Doctors are not yet sure what leads to fibromyalgia, but it is believed that several factors play a role including emotional or physical trauma, infections and genetics. These causes may work independently of one another or together in order to bring about the onset of this condition. It is thought that fibromyalgia hurts the way it does because the brain becomes increasingly sensitive to pain signals, and so the threshold for pain lowers. Repeating nerve stimulation is thought to change the brains in people with fibromyalgia so that pain receptors become more sensitive and begin to develop a memory of pains from the past. This overreaction to pain signals is what makes fibromyalgia what it is.
While fibromyalgia does not typically cause other diseases or conditions to occur, there are many side effects and complications that can result from untreated fibromyalgia. These complications can include increases in pain and sleep difficulties, mood issues and the general inability to function in daily life. Because this is an often-misunderstood condition, it can lead to depression, anxiety and frustration on the behalf of the patient.
Pains associated with fibromyalgia often feels like a constant ache, typically beginning on the muscles. In order to be considered as widespread pain, it needs to occur on both sides of the body as well as both above and below the waist. Tender points are areas of the body where gentle pressure causes additional pain. Common tender points include the inner knees, sides of hips, upper hips, outer elbows, upper chest, top of shoulders, between the shoulder blades and back of the head. Other coexisting conditions and symptoms of fibromyalgia include irritable bowel syndrome, endometriosis, anxiety, depression, fatigue, headache, fatigue and disturbances in sleep.
Fibromyalgia is a commonly misunderstood condition, and so many doctors have difficulty testing or examining in search of it. Fibromyalgia is defined as widespread pain lasting for three months or more and at least 11 different tender points. Fibromyalgia is most commonly diagnosed by ruling out other potential causes, rather than directly diagnosed.
There are requirements for both self-care and medications to treat fibromyalgia. Emphasis here goes to improving general health as well as minimizing symptoms since there is no cure for this misunderstood condition. Medications may include: anti-seizure medications such as gabapentin or pregabalin, antidepressant medications such as cymbalta or milnacipran and analgesics such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Many physicians also recommend counseling and therapy to work on general health and wellbeing, since improving symptoms like depression and anxiety can often have a positive impact on improving other fibromyalgia symptoms.