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If you have been suffering with chronic pain and fatigue (especially if you are female), you may have “Fibromyalgia” (FM). Some medical experts believe as many as 75 percent of people with FMS are undiagnosed. There is no cure for this condition, and physicians are not sure exactly what causes it.
If you wake up every morning feeling really stiff, tired and sore and exhausted every day, suffering with chronic pain and fatigue (especially if you are a woman), you may want to ask your doctor abut it. According to the CDC, an estimated 4 million adults in the U.S. suffer from it.
- Could You Be Among the Millions of Americans with Undiagnosed FM?
Women are most likely to suffer from the condition, by a ratio of 7 to 1. However, both men and children can have it. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 60, with some evidence suggesting that the peak of symptoms occurs around the age of 35.
According to Wikipedia, referring to this research study, FM remains undiagnosed in an estimated 75% of people with the disorder. That means millions of people in the United States have FM and do not realize it, suffering without knowing the cause. Some may be taking prescription pain medication to help them cope, without understanding they actually have FM. Others simply suffer in silence, waking up every day with a body full of aches and pains and dreading their pain-filled life. Fibromyalgia is technically classified as a syndrome (FMS), since it has no known cause or cure. Little is known about this mysterious malady. There is no known cure. There are methods for actively managing the symptoms. Here are some of the possible reasons why so many people with FM are not diagnosed:
- There is no test to determine definitively whether someone has FM
- Most of the symptoms could be caused by a variety of other factors. FM is often diagnosed by a process of eliminating other possible causes of the symptoms
- People who have suffered from chronic pain and exhaustion assume it is “normal” or simply part of the aging process
- Some people are afraid to go through the process of determining the cause for fear of discovering it is something serious or even fatal
These “Tender Points” are often used to help diagnosis it. There are no blood or lab tests that can indicate it. Physicians run certain tests to ensure there are no other internal factors creating the symptoms. Keeping a detailed list of your past medical problems, current symptoms and family history can also be useful. Because so many people with it go undiagnosed, it’s important to be as informed as possible when seeing your doctor. For many people suffering some or all of the symptoms, it can take several doctor visits before receiving a referral to a specialist or getting a final diagnosis.
Not everyone with FMS experiences all of the associated symptoms, but even coping with a few is physically and psychologically taxing. Symptoms can include:
- Widespread physical pain – that occurs both above and below the waist, as well as on both sides of the body
- Morning stiffness – which can be the result of 8 hours of non-activity. Getting up and getting the muscles and joints moving brings relieve.
- Difficulty focusing – and concentrating due to what’s known a “fibro-fog,” which makes mental tasks extremely difficult
- Constant fatigue – associated with lack of sleep due to pain. Many people with FMS also suffer from sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome, which further disrupts sleep
- Psychological disorders – such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder are also common among individuals with fibromyalgia
- Bowel and or bladder issues
- Difficulty swallowing
- Tingling, numbness and joint stiffness
- Prolonged muscle spasms and nerve pain
- Sensitivity to temperature and or light
Many people with FMS suffer in silence. This is one of the reasons why so many people with this condition are currently undiagnosed. They have become accustomed to coping with the symptoms and have resigned themselves to it.
Living with chronic pain is a very difficult thing with which to cope. Even harder is when medical science is unable to provide a reason or diagnosis for the intense discomfort. It is a disorder that causes intense musculoskeletal pain combined with a whole host of other physical and psychological symptoms. The pain can be severe or simply a consistent “aching”.
At the moment, there’s no universally accepted treatment, though a variety of methods are generally employed to control symptoms as much as possible. Medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are:
- Pregabalin – an analgesic and anti-convulsion used for neuropathic pain
- Cymbalta – used to treat neuropathic pain as well depression and anxiety
- Milnicipran – the U.S. is only approved for FMS treatment and not depression or anxiety
Psychological and Physical Treatment can include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – research shows that CBT, a therapy centered around the relationship between thoughts, feelings and behavior, can have a positive effect in managing chronic pain, especially when combined with exercise
- Exercise – there is a lot of evidence that a regular regime of cardiovascular activities, such as walking, biking and jogging, are effective for some people. Swimming is also particularly useful as it combines cardiovascular elements along with resistance training
- Therapeutic Massage – involves working and acting on the body. Massage can be applied with the hands, fingers, elbows, knees, forearm or a device. Massage promotes circulation, relaxation and an overall sense of well-being
- Myofascial Release (MFR) – soft tissue therapy for treating muscle and pain. This alternative therapy relaxes muscles, improves blood and lymphatic circulation, and stimulates the muscles.
The root cause of FMS isn’t totally understood. There is evidence that symptoms can be triggered after physical trauma, infection, surgery or intense psychological stress. For others, however, it simply develops without any significant trauma. Doctors do think that genetics play a factor as well.
People with it, according to research at the Mayo Clinic, are more sensitive to pain because of repeated nerve stimulation, which causes the brain to change. This process creates an abnormal rise in chemicals, known as neurotransmitters, which signal pain centers in the brain.
Prescription Pain Management
Some people may have FMS and be taking prescription, opioid, pain relievers to try and help manage their discomfort. If you feel like you have some or all of these symptoms, and are taking pain medication, check with your Primary Care Physician and ask them for more information about it.