Easy Guide To: Causes, Symptoms, Tender Points and Treatment In Women

Fibromyalgia Guide


Fibromyalgia Guide


What Is Fibromyalgia?
What Causes It?
What Are The Symptoms?
What Are Fibromyalgia Tender Points?
How Is Fibromyalgia Diagnosed?
How Is It Treated?
What Is The Long Term Outlook?

Fibromyalgia Guide

Tender Points


Treatment Options
Fibro Diet Plan
Best Exercises

Related Topics

Guide to Arthritis

What Is Fibromyalgia?

People with fibromyalgia experience widespread muscle pain and fatigue. The pain is not constant but can come and go. It is characterized by tender points on the body which are highly sensitive to pain at the slightest pressure. These tender points are used in the diagnosis process. The syndrome affects both men and women but 90 percent of people with fibromyalgia are female. Typically it occurs in women between the ages of 50 and 70 and in women with a family member who also has the condition. The severity, type and location of pain experienced vary from person to person. Although considered an arthritis-related condition, fibromyalgia is not a true form of arthritis because it does not cause tissue inflammation nor does it damage joints or muscles. However it is considered a rheumatic condition because it can make the joints and surrounding tissues painful and sore to use. There is no cure for fibromyalgia, primarily because a specific cause has not been identified. However symptoms can be managed very successfully. According to the American College of Rheumatology, approximately 3 to 6 million Americans suffer from the syndrome. Some people, including doctors, persist in thinking that fibromyalgia is just another word for hypochondria (that it is all in the head), and this is one of the issues in why a diagnosis is often delayed.

What Causes It?

Scientists do not yet understand the main fibromyalgia causes, if there is even a main cause. It is a syndrome which means it is a collection of medical symptoms which occur together but do not have an identifiable cause. What we do know, is that the condition appears to have its roots in both the mental and physical. An emotional or physical trauma appears to be one trigger which can cause it to develop. When it has developed, the severity of pain experienced appears to be influenced by how the patient feels, and often worsens when they are depressed, stressed or anxious. This may indicate a hormone influence. Fibromyalgia often appears in women (between 25-65 percent) who have also been diagnosed with different types of arthritis including rheumatic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and autoimmune problems. An online study carried out in 2007 of 2,500 patients with fibromyalgia revealed the following as the most common triggers for worsening pain:

• Stress (83 percent)
• Weather changes (80 percent)
• Problems sleeping (79 percent). In fact some experts suggest that lack of sleep can CAUSE fibromyalgia, not only worsen symptoms.
• Strenuous exercise or activity (70 percent)
• Mental stress (68 percent) Worrying about things (60 percent)
• Time spent traveling in the car travel (57 percent)
• Family arguments (52 percent)
• Physical injuries (50 percent)
• Lack of physical activity (50 percent)

The Genetics Link: Read our article: Is fibromyalgia genetic?

What Are The Symptoms?

About 50 percent of people with fibromyalgia have difficulty carrying out routine everyday activities and up to 40 percent have had to stop work or change jobs because of symptoms. On average, people with fibromyalgia are hospitalized once every three years. The most common fibromyalgia symptoms are:

• Flu like pain, primarily the neck and shoulders.
• Chronic back pain.
• Stiffness first thing in the morning which may feel like joint stiffness (but isn't).
• Depression/anger, read about the side effects of depression.
• Feeling anxious.
• Constant extreme fatigue.
• Jaw or facial tenderness (90 percent experience this symptom).
• Headaches and migraines (up to 50 percent of cases).
• Increased sensitivity to bright lights, odors, medications and various foods (up to 50 percent of cases).
Heart palpitations or heart arrhythmia.
• Insomnia.
• Poor blood circulation.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) with excess gas.
• Bouts of constipation or diarrhea.
• Difficulties remembering things (the so-called 'fibro fog').

What Are Fibromyalgia Tender Points?

Fibromyalgia tender points are points in the body which someone with fibromyalgia will find particularly sensitive to touch. Although most people might find these points sensitive, someone with fibromyalgia will find them painful at the slightest touch. For this reason these tender points are used in the diagnosis of fibromyalgia. The points are found in the:

• Front chest area
• Back and front of the neck
• Back shoulder area
• Shoulder blade area
• Elbows
• Upper part of the buttocks
• Hips
• Knees and shins

Pain tends to be deep, radiating out from one or many of the tender points. It can range from mild to severe.

How Is Fibromyalgia Diagnosed?

As fibromyalgia is a syndrome there is no one test that can diagnosis it accurately, particularly as it may overlap with other conditions. For this reason, any tests carried out are more likely to focus on ruling out other potential causes of symptoms before making a fibromyalgia diagnosis. When making a diagnosis, the American College of Rheumatology, has issued the following guidelines for doctors:

1. There should be widespread musculoskeletal pain for at least 3 months on both sides of the body.
2. Pain experienced above and below the waist (for example, lower back and neck).
3. Pain experienced when at least 11 of 18 specified tender points are touched with a force of about 9 pounds or less.
4. Other symptoms occur such as sleep disorders and muscle stiffness.

How Is It Treated?

There is no 'cure' for fibromyalgia, instead a doctor or rheumatologist will help a patient manage their symptoms. Fibromyalgia treatment includes both medical and alternative remedies:

• Over the counter painkillers such as tylenol, aspirin and ibuprofen to combat pain. Read about fibromyalgia medications for more details.
• Low doses of anti-depressants to treat depression.
• Muscle relaxant medications such as flexeril, baclofen, norflex and soma.
• Topical remedies such as peppermint oil, also used in the treatment of arthritis.
• Hands-on therapies including massage, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and working with a chiropractor.
Fibromyalgia exercises such as walking, swimming and yoga can help to reduce pain.
Fibromyalgia diet - foods to eat and avoid to reduce inflammation and pain.

Long Term Outlook/Prognosis

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition which unfortunately means it may last a life-time. However, unlike arthritis, it is not a progressive disease; it will not damage your muscles, joints or internal organs. Symptoms can come and go and improve and worsen over time.
Longterm care: Can I go on disability for fibromyalgia?

Other names for fibromyalgia include fibromyositis and fibrositis.

  Other Useful Guides

Recommended Health Screenings For Women: List for all ages.
Understanding The Female Body: How it works, visuals and diagrams.
Female Health Questions: Hundreds of Q&As on health problems.
Head And Face Disorders: Fibro headache or is there another cause?
Chest Problems: Symptom checker for breast, lungs and chest pain.
Abdominal Problems: Disorders of the stomach, digestive system and liver. Check your symptoms.

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