Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that can mimic other conditions’ symptoms. It can be challenging to diagnose as it shares symptoms with other conditions. For the 10 million Americans that are affected by it, this provides no comfort. Hope is on the horizon, and through the work of clinical research studies and their volunteers, we are learning more about fibromyalgia and how to treat it.
What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a neurologic condition that causes widespread pain and other symptoms. While it is more prevalent in women, it can also occur in men. Pain and touch sensitivity are the most common symptoms, but those diagnosed may also experience:
- Extreme fatigue
- Sleep disturbances
- Light, sound, and cognitive difficulties
Symptoms often begin after a traumatic event like surgery, infection, or other stressful events.
Triggers and Diagnosis
Fibromyalgia has five regions of pain. To have a diagnosis, you must have pain in at least 4 of the five areas. They consist of:
- Left Upper– Includes the shoulder, arm, or jaw
- Right Upper– Includes the shoulder, arm, or jaw
- Left Lower– Includes the hip, buttock, or leg
- Right Lower-Includes hip, buttock, or leg
- Axial – Includes the back, chest, or abdomen
In the past, there were 18 “trigger points” that the doctor would press to see if the person had pain. However, this method is no longer required. Your health provider would rule out other conditions that share similar symptoms by running blood tests, doing a complete medical history, and other physical examinations.
Fibromyalgia is treated with both non-drug and medication-based therapies. In many cases, a combination of therapies achieves the best results. Physical exercise such as aerobics, tai chi, and yoga has been proven effective in relieving symptoms. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, acupuncture, and massage are other non-drug options.
Medications to improve pain and sleep can help improve specific symptoms. There are also approved medications to treat fibromyalgia-related pain. They are Cymbalta, Savella, Elavil, Flexeril, Lyrica, and Neurontin. Some of these also help improve sleep.
Though there is no cure for fibromyalgia, and it can be a challenge to diagnose and treat accurately, hard work through research studies has allowed symptom relief and improvement to life quality. There is still more to learn, and new studies are looking into more ways to detect, treat, and eventually cure this disease. To learn more about the fibromyalgia studies currently enrolling here at Charlottesville Medical Research, call (434) 817-2442, or visit our website.