Understanding and Treating FibromyalgiaToday is Fibromyalgia Awareness Day! Each year, on May 12th, people from all over the world spread awareness for chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia.

What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is chronic, widespread pain. Most often felt in the joints and surrounding soft tissues, it's often considered an arthritis-like disorder, but it's actually rheumatic in nature. The difference is that fibromyalgia does not cause inflammation in the joints and it doesn't damage muscle and soft tissue. But make no mistake, it can wreak havoc on a person's day-to-day, from putting away groceries to getting a good night's sleep.

What are the symptoms?

Fibromyalgia has a long list of symptoms in addition to chronic pain and fatigue. They include:

  • Headaches
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Painful menstrual periods
  • Cognitive impairment (known as "fibro fog")
  • Sensitivity to bright lights and loud noises
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Morning aches and pains
  • Temperature sensitivity

Sometimes, too, people who have fibromyalgia also experience symptoms from other chronic pain conditions like endometriosis, temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ) or chronic fatigue syndrome. Many symptoms of these conditions overlap, which makes diagnosis challenging.

Who can get it?

Fibromyalgia affects over five million Americans, more than 80% of them are women. Because it's difficult to diagnose, it's also not very clear how people get it. It is suggested it could be entirely spontaneous, however, some people seem to develop symptoms after traumatic physical events (car accidents), severe illness or repetitive injuries.

Understanding and Treating Fibromyalgia

Can it be "fixed?"

There are currently three FDA-approved medications being used to treat fibromyalgia. Many patients don't realize there are drug-free options and alternatives to finding relief from their chronic pain. Some of those are:

  • Chiropractic care
  • Exercise
  • Adapting your workstation (a comfy chair and an ergonomic desk, as examples)
  • Massage
  • Pilates and yoga
  • Acupuncture

Research shows that a team effort provides great relief. This includes utilizing several of the above-mentioned remedies, as well as having a healthy diet and getting quality sleep. So, get a massage, see your chiropractor and ask the boss for a comfy chair, and you could be well on your way to finding relief.