What is Fibromyalgia?

To date the etiology of fibromyalgia is unknown. This disease manifests itself in a wide variety of symptoms, including sleep disturbances, tingling in limbs, headaches, cognitive problems, fatigue and widespread pain. Those with fibromyalgia may also experience irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fibromyalgia affects about 5.0 million adults of the population. While most are women, the disorder can affect men and children. Diagnosis is typically made during middle age.

Unique Characteristics of Fibromyalgia

Although the risk factors and causes of fibromyalgia are unknown, there are some factors that are associated with the onset of the disease. Risk factors may include traumatic events, such as automobile accidents and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Obesity, viral infections, genetic predisposition and repetitive injuries may also increase the risk of developing fibromyalgia. Those with this disease often manifest an abnormal pain perception process and easily experience pain.

Diagnosing Fibromyalgia

To a large extent, the diagnosis of fibromyalgia is made after having a physical exam and noting symptoms. This is because the diagnosis of fibromyalgia is largely based on how one feels. In addition, lab tests may be used to diagnose fibromyalgia. There are blood tests by manufacturers like EpiGenetics that identify markers in the blood cells for those with fibromyalgia. Since some of the symptoms may be similar to arthritis and lupus, specific blood tests may be ordered to rule these illnesses out. The diagnostic guidelines for fibromyalgia include pain in all four quadrants of the body, pain for a minimum of three months and no other disease causing the existing symptoms.

Treatment for Fibromyalgia

To treat fibromyalgia, multidisciplinary treatment is often implemented, including treatment for depression. Aerobic exercise and muscle strengthening exercises has been found to reduce tender point counts in this disease and to improve overall well-being. Pharmacotherapy may be prescribed to treat pain and depression. Cymbalta, Lyrica and Savella are common prescriptions for those who suffer from fibromyalgia. It is believed that these medications helps calm overly excited nerves, relieve pain and improve global physical function. Education, relaxation therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy are also science-based treatments proven to be effective to treat fibromyalgia.

Herbs, Supplements and Diet for Fibromyalgia

Managing the symptoms of fibromyalgia isn’t easy, and many people turn to alternative therapies for relief. Chinese herbs and over-the-counter 5-HTP's are often used.

Research published in the Alternative Medicine Review found that 5-HTP may improve symptoms of fibromyalgia pain, insomnia and depression. This supplement contains 5-hydroxytryptophan, which is a building block of serotonin. Serotonin is a powerful chemical in the brain which produces overall good feelings and also associated with good sleep.

Melatonin is a natural hormone and available over-the-counter. Preliminary studies have found that melatonin may help relieve fatigue and sleep problems. It’s regarded as safe by the medical community and has no side effects.

Many people with fibromyalgia report sensitivity to specific foods. Common foods include eggs, dairy and those with MSG or gluten. As a matter of fact, a recent survey published in the Clinical Rheumatology journal revealed that 42 percent of fibromyalgia patients felt worse after eating these foods. Most fibromyalgia patients try to avoid these foods.

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The content on this page is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute professional medical advice. Patients should not use the information presented on this page for diagnosing a health-related issue or disease. Before taking any medication or supplements, patients should always consult a physician or qualified healthcare professional for medical advice or information about whether a drug is safe, appropriate or effective.