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What Is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a common and disabling disorder affecting 2% to 4% of the population, women more often than men. If you are suffering from this condition, you may experience the following symptoms:
  • Chronic pain in muscles, tendons, and joints all over the body, especially along the spine.

  • Headaches.

  • Fatigue.

  • Bowel irritability that causes diarrhea to alternate with constipation.

  • Sleep Disturbances.

No one is sure what causes the condition, although some physicians believe that patients with fibromyalgia are more sensitive to pain than those without it. It may be initially triggered by any of the following:
  • Stress
  • Infection
  • Physical trauma
Although fibromyalgia is not curable, it does not damage the nerves or muscles or cause any long-term health problems.

How Is Fibromyalgia Diagnosed?
The diagnosis of fibromyalgia is based on a combination of factors:
  • Complete medical history
  • Physical exam to exclude other illnesses such as:
    • Rheumatoid arthritis
    • Muscle inflammation
    • Bursitis
    • Tendinitis
  • Presence of very tender areas (tender points) at specific locations on the body.
    • People with fibromyalgia experience abnormal sensitivity when light pressure is applied to many of the tender points.
Symptoms can be managed in a variety of ways:
  1. Medications:
    No medications completely relieve fibromyalgia pain. However, the following can be done:
    • To help control problems with pain, sleep, and bowel irritation, we may ask you to take an antidepressant drug.

    • Taking acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) can also help.

  2. Exercise:
    Participating in an aerobic exercise such as:
    • Brisk walking
    • Biking
    • Swimming
    • Water aerobics

    for 1/2 hour three times each week is an important step to improve fibromyalgia symptoms. Exercise increases heart and lung function and stretches tight, sore muscles. We may help you choose an exercise program that is right for you.

  3. Relaxation techniques:
    Evaluating the causes of stress and learning new ways to handle and cope may improve fibromyalgia. Anxiety and depression are major contributors to stress and must be treated for fibromyalgia to improve. Relaxation techniques can help relieve muscle tension and reduce stress.

What is Long-Term Outlook?
Once stress-producing situations resolve, fibromyalgia often spontaneously improves and medications may not be necessary. Many people with fibromyalgia with continue to have symptoms at times despite treatment, especially when stress continues unrelieved.

However, medication often improves symptoms. When diverse forms of therapy such as acetaminophen and aerobic exercise are combined to treat fibromyalgia, even more improvement can be expected.

Useful Links
  1. Fibromyalgia: What Is It and How to Manage It
    This article from American Academy of Family Physicians provides the reader with fundamental information about fibromyalgia, its symptoms, dangers, treatment, and more. Visit this site if you want to learn more about this disease.

  2. Questions and Answers About Fibromyalgia
    National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases provides answers to frequently asked questions about fibromyalgia. This easy to read guide will provide answers to your basic questions.

  3. MEDLINEplus: Fibromyalgia
    For those of you who know the fundamental facts about fibromyalgia and would like to do a more in-depth research, this site is essential. MEDLINEplus provides an extensive list of categories that covers such topics as research, general infomation, medication, clinical trials, and more. The page has a section in Spanish.
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