· Overview of Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is a widespread musculoskeletal pain and fatigue disorder for which the cause is still unknown. Fibromyalgia means pain in the muscles, ligaments, and tendons-the soft fibrous tissues in the body.
Most patients with fibromyalgia syndrome say that they ache all over. Their muscles may feel like they have been pulled or overworked. Sometimes the muscles twitch and at other times they burn. More women than men are afflicted with fibromyalgia syndrome, and it shows up in people of all ages.
In order to understand the feeling of fibromyalgia syndrome, it is helpful if one thinks back to the last time they had a bad flu. Every muscle in their body shouted out in pain. In addition, they felt devoid of energy as though someone had unplugged their power supply. While the severity of symptoms fluctuate from person to person, FMS may resemble a post-viral state. This similarity is the reason experts in the field of fibromyalgia syndrome and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) believe that these two syndromes may be one and the same. Gulf War syndrome also overlaps with FMS/CFS.
· Symptoms and Associated Syndromes of Fibromyalgia
Pain - The pain of fibromyalgia syndrome has no boundaries. People describe the pain as deep muscular aching, throbbing, shooting, and stabbing. Intense burning may also be present. Quite often, the pain and stiffness are worse in the morning and may hurt more in muscle groups that are used repetitively.
Fatigue - This symptom can be mild in some patients and yet incapacitating in others. The fatigue has been described as "brain fatigue" in which patients feel totally drained of energy. Many patients depict this situation by saying that they feel as though their arms and legs are tied to concrete blocks, and they have difficulty concentrating ( ie:attention deficit disorder).
Sleep Disorder - Most FMS patients have an associated sleep disorder called the alpha-EEG anomaly. This condition was uncovered in a sleep lab with the aid of a machine that recorded the brain waves of patients during sleep. Researchers found that most FMS patients could fall asleep without much trouble., but their deep level (or stage 4) sleep was constantly interrupted by bursts of awake-like brain activity. Patients appeared to spend the night with one foot in sleep and the other one out of it.
Many fibromyalgia syndrome patients have been found to have other sleep disorders in addition to the alpha-EEG, such as sleep apnea, sleep myoclonus (nighttime jerking of the arms and legs), and restless legs syndrome.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome - Constipation, diarrhea, frequent abdominal pain, abdominal gas, and nausea represent symptoms frequently found in 40 to 70 % of FMS patients.
Chronic headaches -Recurrent migraine or tension-type headaches are seen in about 50% of FMS patients and can pose a major problem in coping for this patient group.
Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction Syndrome - This syndrome, sometimes referred to as TMJ or TMD, causes tremendous jaw-related face and head pain in one quarter of fibromyalgia syndrome patients. Typically, the problems are related to the muscles and ligaments surrounding the jaw joint and not necessarily the jaw itself.
Other common symptoms - Premenstrual syndrome and painful periods, chest pain, morning stiffness, cognitive or memory impairment, numbness and tingling sensations, muscle twitching, irritable bladder, the feeling of frozen extremities, skin sensitivities, dry eyes and mouth, dizziness, and impaired coordination can occur.
Aggravating factors - Changes in weather, cold or drafty environments, hormonal fluctuations premenstrual and menopausal states), stress, depression, anxiety and over-exertion can all contribute to symptom flare-ups.
· Possible Causes of Fibromyalgia
The cause of fibromyalgia syndrome remains elusive, but there are many triggering events thought to precipitate its onset. A few examples would be an infection (viral or bacteria), an automobile accident or the development of another disorder, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or hypothyroidism. These triggering events probably don't cause fibromyalgia syndrome, but rather, they may awaken an underlying physiological abnormality that is already present.