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What is Firbromyalgia?

What is Fibromyalgia?

Since fibromyalgia is a relatively recent diagnosis, many individuals are unsure of the characteristics associated with the disease. Even upon receiving a diagnosis for this condition, many patients may ask, “What is fibromyalgia?”

This condition is characterized by chronic and widespread musculo-skeletal pain, chronic fatigue and problems related to sleep, memory and/or mood. Research suggests that patients with this condition often feel pain more acutely than others due to the way their brains receive and process various pain signals. In many cases, symptoms of this illness are vague and infrequent but progress in both frequency and severity over time. However, in some individuals, symptoms begin after a traumatic event such as surgery, an injury, infection or severe mental or emotional stress [].


Many patients who have been diagnosed with this condition experience dull, aching muscular pain that is usually intensified when pressure is applied. This pain is often widespread, which means it occurs on both sides of the body and both under and above the waist. When it comes to pain stemming from applied pressure, spots in which the pain is most severe are called tender points. Many patients have tender points in the following locations:

  • The shoulders, mostly between the blades or the shoulder tops.
  • The back of the head.
  • The front, back and sides of the neck.
  • The upper area of the chest.
  • The sides of the hips.
  • Outer areas of the elbows.
  • The inner parts of the knees.

In addition to tender points and widespread pain, another common symptom associated with this illness is trouble sleeping. Patients with this condition often have difficulties falling and staying asleep due to aches and pains, which can worsen other symptoms like stress and chronic fatige. In addition, this disease often coexists with other sleep disorders like sleep apnea, insomnia and restless leg syndrome, which can exacerbate sleep disturbances and other symptoms.

In addition to sleep disorders, other illnesses are known to plague patients with patients with this condition as well. These include the following:

  • Depression and anxiety.
  • Chronic fatigue.
  • Endometriosis and other disorders of the female reproductive system.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive disturbances.
  • Migraine and chronic headaches.

Risk Factors

There are several risk factors associated with this condition, some of which include the following []:

Studies show that women are more commonly diagnosed with this illness than their male counterparts. This could be due to the female reproductive system’s effects on how women experience and process pain.

Research on this condition shows that family history often plays a role in its diagnosis.

Rheumatic Disorders
Rheumatic disorders like arthritis and lupus can increase an individual’s risk of developing fibromyalgia.


Why do symptoms of this condition develop in the first place? Although the exact cause is undetermined, the answer could lie in patients’ pain thresholds, which are often lowered as a result of heightened sensitivity in the pain centers of the brain. This increased sensitivity could be due to many factors, including the aforementioned causes like severe trauma, genetics, sex, infection and psychological stress. Mental and emotional stress is especially linked to this disease since many sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder are eventually diagnosed with fibromyalgia as well.


Treatment for this condition can often involve a variety of methods, some of which include the following:

  • Pain management medications. These often include over-the-counter and prescription analgesics, as well as muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Antidepressants. Certain drugs used to treat depression can also relieve symptoms like pain, fatigue and insomnia that are often associated with this condition.
  • Anti-seizure drugs. Anti-epilepsy medications are often useful in the treatment of pain and other symptoms in fibromyalgia patients.
  • Physical therapy. This treatment can help reduce pain and tension, as well as promote healthier sleep habits.
  • Lifestyle changes. Studies show that eating a healthy, balanced diet, getting regular physical activity and making an effort to reduce stress can all improve symptoms of this condition.
  • Alternative treatments. Some patients have experienced relief through alternative therapies like massage and acupuncture.

Fibromyalgia Support

As with other conditions, support is crucial for patients with this illness. Since this disease is often misunderstood, patients may experience effects such as added stress and frustration concerning their diagnoses. One recommended method of fibromyalgia support is for patients to educate themselves, their families and friends on all the various aspects of this disease. Information on this condition is typically provided by doctors and other medical staff and can also be researched independently.

Another support method is support groups. In these types of groups, patients come together to share their coping strategies and success stories, as well as give and receive emotional support. Support groups are often held in hospitals, churches and other establishments and are ideal for patients who feel alone or frustrated in their diagnoses.

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