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Understanding Fibromyalgia Understanding Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a syndrome of multiple symptoms including widespread pain and stiffness of muscles, tendons, and joints. Other common symptoms include debilitating fatigue,... Understanding Fibromyalgia

by Kimberly Allen R.N.

Fibromyalgia is a syndrome of multiple symptoms including widespread pain and stiffness of muscles, tendons, and joints.  Other common symptoms include debilitating fatigue, sleep problems, anxiety, depression and irritable bowel.

There is no clear cut cause of fibromyalgia  Some believe that it runs in families, leaning toward a genetic cause.  Others believe there is some triggering event that initiates fibromyalgia syndrome.  Though there is no known cause for fibromyalgia, there are several risk factors known to increase a persons chances of getting it.  It is more commonly diagnosed in women than men by a ratio of 9:1. It is most commonly diagnosed in mid adulthood though it can occur in young children and older adults. The most commonly found risk factor is a history of rhuematic disease like RA or lupus.

Despite all the information currently available regarding fibromyalgia it is still frequently misunderstood and misdiagnosed.  Many doctors continue to misdiagnose this syndrome as chronic fatigue syndrome or some form of arthritis.  Since there are no specific tests to diagnose fibromyalgia it can take up to 5 years to get a correct diagnosis.  Though there are no specific tests for fibromyalgia the doctor will order tests to rule out other diseases.  The doctor will also do a complete physical exam checking the fibromyalgia tender points located in various parts of the body.

There are many treatments available for fibrmyalgia today both pharmaceutical and natural.  There are curently 3 medications approved by the FDA for the treatment of fibromyalgia – Cymbalta, Savella, and Lyrica.  There are also several medications frequently used to treat the symptoms of chronic fatigue and depression.  The use of tricyclic antidepressants like Elavil and Pamelor can improve mood, sleep and ease pain.  If the pain is severe and unrelieved with Tylenol occasionally other pain medications are prescribed.  NSAID’s have only been effective in treating fibromyalgia pain when taken in conjunction with other medications like Elavil or Flexeril.  Muscle relaxants have also been useful in treating the muscle pain.

The use of non-drug therapies is also recommended and effective in managing fibromyalgia symptoms. Tai Chi and Yoga are body based thereapies that can ease symptoms.  Exercise is an important p;art of any healthy lifestyle and an even more important component of any good treatment plan.  It is always difficult in the beginning but you will soon learn that regular exercise is a great pain reliever and it will also improve the fatigue.  Sleep problems are also common in fibromyalgia so it’s important  to establish a routine, go to bed and get up at the same time everyday.  This helps your body to establish a sleep pattern so that it can repair itself mentally and physically.  It is also important to understand the role stress plays in fibromyalgia, severe stress can trigger an increase in symptoms so a good stress management program is essential.  Set a time each day to relax, do some deep breathing exercises and meditating to help manage stress.

There are also numerous support systems and groups available to help you cope and live a full and active life with fibromyalgia.  You can get information on local chapters from your doctor or online.

Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at