Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by widespread body pain. Other common symptoms in fibromyalgia include unrefreshing sleep, tiredness/fatigue, low mood and memory problems. It is more common in women and is commonly known as ‘fibro’ or “fibrofog”. No clear pathophysiological mechanism for fibromyalgia has been established, but there is evidence that patients have abnormality pain processing with increased sensitivity to various stimuli such as pressure.
As the symptoms tend to be non-specific, and there are no specific tests which can be carried out to diagnose, fibromyalgia can be challenging to diagnose. It is important that you explain your symptoms correctly and in detail to your doctor as it can aid in establishing the diagnosis. Fibromyalgia often occurs in patients with other conditions, such as inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis and is not a diagnosis of exclusion.
So, if you are experiencing longstanding constant widespread body pain, with varying distribution and the cause for the pain cannot be explained by any other abnormality detected, then it might be possible that you are suffering from fibromyalgia. The symptoms are generally managed using a range of drug and non drug mechanisms. Some of the common symptoms in fibromyalgia include:
This is the most common reason for which patients seek medical opinion/ visit a pain specialist. This differs from other conditions such as arthritis as the pain in not localised to one area or the joints only. Muscle and joint pain is commonly seen in majority of patients. The pain may vary in severity and nature (dull ache/ heaviness/ throbbing /burning) . Most often the pain is continuous although in some it may be intermittent; some others feel like the pain keeps travelling from one area of their body to another. Patients may have areas which are tender to touch with increased sensitive to pain. Long term persisting pain can lead to inactivity which can further promote deconditioning of muscles and worsening pain. It can also lead to physically inactive maladaptive posture & gait, bursitis and tendinopathies.
A constant feeling of tiredness is another common symptom present in majority of fibromyalgia patients. Even after adequate periods of rest fibromyalgia patients may feel like you don’t have the energy to get through the day. Intense workouts may be a thing of the past with basic daily chores becoming an uphill task. Slowly it may start to affect other dimensions of life such as relationships, social life, work etc.
No restorative sleep, inability to sleep and fatigue are common in fibromyalgia patients. Patients generally feel tired in the mornings. Sometimes, because of the easy fatigability, even though you fall asleep quickly the sleep may be interrupted and non refreshing. Pain and emotional disturbances may contribute to the sleep disturbances.
More than half the patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia, suffer from mood disturbances such as depression or anxiety disorders. And it is no surprise that people tend to feel low and worried all the time when they are experiencing pain all over their body for a long period of time. When you are having a hard time managing your day to day life, when basic functionality is like a challenge to, it’s only natural that you are going to feel a little hopeless and anxious about it. Staying active and staying connected is something that you have to make a huge effort for.
The name fibro fog comes from the memory issues seen in fibromyalgia. Fog represent the lack of clarity or haziness. It’s a very common symptom amongst patients, where they complain of forgetting basic things like where they have left their keys, and not remembering plans they have made.
Some experience tingling sensation in their extremities especially on their toes and fingers, while some others complain of numbness. The term paresthesia is sometimes used to address these symptoms. These symptoms tend to flare up from time to time, although in some cases they can be a constant feature.
It is a common problem which tends to interfere with the individuals daily life, and can be debilitating. They often develop a migraine or tension headaches from time to time. Sometimes a headache can also be due to the stiffness of the muscles in and around your neck region and upper back.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome:
There are occasions when people suffering from fibromyalgia complain of abdominal pain, have a bloated sensation in the abdomen and experience episodes of constipation or diarrhea. All of this is because of a condition known as irritable bowel syndrome. Individuals can also experience a feeling of regurgitation following meals, which is due to gastro-esophageal reflux disease, which is also associated with fibromyalgia.
Restless legs & leg cramps
Since patients having fibromyalgia, complain of a variety of symptoms as mentioned above, it is not difficult to miss the diagnosis. Therefore it is very important that you discuss your symptoms at length with an experienced doctor.