Fibromyalgia Awareness Date: May 12
Fibromyalgia is a common and complex chronic pain disorder that causes widespread pain and tenderness to touch that may occur body wide or migrate over the body. Along with other symptoms, pain and tenderness wax and wane over time. Fibromyalgia (FM) affects people physically, mentally and socially. Approximately 10 million Americans (2-4%) have FM with a ratio of about 8 to 2, women over men. It occurs in people of all ages, including children. The literal translation of the word fibromyalgia is pain in the muscles, ligaments and tendons. But FM is much more than pain and presents with many other symptoms that vary from person to person.
Symptoms range from fatigue, sleep disturbances (sleep apnea and/or waking up unrefreshed), cognitive difficulties (memory problems or thinking clearly), and stiffness are the most prevalent symptoms reported. Additional common symptoms may include depression or anxiety, migraines, tension headaches, pelvic pain, irritable or overactive bladder, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), TMJD (including tinnitus), and gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD). Stress often worsens the related problems and symptoms.
There is no cure for fibromyalgia. Multi-disciplinary approaches for management and relief of symptoms are often recommended. Medications, cognitive behavioral therapies, and gentle exercise are the most common combinations. In partnership with a healthcare provider, development of self-management strategies and long-term health goals may reduce the chronic symptoms and the frequency, duration, and intensity of periodic flares (rapid increase of symptoms).
Facts and Myths about Fibromyalgia
Myth: Fibromyalgia is rare.
Fact: Fibromyalgia is one of the most common types of chronic pain disorders. It is estimated that more than 5 million people in the United States have fibromyalgia.
Myth: Fibromyalgia is a “woman’s disease.”
Fact: The majority of people with fibromyalgia are women (about 80%). But, remember that fibromyalgia is a common condition. That means many men are diagnosed as well.
Studies have found that women with fibromyalgia do tend to have a lower pain tolerance and more symptoms than men. Both genders, however, responded similarly to fibromyalgia treatment as well as other nondrug treatments such as exercise.
Fibromyalgia is also seen in all age groups, from teenagers to older people. But the symptoms more typically begin in a person’s 30s. Fibromyalgia occurs around the globe. And it appears in all ethnic groups and cultures.
Myth: The pain of fibromyalgia is mild.
Fact: Some people only experience mild symptoms, especially when they are being properly treated. For others, the pain can be severe. It can have a significant impact on quality of life. Simple things they once took for granted, like working, going for a walk, household chores, and taking care of their families can become difficult. Symptoms also often get worse under stress or even under certain weather conditions.
Myth: There is nothing that can be done to treat fibromyalgia.
Fact: Although fibromyalgia cannot be cured, for many people a diagnosis can be validating. It can mark the beginning of a new journey toward relief of some symptoms. Many people with fibromyalgia are able to reduce their symptoms through lifestyle changes and treatments.