At least one in ten of us has some kind of long-term pain that is hard to deal with. Not everyone, though, has fibromyalgia.
People with fibromyalgia have chronic pain in many parts of their bodies, such as aches, pain, and stiffness in their muscles and joints, and tenderness in their soft tissues.
This affects other parts of the body, like the brain, making it harder to focus and remember things. People with fibromyalgia usually call this “fibro fog.” It can change how you feel, how you sleep, and many other things about your daily life.
Lady Gaga, Sinead O’Connor, and Morgan Freeman all have a condition called fibromyalgia.
So, what makes fibromyalgia happen? How is it different from other long-term pain? How is it found and how is it treated?
Why Does Fibromyalgia Happen?
When doctors can’t find any other reason for widespread, long-term pain, they usually say that the person has fibromyalgia.
We don’t know for sure what causes fibromyalgia, but it is thought that genes, the environment, hormones, and the brain and central nervous system are all involved. Research shows that genes may be to blame for up to 50% of the risk of getting the disease. The latest research shows that the immune system of the body is also involved.
A survey of 596 people with fibromyalgia found that there are a few common reasons why they have it. About two-thirds of people could link the start of their symptoms to a specific incident or event, such as a physical injury, a period of illness that might have required surgery, or a stressful life event.
Notably, many of the people surveyed said they had to deal with negativity and stigma when trying to explain their symptoms to professionals, their families, and their communities and get them to believe them.
About 2% of the people in the world have fibromyalgia. A recent review of the research showed that between 0.2% and 6.6% of people in the general population have fibromyalgia. It’s often said that it’s three times as common in women as in men.
In 1994, the World Health Organization said that fibromyalgia is a disease. Since then, doctors have argued about how to diagnose fibromyalgia and who should do it. This has led to the so-called “fibro wars.” It is still a point of contention.
In the most recent version of the International Classification of Diseases, fibromyalgia is defined as pain in “at least 4 of 5 body regions” that causes “significant emotional distress.”
The American College of Rheumatology came up with a widely used test called the “widespread pain index.” This test looks for 11 of 18 possible tender points of pain all over the body.
How Is It Treated?
Different treatments work for different people, and what helps one person may not help another. But pain relief is the main goal of most treatments.
Both pregabalin and duloxetine work by changing the chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters (gamma amino butyric acid and serotonin). They help a lot of people.
There are many other options, such as painkillers (analgesics), drugs that relax muscles (benzodiazepines), and treatments for nerve or spinal pain (neuropathic treatments).
Many of these medicines can cause side effects like constipation or allergic reactions like stomach upset or inflammation. They can also make you want more. Always tell your doctor what painkillers you’re taking so they can help you deal with your pain in a safe way.
A TENS machine is another common way to treat pain (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation). To do this, pads are put around the area of pain or the nerves that might be sending the pain message, and small electrical pulses are sent to these areas to stop them from sending pain signals.
It is thought that this effective treatment lowers pain by making the brain and spinal cord make more endorphins. But the effects may get less strong as time goes on.
You should ask your doctor if TENS treatment is right for you because it could affect people with pacemakers or epilepsy.
Fibromyalgia can also be treated with heat therapy, massage, and vibration therapy, among other things. You could also try acupuncture or talk to a psychologist.
What About The Future?
In the future, we might be able to look for diagnostic immune markers for fibromyalgia in our DNA to find out who might be at risk of getting the condition and take steps to stop it from happening.
People with myalgic encephalomyelitis, or chronic fatigue syndrome, also have many of the same symptoms as those with fibromyalgia. Our research is currently looking at the blood of people with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome to see if there are any inflammatory markers that might help us figure out how these illnesses start.
If we can figure out how the immune system affects pain and inflammation, we can start to give people with fibromyalgia more effective treatments.
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