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
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.