What is Fibromyalgia?
Sometimes referred to as the “invisible disease”, fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain. Its exact cause is unknown but is believed to involve psychological, genetic, neurobiological and environmental factors. The brains of people with fibromyalgia show some functional and structural differences from those without the condition. Some research suggests that these brain anomalies may be the result of childhood stress, or prolonged or severe stress later in life.
What Are the Symptoms?
Patients often describe a widespread and constant "dull ache" that lasts for months. Accompanying symptoms including fatigue, trouble sleeping, joint stiffness, bowel and bladder issues, and forms of cognitive dysfunction. These symptoms are frequently experienced after instances of physical trauma, surgery, infection or significant psychological stress. However, symptoms can also gradually accumulate over time without a single perceivable triggering event. Patients are most commonly diagnosed between the ages of 35-60.
What Are the Treatment Options?
There is currently no cure for fibromyalgia. However, adapting some lifestyle and dietary changes can noticeably improve symptoms, including practicing relaxation techniques and getting regular exercise. Physical therapy, therapeutic massage, light aerobics, acupuncture, and yoga have also shown to improve symptoms in some patients. Talk to a doctor about medications that can help reduce pain and other associated symptoms.
Support Groups and Educational Resources
For those suffering from fibromyalgia or would like to support those that do, there are many local, national, and global organizations working to increase awareness of this condition. A few communities that you can join, donate, or visit to find more information about fibromyalgia include: