What is fibromyalgia? Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes pain all over the body. The condition affects the muscles, tendons and ligaments (bands of tissue that connect bone to bone), resulting in widespread pain, fatigue, and extreme sensitivity to pain. The name fibromyalgia comes from the Latin word ‘fibro’, meaning fibrous tissues (tendons, ligaments), ‘my’ meaning muscles, and ‘algia’ meaning pain. Fibromyalgia used to be known as fibrositis, which literally means inflammation of the muscles and soft tissue. However, the condition was renamed fibromyalgia after studies found that there is no inflammation, or nerve injury. Who is affected by fibromyalgia? Anyone can develop fibromyalgia, although the condition tends to affect more women than men. In most cases, fibromyalgia occurs between 35-60 years of age, but it can develop in people of any age, including children and the elderly. The number of people with fibromyalgia has never been measured, but it is thought that between 2-4.5% of people in the UK have the condition. There is no cure for fibromyalgia, but treatment aims to ease the symptoms as much as possible. The condition can be treated using a combination of medicines, complementary therapies and lifestyle changes. Fibromyalgia Symptoms There are many symptoms of fibromylagia, and they tend to vary from person to person.
The symptoms can also come and go over time, although it is unlikely that they will ever disappear altogether. The main symptoms of fibromyalgia are outlined below. Pain If you have fibromyalgia, one of your main symptoms is likely to be widespread pain, which you may feel from ‘head to toe’. This pain may feel like an ache, or a burning sensation, or it may be more like a sharp stabbing pain. You may also find that your pain is worse in the areas of your body that you use the most, such as your back, neck, shoulders, and feet.
Extreme sensitivity Fibromyalgia can cause you to become extremely sensitive to pain all over your body, and you may find that even the slightest touch is very painful. If you hurt yourself – for example, if you stub your toe – you may find that the pain continues for much longer than it normally would. If you have fibromyalgia, you may find that you are very sensitive to other things as well, such as smoke, certain foods and bright lights. Being exposed to something you are sensitive to can cause your other fibromyalgia symptoms to flare up. Fatigue and trouble sleeping Fatigue as a result of fibromyalgia can range from a mild, tired feeling to the exhaustion that is often experienced during a flu-like illness. Sometimes, severe fatigue may come on very suddenly and can drain you of all your energy. If this occurs, you may feel too tired to do anything at all. Fibromyalgia can also affect your sleep, and you may find that you often wake up tired even when you have had plenty of sleep.
This is because fibromyalgia can sometimes prevent you from sleeping deeply enough to refresh you properly. The muscles in your legs may also spasm at night which can also interfere with a restful night’s sleep. Stiffness If you have fibromyalgia, as well as causing you pain, you may find that your muscles, tendons, and ligaments become stiff and prone to spasm. The stiffness may be most severe when you have been in the same position for a long period of time. Cognitive problems (‘fibro-fog’) Cognitive problems refers to problems with mental processes, such as thinking and learning. If you have fibromyalgia, you may have trouble remembering and learning new things, problems with attention and concentration, and slowed, or confused, speech. Headaches If you have pain and stiffness in your neck and shoulders from fibromyalgia, you may also have frequent headaches. The headaches can vary from being quite mild to very severe migraines. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) If you have fibromyalgia, you may also develop irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) as well. IBS is a common digestive condition that causes pain and bloating in your gut. It can also cause constipation and diarrhoea. Other symptoms
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Other symptoms of fibromyalgia can include: â¢ facial pain, often as a result of neck, shoulder, or jaw muscle stiffness, â¢ tingling, numbness, prickling, or burning sensations in your hands and feet (paresthesia), â¢ dry eyes, skin, or mouth, â¢ unusually painful periods (in women), â¢ anxiety, and â¢ depression. Your symptoms may sometimes get better, or worse, depending on factors such as changes in the weather, stress levels, and how physically active you are. If you have fibromyalgia, it is unlikely that your condition will ever resolve permanently, although there may be long periods of time when your symptoms disappear completely. Most people have to learn to live with the condition long- term. However, fibromyalgia is not life-threatening and does not reduce life expectancy.