What is Fibromyalgia? It is a condition characterized by severe chronic pain and stiffness in muscles or ligaments. The location of this pain tends to travel around the body. Patients may suffer debilitating headaches one day and intense stabbing pain in the legs the next but there is no single definitive set of symptoms. Symptoms are numerous often including sleep disorders, depression, memory problems, and a host of other issues. (Click HERE to learn more about symptoms)
Fibromyalgia is known as a syndrome, rather than a disease. A condition is labelled a syndrome when it does not have specific identified causes and well defined limited symptoms associated with it. Instead, doctors look for patterns of symptoms, medical problems, and patient history. A large variety of things may indicate the presence of fibromyalgia, but only a few may be present in each patient, making it a very difficult syndrome to diagnose.
There are no blood tests for fibromyalgia. X-rays do not help with diagnosis. There are no definitive medical tests. Because of the challenges in diagnosis, many people think that the pain is not a real medical problem, and it is “all in the head” of patients. Our society has come to expect a cure for every medical condition and the lack of a cure can be seen as indicative of the syndrome itself somehow being invalid.
No cure exists at present for fibromyalgia, but for many patients ongoing management efforts can assist in moving toward improving symptoms and living a fuller life.
Fibromyalgia is a rheumatoid disorder distinguished by pervasive muscular and skeletal pain. The condition is accompanied by fatigue, sleep, and memory problems. Researchers believe that Fibromyalgia influences and involves how the brain processes pain signals, intensifying the pain.
Until relatively recently, fibromyalgia was not recognized as an independent medical problem. Instead, it was associated with a wide variety of other rheumatoid problems.
Sir William Gowers coined the term “fibrositis” in 1904. “Fibro-“ means to fiber. “-itis” means inflammation. He used this to designate tender and sore spots in patients with muscular rheumatism.
In 1976, the descriptive term was changed to “fibromyalgia.” This happened because no muscle inflammation is present in fibromyalgia patients. “My-“ means muscle. “-algia” means pain.
What Kind of Condition Is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a condition characterized by chronic pain and aches in muscles, tendons, and joints throughout the body. The pain often occurs close to the spine.
A common circular pattern can be witnessed in most fibromyalgia patients. When severe pain is experienced, the body becomes stressed. This stress is likely to amplify other forms of stress in the patient’s life (relationship problems, finances, etc.). This in turn may influence tension and sleeping disorders. Due to these sleeping problems, the body produces elevated levels of pain-related chemicals. These amplify the brain’s pain processing signals, causing perceived pain to be greater. And the cycle may continues in a vicious circle.
Quick Facts on Fibromyalgia
- Estimates on the number of Americans affected by Fibromyalgia vary greatly—from 4 million to 10 million. This shows the difficulty in diagnosing the condition.
- Women develop fibromyalgia much more often than men. Most are between the ages of 30 and 60 when first diagnosed.
- Adults with Fibromyalgia experience major depression 3.4 times more often than those without this condition.
- There is no cure for Fibromyalgia. However, exercise and relaxation techniques can help. Medication is also available to control symptoms.
- In some patients, symptoms occur suddenly after an infection, surgery, physical or emotional trauma, or significant stress. In other patients, the symptoms develop gradually over time.
- This condition can occur simultaneously with other muscular conditions, such as arthritis.
Medical Community’s View on Fibromyalgia
The medical community at large has been asking what is fibromyalgia for decades. Fibromyalgia has only recently become recognized as a real medical problem. As noted above, the term “fibromyalgia” was not coined until 1976. It wasn’t until 1984 that a large variety of symptoms and causes was associated with the condition. The American College of Rheumatology published its first set of diagnostic criteria in 1990. Read about the diagnostic history of fibromyalgia here.
Though the causes of Fibromyalgia are unknown, modern research is making advances towards a better understanding of the problem. The chemical “substance P” is used by the body to transmit pain signals to the brain. Levels of this chemical are three times higher in Fibromyalgia patients than those without the condition.
Fibromyalgia-Treatment.com offers a huge selection of articles about Fibromyalgia which can be located with the menu options above and in the column to the left. All of the articles on this site are research based and presented to the reader without advertisements. We hope this resource will help promote greater understanding and more effective treatment efforts!