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What is Fibromyalgia?

Basic information about the poorly understood condition, Fibromyalgia.

Everyone has seen those television commercials for the drugs that help relieve the pain of fibromyalgia, but the condition itself is difficult to define. It is not viral or contagious and it is not currently known whether or not genetics is involved. It does not have symptoms that are visible, which makes it hard for people who have this condition to get a diagnosis, because most symptoms are not observable outside of the fibromyalgia patient’s subjective experience.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition defined by a collection of symptoms including chronic fatigue, muscle pain (which is the myalgia part of the name), sleep disturbances and tingling sensations. It also includes a feeling of being unable to concentrate, focus or remember things. Many physicians and patients have begun to call that fibro-fog. Pain and tenderness in muscles is always present at specific points in the body when pressure is applied. These areas include the neck, shoulders, back, hips, arms and legs. For women, it also includes painful menstrual periods. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases reports that women are a majority of fibromyalgia sufferers.

The pain can be mild or severe, and fibromyalgia itself is unpredictable. It is not a degenerative illness like arthritis, meaning that it does not get worse over time, but for some people it can. It has been linked by some to depression and anxiety, trauma, and some illnesses. One of the frightening things about fibromyalgia is that the symptoms are wide and varied and can be indicators of anything from food sensitivity to cancer. It is often a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning that patients must be tested for other illnesses first before it is clear that fibromyalgia is in fact the primary cause of their symptoms. Common tests that fibromyalgia patients undergo are blood tests for rheumatoid arthritis, lyme disease as well as cancer if the onset of fibromyalgia symptoms begins in middle age as it does with most patients. At present it is thought that people with certain types of arthritis or lupus are at a higher risk of developing the sub-condition of fibromyalgia.

Because the condition itself is not very well understood, there is no one treatment that alleviates all symptoms consistently, although there are now some medications available. In holistic circles, food sensitivity is considered to be linked to fibromyalgia and certain dietary changes are recommended, including taking certain supplements such as magnesium which is primarily thought of as helpful to bones but is known to decrease muscle pain.

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