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Fibromyalgia is a disorder that is characterized by chronic muscle pain and fatigue, often causing people to develop “tender points” across their body. These “tender points” are certain places on the neck, shoulders, back, hips, arms, and legs, and can be extremely painful when pressure is applied to them.
Researchers are convinced that repetitive stimulation of the nerves can cause the brain to change in people with fibromyalgia, often leading to abnormal increases in the level of neurotransmitters in the brain. In addition, the pain receptors in the brain appear to develop a type of memory of this constant pain, causing them to become more sensitive and overreacting to pain signals across the body.
Arthritis, simply put, means joint inflammation. Usually joint inflammation is a sign or a symptom rather than a specific diagnosis. The term arthritis refers to any disorder that affects the joints. Joints are where two bones meet, such as your wrists, knees or hips.
Osteoarthritis is also known as degenerative joint disease and may occur with aging, or after sustaining trauma to a joint. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease common in young adults in which the body’s immune system attacks the joint lining. Other common forms of arthritis include psoriatic arthritis, gout and fibromyalgia. Nearly 1 in 5 adults have some form of arthritis. It’s more common with older age, but can happen to anyone.
Some of the symptoms of fibromyalgia might include chronic body pain, fatigue, and sleep or mood disorders. Since all of these symptoms are also common to other conditions, and because symptoms of fibromyalgia might occur alongside other conditions, it could take some time to properly diagnose which symptom is caused by which illness. To make things even more confusing, fibromyalgia symptoms can come and go over time. Thus, it can take a long time to go from fibromyalgia symptoms to a fibromyalgia diagnosis.
In the American College of Rheumatology guidelines for diagnosing fibromyalgia, one important criteria is having widespread pain throughout the body for at least a three month period. "Widespread" can be defined here as having pain on both sides of the body, including above and below the waist. Fibromyalgia may also be characterized by increased pain as firm pressure is applied to tender points across the body. In the past, at least 11 of these 18 common pain points needed to test positive for increased tenderness, in order to justify diagnosing fibromyalgia.
Since fibromyalgia tends to run in families, there may be genetic mutations that could make a person more susceptible to having the disorder.
Other related infections could trigger or aggravate fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia might be triggered by a physical or psychological trauma, such as a car accident or near death experience.
If you have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, then you might be more likely to also develop fibromyalgia.
Since a genetic mutation is believed to be involved with the development of Fibromyalgia, a complete medical history and learning about other family members who have also experienced these symptoms will be critical for an effective treatment.
Fibromyalgia appears to be primarily linked to a few changes in the way that the brain and spinal cord process pain signals. Since there is no test for fibromyalgia, your doctor has to solely rely on your specific set of symptoms in order to make an accurate diagnosis. It is not easy to confirm or totally rule out fibromyalgia diagnosis with a simple laboratory test, because your doctor will not be able to detect it from your blood or via X-ray.
In recent years, many new discoveries were made particularly relevant to chronic pain associated with fibromyalgia. The primary discovery is the presence of focal areas of hyperalgesia, also known as tender points. Tender points mean that a patient has local areas of lowered pain threshold, leading to a peripheral pathology. Tender points typically develop around muscle tendons, where mechanical forces are likely to cause micro-injuries. Many fibromyalgia patients develop tender skin and a reduction in pain threshold across the entire body. These observations imply that some patients have a generalized pain amplification state due to the condition.
Patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia may be recommended to use non-drug treatments in addition to any medicine their doctors might prescribe. Research has shown that the most effective treatment for fibromyalgia is physical exercise, which should always be done in addition to any drug treatment plan. Fibromyalgia patients typically benefit the most from regular aerobic exercises, including Tai Chi and yoga, which are known to reduce some symptoms. Although you might be in pain now, low-impact physical exercises will not be harmful once your body gets moving - although you will want to go slow and remember to stretch first. Alternative therapies like acupuncture, chiropractic therapy, and massage therapy could also be useful for managing symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Since fibromyalgia symptoms can come and go over time, a patient could have eleven tender spots one day, but only eight tender spots the following day, with many doctors still uncertain about how much pressure to apply when conducting a tender point exam. While specialists or researchers may still use tender points, an alternative set of guidelines has been developed for doctors to use in general practice, including:
Widespread and chronic pain which lasts three or more months.
Excessive fatigue, waking up exhausted, and/or having trouble thinking.
No other underlying condition that could be causing the symptoms.
The most critical step on the path to recovery is finding a pain management doctor who can address your pain management needs successfully. The Pain Relief Center and its five specialized institutes are dedicated to meeting any and all of a patient’s needs. Located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Dr. Rodriguez and his friendly staff will help you along the path to recovery.
Our new center in Dallas is part of a nationwide development by Pain Relief Centers, geared to providing individualized and comprehensive healing and pain management services with unprecedented levels of compassion, care, and comfort for each patient.