“I hurt all over!”
Do you have persistent pain throughout your body? Fatigue? Depression? Has a doctor run tests but can’t seem to find anything wrong with you? You may be suffering from a disease called fibromyalgia. This is a chronic condition that causes pain throughout the body, along with other inconvenient and sometime debilitating symptoms. While only a small percentage of the population has fibromyalgia, the occurrence of this disease is significantly higher in women. The majority of cases also occur in your late 30’s, all the way into your 50’s.
By being knowledgeable about this disease, you can recognize symptoms as they appear or worsen. Since there is no definitive test for fibromyalgia, knowing what’s wrong can help you and your doctor more efficiently diagnose and treat your problem.
The central symptom of fibromyalgia is pain. It is generally widespread throughout the muscles, tendons and ligaments throughout the body. This includes areas on both sides of the body and above and below the waist. It may be more prominent in the neck, shoulders, back, and hips.
While pain can occur at any time, it is usually worse in the morning when you first wake up. Pain and other symptoms occur in episodes. An episode must last at least 3 months for you to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia.
In addition to generalized pain, a person with fibromyalgia will also experience intense pain when certain parts of the body are pressed firmly. When a doctor examines you for fibromyalgia, they will press on 18 different points on the body. To be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, you should have pain or tenderness in 11 of these pressure points.
Sleep studies show that women with fibromyalgia patients tend to have burst of activity in their brain intermittently during stage 4 sleep. This is when your body normally rests and regenerates itself physically. Even though you seem to be getting enough sleep, your body probably isn’t getting the right kind of rest.
Lack of proper sleep causes fibromyalgia patients to experience moderate to severe fatigue. Fatigue can be so bad that some doctors hypothesize fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome and not only related, but possibly the same disease. Lack of proper sleep can also cause other symptoms, including poor memory, lack of concentration, and anxiety.
Another common symptom of fibromyalgia is depression. This is not only due to constant stress from chronic pain, but also from lack of proper sleep. Since the symptoms of fibromyalgia and depression are so similar, your doctor should screen you for both in order to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.
Many women with fibromyalgia are also diagnosed with IBS or have some other intestinal problem. They may experience diarrhea, constipation, pain, or bloating.
While these are the most common symptoms of fibromyalgia, you may experience other problems. Women with fibromyalgia also report: headaches, numbness, dizziness, and sensitivity to stimuli such as sound, touch, smell, or even the weather.
If you tell your doctor that you suspect fibromyalgia, they will likely run a battery of tests to rule out other disorders before they actually provide a diagnosis.