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What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia can be a daunting diagnosis for some individuals. Most people think it’s an inflammatory condition or an autoimmune condition but it’s actually neither.

It’s a pain processing disorder, where one’s nerve endings become hypersensitive to stimulation and even the mildest stimulation can cause extreme discomfort. Fibromyalgia is a common cause of chronic widespread muscular skeletal pain, often accompanied by fatigue and brain fog. Other clinical manifestations or symptoms I’ve seen in my patients include whole body pain, fatigue and difficulty sleeping. Minimal exertion tends to exhaust them – sometimes they’ll complain of things like brain fog, difficulty focusing and concentrating or they’ll tell me it feels like they have the flu all the time.

The etiology of the syndrome is not known but what I’ve seen in my patients is there tends to be some type of triggering event or a stressful event that leads to these symptoms: a horrible divorce, tremendous stress in the workplace or even a terrible car accident. Fibromyalgia, anxiety and depression can go together as well, especially if you have multiple stressors in life. Fibromyalgia also tends to affect women mostly, younger women 20 to 55-years old and is six times more common in women than men. It’s really uncommon in men but it can happen and when it does, it tends to be more severe and more difficult to manage.

Symptoms of Fibromyalgia vary from individual to individual. For severe sufferers, that can mean tremendous chronic widespread muscular pain to the point where you can have difficulty concentrating and not be able to hold a longterm job. Patients will say they hurt all over, that their whole body feels bruised – those tend to be more extreme cases. Stress definitely tends to be a huge part of exacerbating symptoms of Fibromyalgia.

A large part of managing Fibromyalgia is having the patient participating in their care. Fibromyalgia can be very challenging to manage for both patient and physician. It’s not a fatal condition but it doesn’t ever really go away either.

In regards to treatment, there’s not one algorithm or method that applies to all individuals or even one. The most important thing for Fibromyalgia is movement and exercise and to make that a regular part of the patient’s routine.

Another thing that I tell patients – try stress management. I can’t emphasize that enough, which I know is easy to say, harder to do. We all have stress. We all have our own ways of coping with it. For those with Fibromyalgia, stress will physically manifest and exacerbate symptoms. There’s always going to be some baseline chronic pain. The goal is to have better days than bad days and to be accepting when those bad days happen, let yourself rest. But the point is to get up and incorporate exercise into your life, do your best to live a functional life.

Meet the Author

Sheetal S. Gavankar, MD

Specialty: Rheumatology
Secondary Specialties: Internal Medicine

It has always been Dr. Gavankar’s personal mantra to help others and her philosophy of care is focused on delivering compassion, respect and trust to her patients. Dr.Gavankar feels strongly that her patients should be involved in every aspect of their health care which translates to providing the education, resources and support needed to guide them through their journey toward good health. As she states it best, “I don’t take the responsibility of caring for my patients lightly. I make my patients very active participants in their health care and feel that this is the only way to provide my patients with the care they deserve.” View Bio [+]