Fibromyalgia is a long-term medical problem that expresses itself in an individual as an overall body pain. This pain is usually more intense at the body’s tender points. Scientists believe that this condition arise when there is a change in the way the brain detects and acts on pain. Knowledge about this medical condition is not complete but scientists believe that when some brain chemicals change, there is bound to be a chemical imbalance in the affected individual. This in turn leads to pain around certain body parts.
Overall body pain is the major symptom of fibromyalgia. However there are other symptoms which often confirm this medical condition. They include insomnia, headache, anxiety, fatigue and lack of concentration. These symptoms vary in individuals; while some may experience few of them, others have almost all the symptoms. Symptoms can be easily missed or misunderstood at the onset, making it uncertain whether to go for proper diagnosis or not. The American College of Rheumatology has developed new criteria for fibromyalgia diagnosis. Widespread body pain with few of the other symptoms are the new pointers of this condition. If you notice on and off widespread body pain for more than few weeks plus insomnia, anxiety and loss of concentration, it is wise to pay your doctor a visit.
Diagnosing fibromyalgia is tricky. This is because widespread body pain in tender points cannot be accurately measured in individuals. It is very difficult to measure pain as people experience and report it differently since there is no scale of measurement. Diagnosis can only be accurately carried out by a doctor who is familiar with fibromyalgia and other related conditions.
Location of Fibromyalgia Tender Points
Tender points are often mistaken for trigger points. These two points are located on different areas of the body. They react to pressure differently. Tender points are sensitive spots on the body (usually the size of a coin) that are painful when any form of pressure is applied to them. Trigger points on the other hand cause pain on a different body part when pressure is applied right on them. It’s like when you apply pressure on point A and you feel the pain on point C. However pain can also be felt on the trigger points even as it flows to the receiving part of the body, i.e. pain can be felt on both the point of pressure and the point of pain reception. It is possible for an individual suffering from fibromyalgia to have both tender and trigger points, hence the misconception that the two are the same.
Fibromyalgia body pain may not be constant but can start and stop at intervals, moving to different body parts. Tender points occur on these body parts:
- Shoulder tops
- Outer part of the elbows
- Upper chest region
- Back of the head
You will feel persistent pressure on these parts as an indication of fibromyalgia. Tender points were initially used to diagnose this medical condition. Eighteen tender points were medically identified on the body. If an individual experience tenderness on 11 out of these 18 parts, the person is diagnosed with fibromyalgia.
It was discovered that other medical conditions like polymyalgia can also cause tender points but is less severe and not felt all over the body. Some rheumatoid conditions like Lyme disease and arthritis may mimic the symptoms of fibromyalgia (overall body pain and tenderness). This made the tender point method of fibromyalgia diagnosis obsolete. It is now used to narrow down the medical condition a patient has, but not for precise diagnosis.
Tips for fibromyalgia Pain Management
Though there is no treatment for fibromyalgia, there are ways to properly manage the condition. The pain can be reduced thus making it easier to live with the condition. Fibromyalgia can be managed in the following ways;
Use of Main Medications: The FDA has approved the use of some drugs to treat pains due to fibromyalgia. Drugs like milnacipran and duloxetine alter the brain chemistry and reduce the pain felt by the individual. Pregabalin block the nerve cells that are responsible for pain transmission. Over-the-counter acetaminophen can also be used. Narcotic pain medications are not usually prescribed due to the possibility of drug dependency.
Use of Insomnia Medications: Insomnia is a major symptom of fibromyalgia. Lack of sleep can make life unpleasant for an individual as proper rest is not gotten, making body pain and tension worse. Drugs that’ll help you sleep will be prescribed by your doctor if you suffer insomnia as a result of fibromyalgia.
Use of Antidepressants: If you are anxious and depressed due to fibromyalgia, antidepressants will be prescribed for you by your doctor. Antidepressants can also help you sleep better.
- Apart from the use of medication to manage fibromyalgia, some lifestyle modifications can also help you cope with it. Here are some tips that will definitely help improve your condition;
- Make out time for relaxation as stress will make your pain more pronounced. Engage in activities like yoga that will help you relax.
- Create a sleep pattern by sleeping and waking up at the same time everyday. This way you are more likely to sleep once it’s your scheduled time. Erratic sleep patterns will make your sleeping problem worse. Do not take caffeinated drinks close to bed time as they will keep you awake.
- Engage in non-intense exercises regularly. National Fibromyalgia Association recommends aerobic exercises like walking for people with this condition. Take it one step at a time and increase exercise as your body can tolerate. Do not engage in exercises that will cause you more pains.
Get help and support: Fibromyalgia is a long-term medical condition therefore it takes a lot to wake up everyday and embrace it. Let your friends and family help you when needed. Try to get professional counselling if you need to talk to an outsider. Join a support group, it will do you lots of good. Being able to express how you feel about your condition is very liberating. It makes your journey easier and allows you to live a healthier and happy life.