What is Fibromyalgia?
Although fibromyalgia is often considered an arthritis-related condition, it is not truly a form of arthritis (a disease of the joints) because it does not cause inflammation or damage to the joints, muscles, or other tissues. The word “fibromyalgia” comes from the Latin term for fibrous tissue (fibro) and the Greek ones for muscle (myo) and pain (algia).
Fibromyalgia is a condition associated with widespread chronic pain, fatigue, memory problems and mood changes. Fibromyalgia affects up to 4 percent of the U.S. population, and it occurs more commonly in women than in men. The average age of onset is between 30 to 50 years old. Fibromyalgia is not a disease, but a constellation of symptoms that can be managed.
Fortunately, fibromyalgia is not life threatening and does not lead to muscle or joint damage. Fibromyalgia can occur by itself but also can occur in people with various forms of arthritis or related diseases such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
Although symptoms may vary in intensity, the overall condition rarely worsens over time. In a small study that traced how people with fibromyalgia felt 10 years after diagnosis, the study authors found that although symptoms may persist, many people felt better with treatment and time.
The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but is thought to be due to abnormalities in central nervous system function, leading to an “amplification” of normal pain signals.
It is as if the volume control is set too high in the nerves in a person’s body so things that wouldn’t cause pain in most people do cause pain in people with fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia cannot be diagnosed with laboratory tests. The results of X-rays and blood tests are normal. Therefore, the diagnosis is based on a careful history and physical examination.
Although fibromyalgia is more common in adults, children (especially adolescent females) may be diagnosed with fibromyalgia. For children with fibromyalgia, symptoms may go away if they make behavioral changes, like improving sleep patterns.
What Causes Fibromyalgia?
No one knows for sure what causes fibromyalgia. Researchers suspect that many different factors, alone or in combination, may contribute to the development of fibromyalgia. For example, factors such as an infectious illness, physical trauma, emotional trauma or hormonal changes may trigger the development of generalized pain, fatigue and sleep disturbances that characterize the condition.
Studies have suggested that people with fibromyalgia have abnormal levels of several different chemicals in their blood or cerebrospinal fluid that help transmit and amplify pain signals to and from the brain. There also is evidence that the central nervous system’s ability to inhibit pain is impaired in these people.
In addition to patient reports, brain-imaging studies have confirmed that when fibromyalgia patients are given a small amount of pressure or heat, they experience much higher amounts of pain, as if the “volume control” is set too high on pain processing. Whether these abnormalities are a cause or a result of fibromyalgia is unknown.
Who Gets Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia affects more than 3.7 million Americans, the majority of whom are women between the ages of 40 and 75, but it also affects men, young women and children as well. People with other rheumatic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, are at greater risk for fibromyalgia. For example, about 20 to 30 percent of people with rheumatoid arthritis also develop fibromyalgia, although no one knows why.
Fibromyalgia sometimes occurs in more than one member of the same family, but doctors have not verified a hereditary link or common genetic type. Several studies have, however, found a possible link between genetic markers called human leukocyte antigens, or HLAs, and fibromyalgia. This suggests that a gene that predisposes a person to develop fibromyalgia may exist.
How Is Fibromyalgia Diagnosed?
Unlike diabetes, which can be diagnosed with a simple blood test, fibromyalgia does not show up on lab tests. Research shows that people with fibromyalgia typically see many doctors before receiving the diagnosis. One reason for this may be that pain and fatigue, which is the main symptoms of fibromyalgia, overlap with those of many other conditions. So, doctors often have to rule out other potential causes of these symptoms before making a diagnosis of fibromyalgia.
Another reason is that there are currently no diagnostic laboratory tests for fibromyalgia; standard laboratory tests fail to reveal a physiologic reason for pain. Because there is no generally accepted, objective test for fibromyalgia, some doctors unfortunately may conclude a patient’s pain is not real, or they may tell the patient there is little they can do.
At ChiroMax Wellness Centers, our doctors are familiar with fibromyalgia. We can make a diagnosis based on criteria established by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR): a history of widespread pain lasting more than 3 months, and other general physical symptoms including fatigue, waking un-refreshed, and cognitive (memory or thought) problems.
Increasingly, however, that attitude is changing. The more researchers learn about this condition, the more doctors are taking it seriously. So if you think you may be suffering from Fibromyalgia call us at:
(713) 691-8355 (I-45 Location) or
(713) 222-6374 (I-10 Location)
to schedule an appointment. At ChiroMax Wellness Centers we are dedicated to getting you out of pain and back to feeling good again. Most forms of insurance accepted.