What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia used to be called “muscular rheumatism” and “fibrositis” in medical articles in the early 1900′s. More recently it has been called a Functional Somatic Syndrome to allude to its many manifestations. It is defined and diagnosed by “tender points” on physical examination in soft tissues above and below the waist and on both sides of the body present for at least three months. These points may vary in intensity and location over time. The exact number of tender points should not be considered a limiting factor for diagnosis. Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by neuromuscular pain and fatigue. The word fibromyalgia means pain in the muscles, ligaments and tendons. According to the latest statistics, about 4 million to 6 million Americans have fibromyalgia, most of them females between 35 and 65. Currently there are no blood tests for Fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is not considered to be a disease of the joints. It is reported more often in women. It is not considered to be an autoimmune disease and does not turn into Lupus or any other autoimmune condition but may co-exist with them.
Fibromyalgia should really be called fibromyalgia’s because no one has exactly the same type. This is why there can be no magic bullet prescription drug treatment that works for everyone. There are genetic, cellular, hormonal, immune, nutritional and nervous system factors involved. There frequently is a history of physical trauma or prior injuries predisposing a person to Fibromyalgia. Routinely there is a sleep disturbance, persistent or chronic fatigue and irritable bowel syndrome. There may also be restless legs, migraines, TMJ and depression. Fibromyalgia can begin in childhood or later in life. There is often a significant overlap of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome but they can exist separately.
Narcotic medicines are not recommended for Fibromyalgia and have not been shown to be helpful. Some prescription, non-narcotic medicines may be helpful. A Functional Medicine evaluation looking at gastrointestinal, liver, detoxification, hormonal and nutritional factors through specialized testing is important. The results of these tests will guide the treatment. Lifestyle factors like gentle movement to get more blood flowing to muscles is encouraged as well as a positive mental attitude. Since there are multiple causes for Fibromyalgia, treatments need to be individualized.