What Is It?
Fibromyalgia–“fibro” = fibrous, or of fibers, and “myalgia” = muscle pain–syndrome (FMS; hereafter referred to as “FMS”, “fibromyalgia”, or “fibro”) is a musculoskeletal disorder marked by widespread muscle pain. This pain is thought to be caused by overactive nerves in the body overloading the brain with pain signals. Why this condition develops is unknown. The symptoms that characterize FMS are often part or the main feature of other diseases as well, making it easy to misdiagnose. It affects many more women than men as well as middle-aged than younger and approximately 2-5% of the American population.
What Are the Symptoms?
A syndrome is a set of symptoms that occur together, indicating the existence of a particular disease. Therefore, fibromyalgia syndrome most commonly presents the following set of symptoms:
- as stated above, widespread pain; such pain usually occurs in the muscles, but can also be felt in the tendons and ligaments (the soft fibrous tissues), and the joints
- tenderness, or sensitivity to touch (also considered a decreased pain threshold); this can be experienced body-wide but it is particularly noticed at specific pressure points throughout the body
- fatigue that is chronic and disproportionate to preceding activity, possibly even debilitating; this symptom also includes low stamina
- difficulty sleeping and/or getting restful sleep
- memory and concentration difficulties, often referred to as “brain fog” and sometimes “fibro fog”
- depression and/or anxiety and mood swings
Additional symptoms that accompany these main ones are commonly associated with FMS but occur in varying combinations:
- digestive problems such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), aka acid reflux, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- irritable or overactive bladder
- chronic headaches, migraines, or tension headaches
- hypersensitivity to cold or heat; skin rashes and irritation
- temporomandibular disorder (TMJ), which can include face or jaw pain and ringing in the ears
- muscle and/or joint stiffness, particularly in the morning
- chronic tension, knots, cramping, weakness, and spasms in the muscles
- abdominal pain or cramping
- difficulty with balance and impaired coordination
- dryness of the mouth, nose or eyes
- tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
- weight gain
Personally, I experience all 6 of the main symptoms and 7-12 of the additional symptoms. Any of these symptoms can be triggers for a flare-up of fibro pain. The opposite can also happen, where an increase in fibro pain can make another symptom flare-up, for example sensitivity to touch/tenderness. This sometimes ends up locking into a never-ending cycle, where each symptom is triggered by another and then triggers something else, or just triggers its trigger right back (did that make any sense?). Alleviating just one of the symptoms in the cycle can break it and give you a chance to get results treating the other symptoms, too.
What about you? What’s your personal combination of FMS symptoms?