Monday, April 18, 2011

A Trip

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Fibromyalgia About the Unknown

Few people have heard of Fibrmyalgia syndrome (FMS). It is a sever disorder in which not a lot of people know much about. So what actually is FMS? Fibromyalgia syndrome is a widespread chronic musculoskeletal pain and fatigue disorder for which the cause is still unknown. Fibromyalgia means pain in the muscles, ligaments, and tendons- the fibrous tissues in the body. FMS used to be called fibrositis, implying that there was inflammation in the muscles, but research later proved that inflammation did not exist.

Most patients with FMS say they feel flu like aches all over. They may feel as if their muscles have been pulled or overworked. The muscles often twitch and even burn. Every muscle, ligament, and tendon shouts out in pain.

Fibromyalgia can occur by itself, which is called primary fibromyalgia, or it can be overlaid on top of another chronic illnesses, such as lupus or cancer and then it is referred to as secondary fibromyalgia.

Although the definite cause of FMS is unknown, researchers have several theories about causes or triggers of the disorder. One theory is that below-normal levels of growth hormone may cause it. Growth hormone deficiency has been associated with low energy, muscle weakness, sensitivity to cold, weakened ability to remember and think, and other problems-, many of which are seen in patients with fibromyalgia. Some scientists believe that an injury or trauma may cause the syndrome. This injury may affect the central nervous system. Fibromyalgia may be associated with changes in muscle metabolism, such as decreased blood flow, causing fatigue and decreased strength. Although researchers have many different theories, no one truly knows why it happens.

Fibromyalgia is difficult to diagnose because many of the symptoms mimic those of other disorders. The physician reviews the patient’s medical history and makes a diagnosis of fibromyalgia based on a history of chronic widespread pain that persists for more than three months. The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) has developed criteria for fibromyalgia that physicians can use in diagnosing the disorder. According to ACR criteria, a person is considered to have fibromyalgia if he or she has widespread pain in combination with tenderness in at least eleven of eighteen tender point sites.

The pain of fibromyalgia is more than normal muscle aches common after physical exertion. It can sometimes be sever enough to disrupt a person’s daily work and activities. With FMS often comes unrestful sleep, fatigue, and morning stiffness. Less common symptoms or conditions that can accompany FMS include Headache, Raynaud’s Syndrome , and irritable bowel syndrome . Fibromyalgia is not a psychological condition, although it has some components that are related. As with many conditions that cause chronic pain, anxiety and depression are common in people with FMS and may make symptoms worse. Many people with fibromyalgia report that their muscle pain is made worse by cold or damp weather, poor sleep, fatigue, stress, overexertion, and anxiety. The skin may be ultrasensitive, reacting to a firm touch with tingling, numbness or a “pins and needles” sensation.

People with fibromyalgia have periods when their symptoms become worse and periods when they have no symptoms. Flare-ups of fatigue and muscle and joint aches are common, especially following physical or emotional stress.

Certain factors may increase the risk of developing fibromyalgia. Being female greatly increases your chance of developing this syndrome. It is possible that having a rheumatic disorder (such as rheumatioid arthritis), an infectious disease (such as Lyme disease), or a psychiatric condition (such as major depression) may increase your chance of developing FMS. Fibromyalgia affects approximately 4-6 million people in the United States, mostly women of childbearing age, according to Tiffany Field, PhD, a researcher with the Touch Research Institutes in Miami.

For anyone with fibromyalgia, effective treatment is exclusive and the quest is frustrating. The treatment requires a comprehensive approach. It is, for the most part, unsatisfactory. Maybe that is why sufferers often have a considerable degree of anxiety and depression. The physician, physical therapist, and the patient may all play an active role in the management of fibromyalgia. Exercise has proven helpful in some studies in reducing tender-point pain; its general effect on the poor mood in fibromyalgia subjects has been questionable. These problems may require specific treatment, such as antidepressants. Using antidepressants does not mean that the condition is “all in your head.” Antidepressants may help by improving sleep, mood, or by blocking pain signals. Many people with fibromyalgia appear to benefit from the use of these medications. Other medications or therapies sometimes used include dietary supplements, vitamins, and herbal products. In general, medications are not very useful for the long-term treatment of fibromyalgia. They may help break the cycle of pain and sleep problems when symptoms flare up, but they usually are part of a larger treatment plan that focuses on exercise and other types of treatment.

Previous studies have shown that massage therapy can provide relief for people with FMS. Massage therapy has also been shown to reduce pain, stiffness, fatigue, and sleeping difficulties. But researchers have not known exactly what massage does to provide relief. In a five-week study, 20 adults with fibromyalgia received either massage therapy, or relaxation therapy twice weekly. The massage was a combination of several types, including Swedish, Shiatsu, and Trager, all using moderate pressure. People in the other group went to progressive muscle relaxation sessions. “Both groups showed a decrease in anxiety and depressed mood immediately after the first and last therapy sessions,” writes Field. The big difference showed up in their sleep. Only the massage therapy group reported an increase in hours of sleep and a decrease in their sleep movements, as well as lower levels of the chemical messenger for pain- called “substance P.”

A variety of other treatments have been used for conditions that cause chronic pain. Most of these complementary or alternative therapies are not proven treatments for fibromyalgia; however, they may be helpful for some people when symptoms flare up and may improve quality of life. Studies show that other relaxation techniques, besides massage therapy, may be effective in relieving pain caused by FMS, including SAM-e, which has been used to treat depression, Biofeedback, Acupuncture or electroacupuncture, meditation or prayer, Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), and counseling, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy. In general, complementary or alternative treatments are not harmful, and patients may find one or more of them helpful in relieving some of their symptoms.

Although little is known about fibromyalgia, research has proven that it is real and the pain is real. Research has also proven that medications seem to be a simple answer, they are rarely the only answer and patients with fibromyalgia are encouraged to try and change their entire lives and they way they go about living them in attempt to rehabilitate and have less symptoms. The most important thing to remember when being diagnosed with fibromyalgia is not to lose hope, ongoing research is being done, and eventually everyone will find a cure for himself or herself.

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