did you have any follow-up on that? If so I apologize, I didn’t see it. I ask because the last time I saw my doctor, I complained of a rash I keep getting that seems to happen at the same time i get pain flare-ups. He told me not to blame everything on fibro, and next time I get the rash, to have it biopsied, because I could have Lupus. It hasn’t come back yet, so I’m waiting.

  19. Sending you love! I’m totally with all of you about “all in your head” stuff. I sometimes secretly wish one of these “friends” or doctors would get to experience what I do. And while they would be dying from pain and panic, trying to reach out for the meds with their trembling hands, I would just smile and say: “Relax darling, it’s really nothing. Just eat more fruit and you’ll be fine”.

  20. Hello I have fibromyalgia, I’m in terrible pain. I am being treated with medication, but nothing seems to resolve. If anyone has more information about this problem, help me to improve my life pass me information on how to have a normal life with fibromyalgia. Thank you

    • Marisa, im sorry for your pain, unfortunately i haven’t found a one on one relief, sometimes ice works, sometimes heat, massage hot tub, rubs, antiinflamotorys, muscle relaxers, it so vary s on extent of the pain, ive been to P.T. CHIROPRACTORS AND NOW IM TRYING ACUPUNCTURE, which did good for a few months, but seeing i cant afford 1 time a week its not working as well as it did, just know you are not alone, and it makes me feel a bit better to think im not the only one feeling like such shit:( i am so tired and it can be so annoying, as im sure you understand, stay strong, and im sorry to sound so negative, but i sometimes think maybe I DON’T TRY HARD ENOUGH, because im too tired too try:(. SORRY IF I HAVE DISSAPOINTED ANYONE HERE NOW, BUT LIKE I SAID ITS SO OVERWHELMING, AND NOT TO MENTION THE HUGE DEPRESSION MY FAMILY IS GOING THROUGH , AND WE KNOW STRESS CAN MAKE IT WORSE, so im depressed as well, BUT KEEP ON KEEPING ON AND BE S FIGHTER, YOUR NOT ALONE AND YOU CAN ALWAYS TALK HERE. i haven’t been here for a while but i KNOW i can always count on ALL YOU GUYS FOR SUPPORT, THANK YOU AND GOD BLESS.

  21. Pingback: another week goes by & still so tired | tryingtoescapethedarkness

  22. i miss being here, listening to you make so much sense, i have been in so much pain, it takes a lot to sit here long enough to see whats going on, i don’t have a reg computer desk and so it even more uncomfortable than most,( not to mention the xtra pain i feel,) was thinking of you and hoping all is well, god bless, and yes im still alive, lol. keep keeping on, PEACE MY FRIEND.

  23. Pingback: Fibromyalgia/some information | brokeninpeaces

  24. i am a mummy to 3 very young children and i have been suffering and seriously struggling for years from all of the above symptoms. my doc has finally (after way too many invasive investigations) told me she believes i suffer from fibromyalgia. this article has answered so many of my questions and worries. many thanks for writing it.

  25. hi, just found your blog today. i was brave and did a bit more research on fibro. i have been certain for 9 months or so that i have it, but i have been too scared to look into it much- feels safer to be in denial. i already have depression, anxiety, & borderline, so i didn’t want to add anything to the list, so to speak. first off, the title of your blog is beautiful. it, as are the words of you and your followers, is very uplifting. i am 24 and am terrified of facing a lifetime of this illness. for now, i concentrate on getting through one day at a time.

  26. This is a great blog, helps me feel so much less alone. I was posting as I just read a comment from Emily and it really resonated with me. I am currently 25 and have had fibro symptoms since 23. I was age 24 when things just get so awful I could no longer be in denial. I lived an entire year just trying to imagine I had no symptoms but it became more and more impossible. I finally faced up to my illness but the diagnosis of fibro broke my heart. For the last year I have been following the guaifenesin protocol by dr st amand for fibro and cfs. I have had many moments of feeling considerably better, almost normal again. It’s not fast nor an instant cure but a slow reversal of the illness. If anyone is at their wit’s end, please do look into it. Laura xxx

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