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Common Diseases > Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a syndrome characterized by abnormally high pain sensitivity at specified sites in the body with fatigue, poor sleep and other ailments including:
  • difficulty concentrating
  • sensitivity to light, noise and cold
  • irritable bowel
  • immune system dysfunction
  • which either leads to or results from viral infections/li>
  • associated with chronic fatigue syndrome
The name fibromyalgia was introduced by Muhammad Yunus MD and his colleagues in 1981 which literally means pain in the muscles and tissue. "Fibro" refers to the fascia or connective tissue, "my" to muscle, and "algia" to pain. As many as 2% of the general population may suffer from this condition. No ethnic group seems any more likely to have fibromyalgia; however women develop it approximately 8 times more often than do men.

While the medical community does not yet understand the pathology underlying fibromyalgia, more and more information about this condition is becoming known. Medical researchers are now actively searching for the cause, mechanisms and best treatments for fibromyalgia and related conditions. To keep abreast of scientific studies on fibromyalgia, you can search and read the abstracts of articles on
MEDLINEplus, the American National Library of Medicine's database of medical journal articles.

Many non-believers exist. For many doctors, fibromyalgia will not be considered 'real' until the "scientific" cause and cure are discovered. Fortunately these sceptics are becoming fewer as international conferences and publications about fibromyalgia increase, bringing us closer to understanding this condition. Rheumatologists were generally the first to treat fibromyalgia and now family doctors are becoming more adept at diagnosing and treating it. There are some Doctors and psychiatrists who now specialise in the treatment of fibromyalgia and other pain disorders.

Treatments usually focus on alleviating symptoms of pain and sleeplessness. The difficulties of fibromyalgia tend to cycle. When pain is severe, it interferes with sleep, which worsens pain, mood, cognitive ability, and so on. Treatments aim to break this cycle and reverse its direction. In other words, when reducing pain, allows sleep to become easier, which further reduces pain and fatigue, and so on.

The treatments for fibromyalgia sound so easy in that they all read like basic practices for good health and well being. They include: (1) a carefully planned exercise program that includes gentle stretching (yoga is good here) with gradual progression toward aerobic conditioning; and (2) medication, primarily to improve sleep. Physical therapy may be helpful and could include such techniques as heat, ice, massage, spa, magnetism and electrical stimulation to help control pain.

Exercise may sound to others like an easy antidote. However, when you are in pain, exercise is not easy. Furthermore, people with fibromyalgia do not respond to exercise like other people and need to approach it gradually. But if approached appropriately and gradually, exercise can provide natural painkillers, improve strength, endurance, and fitness. A regular exercise program can decrease pain and improve overall well being, sleep quality, and daily stamina.

Good quality sleep is a bedrock of fibromyalgia treatment. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can induce fibromyalgia-like symptoms. Many people with fibromyalgia suffer from sleep abnormalities and often awake feeling as if they had not slept at all. This is called non-restorative sleep. There are many different medicines that can improve sleep quality. It may take several tries to find the ones that work best for each individual. The recommended approach is to begin with small doses of medicine to see how they are tolerated, then increase as needed. The goal is to improve sleep without introducing unpleasant side effects. Talk with your doctor about how each medicine works and the expected duration of any side effects. Bedtime routines are also very important for improving sleep. Wind down your day with something soothing such as a hot bath. Try to organise your days to allow yourself the best possible rest. Limit daytime naps. Exercise improves sleep quality, but it is best not to exercise directly before sleep. Make sure your mattress and pillow(s) provide appropriate support and cushion. Earplugs can be very helpful to block disturbing noise. Adjust your sleep environment such as the temperature, humidity, and darkness to your preference. Create a relaxing bedtime ritual and aim for a solid eight hours.

Pain relief is essential. Understanding what helps you through pain tracking allows you to amass strategies to prevent and relieve pain. Heat in various forms soothes aching muscles as does gentle stretching. Earplugs, lightweight but warm clothing (such as silks and polar fleece) and sunglasses can ward off flares from noise, cold drafts, or bright lighting. Meditation, hypnotherapy and self-hypnosis, biofeedback, and diaphragmatic breathing exercises all offer ways to lower the thermostat on pain. For some, massage therapy works wonders. Pain medications help people to feel well enough to do the other things necessary to improve and live a fuller life. Some doctors prescribe pain medications to be taken proactively. The analgesic effects of medications are more effective before pain escalates. Discuss with your doctor short versus longer acting medications. For some, over-the-counter medications may be adequate. For others, ber medications such as narcotics are needed. Some physicians are reluctant to prescribe narcotics for long-term use, a bias that stems from a fear of addiction. Yet evidence shows that people in pain do not abuse painkillers--we desire to engage in life, not escape it. There is an important distinction between physical dependence and addiction. It is important to keep track of how you take any medication to monitor its effectiveness. Slowly our society is realising the need for more comprehensive treatments for chronic pain in conditions that are not fatal.

Successful treatments Include massage, dietary supplements, herbs, minerals, vitamins




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