Fibromyalgia is a common syndrome and a central nervous system disorder that affects many people, mostly women.  It causes wide-spread pain and tenderness in joints and tissues.  Research has not proven what causes fibromyalgia, but some believe it can be caused by trauma, infection, abnormal brain response, and sleep problems.  Others think it is caused by high levels of toxins in the body, food allergies, or genetics. It can last for several months, and is long-term with no known method of prevention.  However, it is not a progressive disease so it will not damage joints, muscles, or internal organs. 

Fibromyalgia is mostly seen in women between the ages of 20 to 50.   It affects 2 to 6% of the population, with the ratio of women to men being 9:1.  Symptoms are pain in the soft tissues of the neck, back, shoulders, chest, hips, shins, elbows, and knees.  It can feel like a burning or stabbing ache, and may feel like it is coming from the joints.  Most people who suffer from fibromyalgia wake up stiff or sore with pain that eases as the day goes on.  Others have pain all day long. 

Other problems seen are irritable bowel syndrome, memory problems, numbness or tingling in hands and feet, palpitations, inability to exercise, headaches, fatigue, depression, muscle spasms, TMJ, myofascial pain, skin problems, restless leg syndrome, or problems sleeping.  Some patients have problems swallowing, and abnormalities of the bladder and bowel.  Other symptoms include sensitivity to light, temperature, or loud noises. 

One of the main complaints is feeling tired all the time.  For women, fibromyalgia can affect reproductive health and they have a higher risk of developing cysts in the breasts.  It can also affect sex drive, and cause pregnant women to feel more pain and stiffness.  It may increase risk of miscarriage, gestational diabetes, and excess amniotic fluid.  Fibromyalgia also affects menstruation, with more severe PMS symptoms, headaches, lower back pain, cramps, and emotional disturbances.  Most women are diagnosed around the same time as the onset of menopause, which may cause symptoms to be more severe.  A recent study shown that women with fibromyalgia were more likely to enter menopause earlier than other women.

A doctor will check to see if the pain has lasted longer than three months, and will check 18 tender points on the body to see if pain is felt in at least 11 of them.  People with fibromyalgia feel pain from light pressure being applied to tender points.  Pain may be felt immediately or can be delayed.  Tests may be performed to rule out other illnesses like Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or sleep apnea.   Fibromyalgia often occurs in people with other diseases, such as the ones mentioned above, and chronic fatigue syndrome.  Family history of fibromyalgia is also believed to be a cause, but has not been officially proven. 

fibromyalgia tender pointsCredit: wikipediaFibromyalgia is very similar to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  The main difference between the two is that CFS usually starts with flu-like symptoms, and does not have the 18 tender points.  There are different methods of treating fibromyalgia including physical therapy, exercise, stress relief techniques, anti-seizure medication, antidepressants, muscle relaxants, pain relievers, sleeping aids, and support groups.  Some doctors believe that avoiding caffeine, eating healthy, and getting plenty of sleep can help relieve some of the symptoms.  Researchers believe the illness peaks at around 35 years of age.  Many patients prefer to use natural herbs and remedies, or detox to help relieve symptoms.

Some patients have a hard time staying employed with fibromyalgia.  It is a good idea to discuss this illness with the employer.  Small arrangements can be made to help relieve symptoms such as changing to a better chair that doesn't cause back pain, or modifying the patient's job duties.  Fibromyalgia is recognized by the federal government as a disability, but staying home could potentially make symptoms worse by causing depression, loneliness, or not moving around enough.  It is important to discuss these options with your doctor before making a final decision.

Current studies are being done to find out why people with fibromyalgia feel pain, how exercise can help, and ways to treat the illness.  Researchers believe that hormonal differences may explain why women are at a higher risk than men, because testosterone helps to prevent muscle fatigue.  It is also thought that the risk for men may be slightly higher than what is reported, due to men seeing tiredness as being weak and are more reluctant to discuss it with their doctor than women.

Fibromyalgia is considered a controversial illness.  Some doctors do not believe it exists because there are no tests that actually diagnose it, and say there is no hard core evidence to support it.  It can be very disheartening and discouraging for patients to hear that this disease is fake when the pain is very real.  Hopefully as new research develops more of the medical field will find answers and possibly even a cure to help patients.

I am one of the women affected by fibromyalgia.  It can be very frustrating at times, especially when most people do not understand how it feels or what it's like.  Some days I feel fine, other days I am so sore and stiff I can barely get out of bed.  Sometimes simple tasks such as putting on a seatbelt sends shooting pain throughout my body.  While I have yet to find something to make it go away, there are things I have found that actually relieve symptoms somewhat.  Drinking lots of water, eating healthy, getting plenty of rest, and taking plenty of vitamins help.  They don't completely 'cure' symptoms, but I can tell a big difference in how I feel when I do this.  I have also found that using turmeric spice a few times a week makes a difference.  Turmeric spice is a natural anti inflammatory ingredient that is best when purchased pure and organic.  It is also believed to fight off infections and types of cancers, so it definitely can't hurt to include it in a few meals each week!