What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that primarily affects the musculoskeletal system causing widespread pain, insomnia, fatigue, loss of memory as well as depression. It is caused by an amplification of pain signals in the brain and spinal cord. The icd10 code for fibromyalgia is M79.7
There is a stigma surrounding fibromyalgia as there is no identifiable cause and no definite treatment. Since there is generalised pain, people often dismiss it as imaginary. Fibromyalgia is real and affects your quality of life and peace of mind. Read on to know everything you need to know.
Types of Pain You Might Get Due To Fibromyalgia
The pain in fibromyalgia is the hallmark symptom. It may range from a mild ache to intense discomfort:
Chest pain: Chest pain in fibromyalgia may mimic a heart attack. A sharp, stabbing pain associated with a burning sensation is the usual complaint. The pain originates in the cartilage that connects the ribs to the sternum and may radiate to the shoulder and arms.
Back pain: Lower back pain felt in fibromyalgia is usually of a mild aching type, similar to backaches due to causes such as a pulled muscle or arthritis.
Leg pain: Leg pain in fibromyalgia is felt in the muscles and soft tissues. It can be a deep pain, a throbbing ache or a burning sensation. An uncontrollable urge to move your legs, known as restless leg syndrome can overlap with the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Fatigue may also manifest in the legs, making them feel heavy and weighed down.
What Are the Symptoms of Fibromyalgia?
Symptoms of fibromyalgia
- Widespread pain: Fibromyalgia pain is described as a dull aching pain that lasts for at least three months. Widespread pain must occur on both sides of the body and both above and below the waist.
- Fatigue: People with fibromyalgia experience fatigue despite reporting long hours of sleep. Sleep apnea, pain and restless leg syndrome all affect sleep making them tired.
- Difficulties in cognition: Also known as “fibro-fog”, fibromyalgia can affect the ability to concentrate and pay attention to tasks. Memory lapses and trouble staying alert are all symptoms reported.
- Pain or dull ache in the lower belly
- Dry eyes
- Bladder issues due to conditions known as interstitial cystitis.
- Fibromyalgia can also affect mood and energy levels
- Symptoms in women: Symptoms are more severe in women. Women have more pronounced symptoms such as more fatigue than men. Painful period and IBS symptoms are also a common complaint.
Write about the symptoms both physical and mental. Talk about brain fog which is a unique characteristic of this disease. Build upon the fact that the pain and inflammation are the symptoms of any other autoimmune disease and might get confused.
Fibromyalgia and Autoimmunity: A Complex Weave
The symptoms of fibromyalgia overlap with those of auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. Autoimmune diseases are due to a defect in the immune system causing it to produce auto-antibodies against the body’s own cells such as those in the joints or the skin and is characterized by similar symptoms such as generalized pain and weakness. As a result, theories have arisen that fibromyalgia may also have an autoimmune aetiology. However, till date, no autoantibodies have been discovered in patients with fibromyalgia and there is no evidence of inflammation in this condition.
What Might Be the Causes for Fibromyalgia?
The cause for fibromyalgia is still unclear, though a multi-hit theory which includes genetic, environmental and other triggers:
- A prior infection can trigger the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Known causative organisms include the Epstein Barr virus, flu viruses, and Shigella and Salmonella that cause gastrointestinal infections.
- Fibromyalgia has been closely linked to physical as well as mental trauma. It has even been known to develop in people with PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder.
- One of the physical manifestations of long-lasting stress on the body is fibromyalgia leading to prolonged pain and discomfort. Stress can cause hormonal imbalances that can lead to these symptoms.
- Genetic factors: People with fibromyalgia have been reported to pass it on to their family members in some cases. It is suspected that certain genetic mutations may be the causative factor. Few genes which can affect the transmission of pain signals in the neurons have been identified and are under research.
It is suspected that these triggers may cause a heightened sensitivity to pain in affected people.
Is Fibromyalgia Curable?
There is no known cure for fibromyalgia. Treatment for fibromyalgia typically comprises ways and methods to reduce pain and improve the quality of life.
Treatments for Fibromyalgia
Various treatment options are available for people with fibromyalgia to ensure they can perform daily activities and lead a near-normal life. It is important to realise that the pain is real and not imaginary before starting therapy. Various medicines for fibromyalgia have shown relief and are prescribed by doctors.
- Pain management: Over the counter pain relievers are prescribed which play a role in reducing inflammation, improving sleep and minimizing muscular aches.
- Antidepressants: These help to improve sleep and reduce fatigue. The side-effects of antidepressants include weight gain, nausea and loss of sexual desire.
- Anti-epileptics: These play a role in improving sleep, relieving anxiety and reducing pain.
- Muscle relaxants and medications for fatigue.
- Physiotherapy: Fibromyalgia exercises help to improve muscle strength and improve the range of motion along with pain management, making it a vital part of the treatment.
- Stress reduction: Stress has been shown to increase the symptoms of fibromyalgia in some studies. Techniques and methods to better cope with stress may reduce the impact of the triggers and thus the level of pain.
Don’t Let Pain Decide How You Live Your Life
If you are living with fibromyalgia, don’t get disheartened to know there is no cure for this condition. It is possible to make life a lot easier by lifestyle modifications, self-care and medications. Select a treatment plan that works for you for successful pain management.
Lifestyle and Dietary Recommendations
- Make yourself more comfortable: If you spend most of your day crouched up in front of a computer or lead a largely sedentary lifestyle, make sure you sit in a proper posture and exercise for at least half an hour a day. Ergonomic chairs and ensuring the screen is at the right eye level are small ways you can avoid pain or stress triggers.
- Fibromyalgia diet: Eating balanced meals helps to keep your body healthy and prevent worsening of symptoms. It has been reported that certain foods like MSG or gluten can worsen symptoms in some people. Keeping a food diary can help you keep track of what food works for you and what aggravates your symptoms. Eating plenty of fibre-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables, drinking lots of fluids every day and avoiding sugar when you can help in managing your symptoms.
- Ayurveda for fibromyalgia: The main form of treatment for fibromyalgia through Ayurveda is Panchakarma, which aids in developing a stronger immune system and restoring balance in your system.
- Massage therapy: Different manipulative techniques are used to improve the range of motion in your joints, relax your muscles and reduce your heart rate.
- Yoga and tai chi: Both these methods use deep breathing, stretching exercises and slow movements to relax muscles and relieve pain.
Experiencing the symptoms of fibromyalgia can be both frustrating and upsetting. At NH, we provide a holistic approach towards treatment, ensuring that you can go on leading a fulfilling life without pain.
Dr. Rajesh Verma | Director & Senior Consultant – Orthopaedics, Spine Surgery | Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Gurugram & Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Delhi