Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by persistent pain and fatigue. Many researchers believe that the brains of people who have fibromyalgia process sensations in a way that leads to excessive pain and fatigue.
Fibromyalgia is more common in women than in men. It is also more common in people who have a history that includes any of the following:
- Tension headaches
- Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ)
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Rheumatic disorders. People who have lupus or arthritis are more likely to develop fibromyalgia.
- A family history of fibromyalgia
While there is no cure for fibromyalgia, many people experience relief through therapies that include medication, massage, and chiropractic care. Exercise, stress reduction, and relaxation techniques can also help.
The most common symptom associated with fibromyalgia is widespread pain. Often, the pain is characterized as a mild but persistent ache that lasts for three months or more. This and other symptoms can vary from person to person, but the most common symptoms include:
- Mild to severe pain. Often, the pain is associated with areas called tender points. These can include the knees, elbows, shins, hips, lower back, the soft tissue of the neck and the shoulders. While the pain can be in the joints, the joint tissue is not affected.
- Memory and concentration issues. Known as "fibro fog," these are cognitive issues that can plague those who have the disorder.
- Fatigue. People who have fibromyalgia will often feel tired no matter how much rest they get.
- Abdominal pain and gastrointestinal distress. Pain, cramping and irritable bowel symptoms are experienced by many sufferers.
- Inability to exercise. In many people, exercise exacerbates both pain and fatigue.
The causes of fibromyalgia are not understood. In many cases, a triggering event cannot be identified. Some possible causes and triggers include:
- Infection - While no pathogen has been identified, some researchers believe that fibromyalgia is caused by a virus or bacteria.
- Traumatic events - Emotional pain could be the trigger that causes fibromyalgia to develop.
- Physical trauma or injury
- Sleep disturbances
- An overdeveloped pain reaction - Under this theory, there is a problem in the brain that causes the areas that are associated with pain to react differently in patients with fibromyalgia.
- Pressure on the brainstem from misaligned vertebra, causing skeletal muscles to go into spasm, hyperactivity, or contracture, causing distinct trigger points throughout the body.