Fibromyalgia on the Pain Scale

Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory, and mood changes.  While there is no cure for fibromyalgia, a variety of medications can help control symptoms.  Exercise, relaxation, and stress-reduction might also help relieve pain.

Symptoms

Symptoms often begin after a physical trauma, surgery, infection, or significant psychological stress.  In other cases, symptoms gradually accumulate over time with no single triggering event.  The pain associated with fibromyalgia is often described as a constant dull ache that has lasted for at least three months.  To be considered widespread, the pain must occur on both sides of your body and above and below your waist.  People with fibromyalgia often awaken tired, even though they report sleeping for long periods of time.  Sleep is often disrupted by pain, and many patients with the condition have other sleep disorders such as restless legs syndrome and sleep apnea.

A symptom commonly referred to as “fibro fog” impairs the ability to focus, pay attention, and concentrate on mental tasks.  Fibromyalgia patients may also experience depression, headaches, and pain or cramping in the lower abdomen.

Causes

Doctors don’t know what causes fibromyalgia, but it most likely involves a variety of factors working together.  Women are much more likely to develop fibromyalgia than men and it tends to run in families.  Some illnesses appear to trigger or aggravate fibromyalgia, and post-traumatic stress disorder has been linked to fibromyalgia.  Many people who have fibromyalgia also have tension headaches, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and depression.

Treatments

In general, treatments for fibromyalgia include both medication and self-care that emphasize minimizing symptoms and improving general health.  No one treatment works for all symptoms.

Medications

Medications can help reduce the pain of fibromyalgia and improve sleep.  Common choices include pain relievers, anti depressants, and anti-seizure drugs.

Therapies

Talk therapy with a counselor can help strengthen the belief in a patient’s abilities and teach strategies for coping with stressful situations.

Specialists

These doctors specialize in chronic pain management and can help diagnose, treat, and manage your condition.

Physiatrist

A doctor specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation that treats both acute and chronic pain with a variety of nonsurgical treatments.

Psychiatrist

A doctor that diagnoses and treats chronic pain patients’ psychological disorders with counseling, behavioral therapy and medication.

Learn More:
Mayo Clinic
Johns Hopkins