Fibromyalgia, Survival Tools

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition categorized as a form of arthritis. Fibromyalgia is characterized by widespread pain in the muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Common symptoms of fibromyalgia include fatigue, headaches, painful menstrual periods, tingling or numbness in the hands and feet, morning stiffness, multiple tender points on the body, and difficulty sleeping. Common sites of pain include the back, shoulders, neck, pelvic girdle, and hands, but any part of the body can be affected.

The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown. However, many factors can contribute to fibromyalgia. Researchers believe that disturbances in sleep patterns may be a cause of fibromyalgia rather than a symptom. Viral or bacterial infections can also be a trigger. An injury or trauma that affects the central nervous system can be a cause of fibromyalgia. An imbalance in the neurotransmitters in the brain can also be a cause of fibromyalgia. Serotonin is one of those neurotransmitters that researchers believe is linked to the cause of fibromyalgia along with depression, migraines, and gastrointestinal disorders. Abnormalities in the autonomic nervous system may be a cause of fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia can also be caused by changes in muscle metabolism, such as lack of conditioning and decreased blood flow.

Fibromyalgia affects people in early and mid adulthood, but it can affect children as well. Those affected by rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or ankylosing spondylitis are more likely to develop fibromyalgia. A family history of fibromyalgia also increases the chance of developing this disorder. People with sleep disorders, such as restless legs syndrome or sleep apnea, are at higher risk of developing fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is not a progressive or life-threatening disease. Fibromyalgia symptoms vary in intensity. There are many treatments that can improve the symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Certain medications can treat fibromyalgia-related pain. Certain pain relievers used to treat fibromyalgia include: acetaminophen, NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), and Ultram (tramadol). These medications can be used together for better pain relief. However, Ultram must be prescribed by a doctor, while NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen, aspirin) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) are available without a prescription.

Your doctor may prescribe antidepressants to treat fibromyalgia. Antidepressant medications that may be prescribed include: Pamelor, Elavil, Doxepin, Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft. These medications may be prescribed along with others. These drugs treat serotonin levels in the brain and can also promote sleep.

Those affected by muscle pain and spasms may need to take a muscle relaxant such as Flexeril at bedtime. Your doctor may also prescribe a benzodiazepine to promote sleep and help relax your muscles. Certain sleep medications, such as Ambien, are classified as benzodiazepines. However, these drugs are not recommended for long-term use due to the increased risk of dependence.

Your doctor can help you create a unique treatment program that involves cognitive behavioral therapy and an interdisciplinary program. Cognitive behavioral therapy involves teaching patients to deal with stressful situations. Interdisciplinary treatment programs may include relaxation techniques, biofeedback, and chronic pain education.

Self-care is also very important in the treatment of fibromyalgia. Self-care includes reducing stress, getting adequate sleep, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet. There are also alternative therapies that could help relieve the stress and pain associated with fibromyalgia. These therapies include chiropractic care, massage therapy, meditation, yoga, acupressure, physical therapy, light aerobics, aromatherapy, herbs, nutritional supplements, myofascial release therapy, hot/cold application, and acupuncture.

Visiting an osteopathic doctor can be beneficial in treating fibromyalgia. Doctors of Osteopathy are licensed to perform the same therapies and procedures as physicians, but they are also taught the use of manipulation to treat joint and spinal problems. An osteopathic doctor may be better able to see the subtle signs of fibromyalgia.

There is no cure for fibromyalgia yet, but hope is on the horizon. The fibromyalgia patient has many resources to help them deal with this disorder, such as support groups, organizations, and medical professionals to help improve their quality of life. Fibromyalgia is not life-threatening, and treatments tend to improve the severity of symptoms over time. There are many tools that the person suffering from fibromyalgia can use to become a fibromyalgia survivor!

Copyright 2006 Kristy Haugen

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