The symptoms of fibromyalgia vary from person to person, however, the main symptom is widespread pain which can begin in one region, like the neck and shoulders, and spread to other regions over time.
Fibromyalgia can make you so sensitive to pain that even bumping your toe may let you suffer longer than usual. This is medically referred to as “hyperplasia”. The American College of Rheumatology has identified 18 “trigger points” on the body that may be extremely susceptible to touch in people with fibromyalgia.
The pain is described as a burning, stabbing, tingling, or numbness. Symptoms improve or worsen according to factors like:
- Stress levels
- Changes in the weather
- Physical activity
The cause of fibromyalgia is not clear, and researchers suggest that people with some genes are affected by a trigger, such as physical or emotional stress or illness.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic neurologic disorder that affects the nervous system. This affects the way the brain and nervous system interpret pain. People with this condition experience excessive pain even when subjected to minor injuries.
When emotional stimulation is present, pain signals transmitted through the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) are considerably high. So the pain associated with fibromyalgia is due to a “defect” in the way the body treats pain. It is caused by high sensitivity to stimuli, which is why people with fibromyalgia react to stress, heat, sound, or light more than others.
Fibromyalgia may cause muscular and joint pain that leads to stiffness that restricts movement. Stiffness can be more serious when you stay in the same position for a long time.
As pain is a major symptom of fibromyalgia, it can contribute to muscular stiffness. Generally, when you feel pain in the joint, you will be reluctant to move it. This means that you lose flexibility in the articulation, which gradually makes muscle stiffer.
Furthermore, studies show that the arteries in patients with fibromyalgia, which must be flexible and strong, are often weaker and less effective. This results in poor circulation and decreased blood flow to muscles and joints, which is another potential factor contributing to stiffness. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), research has shown that people with fibromyalgia have less blood flow to areas of the brain that are usually helping the body deal with pain.
There is no treatment for fibromyalgia. The aim is to address the symptoms of the disease. Treatment options for fibromyalgia help reduce pain, tension, and tiredness, treat depression, improve sleep, and help people understand and manage the causes of symptoms.
Three drugs are specifically approved for the treatment of fibromyalgia. Duloxetine (Cymbalta) and milnacipran (Savella) work by modifying the levels of some chemicals in the brain that help control pain. Pregabalin (Lyrica) targets chemicals in the brain that affect the amount of pain someone can experience.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
This treatment was found to be effective in the management of fibromyalgia symptoms. Where a person learns how to change ways of thinking and negative behaviors to alleviate pain, promote better sleep and improve performance.
- Mindfulness / meditation practices
These practices may be led by a licensed professional. They put attention on bodily sensations (body sweep), singing/mantras, and reflective walking or imagination.