Fibromyalgia (FM) is a complex disorder that causes chronic widespread muscle pain and multiple tenderpoints throughout the body. Approximately 10 million Americans suffer from FM. It occurs in people of all ages including children, however, most sufferers are over the age of 18 and roughly 90 percent of them are women.
The symptoms of FM differ from person to person but the most commonly reported include:
- Chronic muscle pain, spasms or tightness
- Tension or migraine headaches
- Moderate to severe fatigue and decreased overall energy
- Insomnia or unrefreshed sleep
- Feeling anxious or depressed
- Exercise intolerance
- Sensitivity to one or more of the following: noise, light, odor, certain foods, medications or cold temperatures
- Tingling in the arms, legs, hands or feet
- Irritable bladder
- Abdominal pain
- Morning stiffness
The causes of FM are still unknown; however, it has been linked to:
- Stressful events such as car accidents
- Repetitive Injuries
Since FM carries such diverse symptoms that vary with each individual, diagnosis is often difficult. Currently, there are no x-rays or blood tests that can be used to diagnose FM but your provider may order these tests to rule out other health problems. Typically, a physical examination is conducted whereupon you will be asked to explain your symptoms and how you are feeling. Afterward, based on the American College of Rheumatology criteria, you will likely receive a diagnosis.
Fibromyalgia can be difficult to treat. At this time, there is no cure but there are medications and treatments that can reduce symptoms. Working with a health care provider who is familiar with the condition and has knowledge of the latest treatments is the best way to treat it.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is another complex disorder that is very similar to fibromyalgia. Although they are two separate conditions, the latest research suggests that there may be a connection between fibromyalgia and CFS.
CFS is identified by intense fatigue that normally can’t be explained by any other underlying condition. Typically fatigue may worsen with mental or physical activity but remains normal with rest.
Symptoms commonly present with CFS include:
- Fatigue or post-exertional malaise for more than 6 months
- Orthostatic intolerance
- Sleep disturbances
- Impaired memory or concentration
- Sore throat and/or enlarged lymph nodes
- Bowel complaints (such as bloating, diarrhea and/or constipation)
- Anxiety or depression
Despite over 25 years of research, the medical field still is not certain what causes CFS. However, links have been made between the disease and viral reactivation, systematic brain inflammation, or autoimmunity. Age, environment, previous illnesses, stress, and genetics may also play a role. At least one million individuals in the United States have CFS.
As with fibromyalgia, there are no x-rays or specific blood tests that can be used to diagnose CFS, however, your health care provider may order tests to rule out other health problems. A thorough health history and physical examination are often sufficient for diagnosing CFS.
Presently, there is no cure for CFS. Treatment is directed toward minimizing the most problematic symptoms. Treatment is generally a combination of medications, supplements, and complementary and supportive therapies. Again, working with a health care provider who is familiar with the condition and has knowledge of the latest treatments is the best way to manage CFS.