Fibromyalgia, a chronic pain disorder, primarily affects women. It is characterized by tender points located over the neck, elbows, chest, back, hips, buttocks, and knees. There are a total of 18 tender points and a patient may be diagnosed with fibromyalgia if 11 tender points are detected. Each tender point is small and may easily be highly sensitive even to slight finger pressure.
Researchers and doctors do not completely understand fibromyalgia including the cause(s) and best way to diagnose the disorder. Many patients with fibromyalgia also suffer with depression. Besides tender points, anxiety and depression, patients may experience widespread pain, fatigue, and sleep difficulties.
Talk with your doctor
Much time may elapse between when you begin to experience symptoms and when your doctor can make a diagnosis of fibromylagia. Your doctor collects and compares information gathered while talking with you about your medical history and past and existing symptoms. A physical and neurological examination looks for limitations of movement, balance difficulties, and what exacerbates and relieves pain. During the exam he tests your reflexes, muscle strength, sensations, or other signs of neurologic loss. Your doctor may order imaging studies such as plain x-ray, CT, or MRI. Special lab testing may be needed.
A combination of medications, physical therapy, exercise, stress management, emotional therapy, and acupuncture may be recommended to help treat and manage symptoms.
- Medications may include anti-depressants, sleep promoting drugs, muscle relaxants, non-narcotic analgesics, and narcotic drugs. More recently, anti-seizure medication has shown to be effective in the treatment off fibromyalgia.
- Physical therapy helps improve flexibility, build strength, and endurance. Therapeutic exercises and those that become part of a home exercise program, can help improve pain and mood.
- Passive physical therapies include heat, deep tissue massage, and ultrasound.
- Stress management is important to relieve fatigue, frustration, and pain.
- Emotional therapy develops positive thinking, feelings of well-being, and builds coping skills. Group support can help patients share their problems and solutions.
- Acupuncture is a whole body holistic approach. It helps to release endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers.
Your treatment may include information to help you correct any problems with your posture and body mechanics. Correct posture at rest and during activity can you help prevent injury.