Fibromyalgia, or fibrositis, is a disorder characterized by widespread chronic musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. It is believed that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals. Typically, a fibromyalgia diagnosis requires three months of chronic pain, that exists throughout the entire body.
How is Fibromyalgia Diagnosed?
There is no lab or imaging tests for fibromyalgia, making it difficult to diagnose. Though it can begin following physical trauma, severe psychological stress, surgery or infection, there is no known cause of fibromyalgia, and often patients suffer symptoms that simply accumulate over time without a triggering event. In order to diagnose fibromyalgia, a physician will review all present symptoms and come to a conclusion.
Pain Areas and Types
Pain from fibromyalgia can exist in a myriad of places within the body, including the muscles, abdomen, back, or neck. Fibromyalgia affects the musculoskeletal system, which consists of the bones of the skeleton, tendons, ligaments, muscles, cartilage, joints, and other connective tissue that supports and binds tissues and organs together. Essentially, anything that supports movement and mobility within the body.
Despite such a wide spectrum to experience pain, when diagnosing fibromyalgia a physician will check what are called the "18 Points" of pain. These are 9 pairs of points that are painful when pressure is applied, and may spread pain to other parts of the body. Those with fibromyalgia experience a more heightened pain in these spots than a person without the disorder. Points include:
- Back of the neck
- Front of the neck
- Lower back
- Upper back
In addition to these pain points, the type of pain varies greatly for those with fibromyalgia. Symptoms of the disorder include pain that is chronic, may diffuse throughout the day, can be sharp, or is very severe.
Fibromyalgia within the Body
Those suffering fibromyalgia experience various symptoms within their bodies, aside from the chronic pain. Common symptoms include fatigue, a general feeling of constant tiredness, or malaise. Many individuals suffer from headaches and joint stiffness.
Fibromyalgia affects women more commonly than men, and females concerned they may be suffering the disease should look out for painful menstruation as a common symptom of fibromyalgia.
Those with fibromyalgia most commonly experience symptoms in their gastrointestinal system, muscular system, and sensory system.
Common symptoms of fibromyalgia include problems within the gastrointestinal system. Symptoms include constipation, nausea, or passing an excessive amount of gas. Symptoms may also include digestive disorders, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), that will cause diarrhea, lower or mid-abdominal pain, and bloating.
Many suffering fibromyalgia experience symptoms within their muscles. The first symptom to look for is muscle tenderness, in which the muscles may feel weak or tender to the touch. Delayed-onset muscle soreness, also known as DOMS, is another frequent symptom of fibromyalgia. DOMS can be so severe that it can be mistaken as a muscle strain, and individuals may begin to feel pain up to 72-hours after completing exercise or other physical stresses.
In addition, a common symptom of fibromyalgia is muscle spasms. Individuals suffering fibromyalgia experience involuntary contractions of muscles, which occur abruptly and often cause pain.
Sensory issues are very common symptoms for those suffering fibromyalgia. Those suffering the disorder may feel a heightened sensitivity to cold, as well as pain. Likewise, many often experience pins and needles in the extremities, including hands and feet. A frequent tingling in the feet may be a sign of fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia in Relation to Sleep and Mood
Unfortunately for those suffering fibromyalgia, mood and sleeping patterns are often connected to major symptoms of the disorder. In addition to often being irritable, many suffering fibromyalgia experience symptoms of depression as well.
Difficulty Sleeping with Fibromyalgia
A common symptom of fibromyalgia is experiencing difficulty falling asleep, as well as being awakened easily during the night. One of the most common sleep issues related to fibromyalgia is restless leg syndrome (RLS). RLS is a neurological condition, and it not quite clear what causes it. Symptoms of RLS including the sensation of tugging or burning in the legs, as well as creeping or crawling. These sensations may begin as minor, but can be excruciating.
Those with RLS experience an overwhelming need to move their legs to find relief from the sensations that plague them. Sensations typically begin once the individual has relaxed, and is most frequent when they are attempting to fall asleep or while they are sleeping. This causes the individual to lose hours of sleep, leaving them exhausted and needing to face their plethora of other symptoms on an empty tank the next morning.
Cognitive Issues with Fibromyalgia
These issues include forgetfulness or a lack of concentration. Often referred to as "fibro-fog," this symptom impairs the ability to focus, pay attention and concentrate on mental tasks. This can leave the individual often confused, and suffering difficulties with their memory.
The combination of constant pain, limited sleep, and attention-deficit may result in depression or anxiety, two other common symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Seeking Help for Symptoms
If you're been experiencing a majority of these symptoms, it is highly possible that you have undiagnosed fibromyalgia. Visit a ChiroCare of Florida office as soon as possible to discuss treatment options and allow you to resume life feeling like your best self.