Fibromyalgia, if left undiagnosed and untreated, can make its victims’ lives miserable. Fibromyalgia causes those suffering from it to experience chronic widespread pain and sensitivity to pressure, sometimes along with numbness and tingling sensations. Fibromyalgia sufferers usually also experience stiffness of the joints, disturbed sleep and chronic fatigue.
While fibromyalgia is not a degenerative or progressive disorder and does not lead to death, it’s a very difficult condition to deal with. In fact, the emotional toll of living with fibromyalgia may have as great an effect on a victim’s quality of life as the actual physical symptoms. Fibromyalgia appears to impair some victims’ ability to think, as well. The combination of physical pain, cognitive impairment and mood effects such as depression and anxiety causes many fibromyalgia sufferers to change jobs, cut back their work hours or quit working altogether, often creating a severe financial strain that affects their quality of life even more.
Fibromyalgia affects an estimated 2 to 6 percent of the world’s population; in the United States, there are an estimated 10 million fibromyalgia sufferers. The great majority of fibromyalgia victims are women. According to the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA), 75 to 90 percent of people diagnosed with fibromyalgia are female. In women, the diagnosis of fibromyalgia (sometimes abbreviated FM or FMS for “fibromyalgia syndrome”) usually occurs during the childbearing years.
Despite the preponderance of cases among women aged 20 to 50, fibromyalgia can and does strike people of both genders and of all ages and races. The prevalence of FM does go up among the elderly, however – the NFA says that by age 80, about 8 percent of the population meets the criteria for a diagnosis of fibromyalgia established by the American College of Rheumatology.
Although the syndrome has probably been around for most of human history, the term “fibromyalgia” was not coined until 1981. The word is a combination of Latin and Greek words meaning “connective tissue and muscle pain.” In the past, the symptoms of fibromyalgia may have been labeled “muscular rheumatism” or “neurasthenia.”
Doctors and researchers do not agree on the causes of fibromyalgia. A predisposition to fibromyalgia might be passed on genetically, but stress in one’s environment seems to be a contributing factor, too. Fibromyalgia is also strongly associated with depression. The most accepted hypothesis seems to be that fibromyalgia is caused by a chemical, electrical or physical abnormality (or some combination of the three) in the central nervous system (CNS). A victim’s pain threshold is lowered because the CNS responds with greatly increased sensitivity to everyday movements and pressures that would not cause pain in a healthy individual. Just because fibromyalgia may originate in the nervous system, however, does not mean that it’s a mental disorder. Often victims are told “it’s all in your head,” which only makes the situation more difficult for the fibromyalgia sufferer.
No single test exists for fibromyalgia, but the American College of Rheumatology established criteria for diagnosing fibromyalgia two decades ago. To be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a patient must have a history of chronic widespread pain that has lasted at least three months and that affects all four quadrants of the body — upper left, lower left, upper right and lower right. Also, a person must feel pain when pressure is applied to at least 11 of 18 designated “tender points” located in various areas of the body. These possible tender points occur in pairs on the front and back of the neck, shoulders, elbows and knees as well as on the lower back and just below the buttocks. It should also be noted that a fibromyalgia sufferer is likely to feel pain in other areas besides these tender points.
The healthcare providers at Phoenix Pain Treatment offer Manipulation under Anesthesia (MUA), which breaks up the affected fibrous tissues of the muscle and ligaments, allowing you much more freedom of movement. This in turn also allows the nerves within the muscle tissues to have a more natural relationship, so that the nervous tissues are able to relax and not be as irritated by the fibrous tissues inherent with fibromyalgia. If you’re suffering from fibromyalgia pain, call the caring staff at Phoenix Pain Treatment at 602-449-9430.