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Fibromyalgia: Symptoms, causes & Treatments

Fibromyalgia syndrome affects the muscles and soft tissue. Symptoms include chronic muscle pain, fatigue, sleep problems, and painful tender points or trigger points, which can be relieved through medications, lifestyle changes and stress management.

 What Are the Symptoms of Fibromyalgia?

Symptoms of fibromyalgia include:

  • Chronic muscle pain, muscle spasms, or tightness
  • Moderate or severe fatigue and decreased energy
  • Insomnia or waking up feeling just as tired as when you went to sleep
  • Stiffness upon waking or after staying in one position for too long
  • Difficulty remembering, concentrating, and performing simple mental tasks (“fibro fog”)
  • Abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, and constipation alternating with diarrhea (irritable bowel syndrome)
  • Tension or migraine headaches
  • Jaw and facial tenderness
  • Sensitivity to one or more of the following: odors, noise, bright lights, medications, certain foods, and cold
  • Feeling anxious or depressed
  • Numbness or tingling in the face, arms, hands, legs, or feet
  • Increase in urinary urgency or frequency (irritable bladder)
  • Reduced tolerance for exercise and muscle pain after exercise
  • A feeling of swelling (without actual swelling) in the hands and feet

When it comes to fibromyalgia treatments, there are drugs, alternative remedies, and lifestyle habits that may help decrease pain and improve sleep. Your fibromyalgia specialist may prescribe pain medication or antidepressants to help treat the pain, fatigue, depression, and anxietythat comes with the disease. In addition, your doctor may recommend physical therapy, moist heat, regular aerobic exercise, relaxation, and stress reduction to help you self-manage your symptoms.

There is no one “pill” that treats or cures fibromyalgia. A multidisciplinary approach that uses both medication and alternative or lifestyle strategies seems to work best to treat fibromyalgia symptoms.

Is Fibromyalgia Pain Similar to Arthritis Pain?

Fibromyalgia can cause symptoms similar to arthritis, bursitis, and tendinitis. Consequently, some experts group fibromyalgia with arthritis and related disorders. The pain associated with these other conditions is typically localized to a single area, while the pain and stiffness of fibromyalgia are very widespread and consists of deep muscle pain, morning stiffness, and painful tender points, making it difficult to exercise or be physically active.

 

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How Is Fibromyalgia Fatigue Treated?

Along with deep muscle pain and painful tender points, fatigue is a key symptom of fibromyalgia and it can be debilitating. Not only do you feel exhausted and weak, but bed rest does not seem to help. Many people with fibromyalgia report sleeping eight to 10 hours at night and feeling as if they haven’t slept at all.

Some drugs may help ease the fatigue associated with fibromyalgia. In addition, aerobic exercise can help ease fatigue, minimize pain, improve quality of sleep, and improve mood.

 

How Does Exercise Help Fibromyalgia Symptoms?

Numerous studies show that exercise is one of the most important treatments for fibromyalgia. Many people with fibromyalgia are are not physically fit. They avoid exercise because they fear increased pain. Yet aerobic or conditioning exercise can actually help relieve pain and depression.

Regular exercise increases the body’s production of endorphins, natural painkillers that also boost mood. Starting slowly and gradually increasing the duration and intensity of exercise can help you enjoy the benefits of exercise without feeling more pain.

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