Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain syndrome and invisible illness that affects people physically, mentally and socially. Fibromyaglia syndrome, fibromyositis (or) fibrositis, is a central nervous system dysfunction and stress related disorder with a collection of signs, symptoms, and medical problems that tend to occur together but are not related to a specific, identifiable cause. Research shows that Fibromyalgia causes brain metabolite abnormalities, disrupting the right hippocampus region of the brain. An area of the brain that is incredibly sensitive to stress and when exposed to chronic stress produces hippocampal excitability, which can inhibit brain activity required for modulating stress responses leading to hyperalgesia. (“Hyper” means excess and “algesia” meaning pain) Widespread and frequent onset pain is the primary symptom of fibromyalgia, with multiple tender points, abnormal pain perception and processing, sleep disturbances, fatigue and often psychological distress. For those experiencing the more severe symptoms, fibromyalgia can be extremely debilitating and interfere with basic daily activities. In addition, most people with fibromyalgia also experience moderate to extreme fatigue, sleep disturbances, sensitivity to touch, light, and sound, as well as cognitive difficulties. Many individuals also experience a number of additional symptoms relating to Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS/CFS/ME), as well as symptoms from common overlapping diseases and conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, lupus and autoimmune arthritis.
The pain of fibromyalgia is profound, chronic and widespread. It can migrate to all parts of the body and vary in intensity. FM pain has been described as stabbing and shooting pain and deep muscular aching, throbbing, and twitching. Neurological complaints such as numbness, tingling, and burning are often present and add to the discomfort of the patient. The severity of the pain and stiffness is often worse in the morning. Aggravating factors that affect pain include cold/humid weather, non-restorative sleep, physical and mental fatigue, excessive physical activity, physical inactivity, anxiety and stress.
In today’s world many people complain of fatigue; however, the fatigue of FM is much more than being tired after a particularly busy day or after a sleepless night. The fatigue of FM is an all-encompassing exhaustion that can interfere with occupational, personal, social or educational activities. Symptoms include profound exhaustion and poor stamina
- Sleep problems
Many fibromyalgia patients have an associated sleep disorder that prevents them from getting deep, restful, restorative sleep. Medical researchers have documented specific and distinctive abnormalities in the Stage 4 deep sleep of FM patients. During sleep, individuals with FM are constantly interrupted by bursts of awake-like brain activity, limiting the amount of time they spend in deep sleep.
- Other symptoms/overlapping conditions
Additional symptoms may include: irritable bowel and bladder, headaches and migraines, restless legs syndrome (periodic limb movement disorder), impaired memory and concentration, skin sensitivities and rashes, dry eyes and mouth, anxiety, depression, ringing in the ears, dizziness, vision problems, Raynaud’s Syndrome, neurological symptoms, and impaired coordination.
A Note About Diagnosis:
Resources: National Fibromyalgia Association: What is Fibromyalgia?, Fibromyalgia Symptoms, FM Diagnosis, Research Shows Brain Abnormalities in Fibromyalgia Patients, Hippocampal Metabolite Abnormalities in Fibromyalgia: Correlation With Clinical Features, The Positive Pear’s Articles: Natural Pain Management, Natural Stress Management Techniques, Holistic Health & Whole Body Wellness for Fibromyalgia, Coping with Fibromyalgia, Awareness Day: May 12, 2012