Recently, Adeola Osinuga, wife of late Nigerian musician, Olumuyiwa Osinuga popularly known as No More Loss died after battling fibromyalgia for four years. She was an On Air Personality with Rhythm 93.7 FM.
What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a long-term (chronic) condition that causes pain in the muscles and bones (musculoskeletal pain), areas of tenderness, general fatigue and sleep and cognitive disturbances.
This condition can be hard to understand, even for healthcare providers. It’s symptoms mimic those of other conditions, and there aren’t any real tests to confirm the diagnosis. As a result, fibromyalgia is often misdiagnosed. In the past, some healthcare providers even questioned whether fibromyalgia was real. Today, it is much better understood. Some of the stigma that used to surround it has eased. Fibromyalgia can still be challenging to treat. But medications, therapy, and lifestyle changes can help you to manage your symptoms and to improve your quality of life.
Fibromyalgia causes what’s now referred to as “regions of pain.” Some of these regions overlap with what was previously referred to as areas of tenderness called “trigger points” or “tender points.” However, some of these previously noted areas of tenderness have been excluded. The pain in these regions feels like a consistent dull ache. Your healthcare provider will consider a diagnosis of fibromyalgia if you’ve experienced musculoskeletal pain in 4 out of the 5 regions of pain outlined in the 2016 revisions to the fibromyalgia diagnostic criteria.
This diagnostic protocol is referred to as multisite pain. It’s in contrast to the 1990 fibromyalgia diagnostic criteria definition for chronic widespread pain. This process of diagnosis focuses on the areas of musculoskeletal pain and severity of pain as opposed to an emphasis on pain duration, which was the previously the focal criteria for a fibromyalgia diagnosis. Other symptoms of fibromyalgia include fatigue, trouble sleeping, sleeping for long periods of time without feeling rested (non restorative sleep), headaches, anxiety, depression, trouble focusing or paying attention, pain or a dull ache in the lower belly, dry eyes and bladder problems, such as interstitial cystitis.
In people with fibromyalgia, the brain and nerves may misinterpret or overreact to normal pain signals. This may be due to a chemical imbalance in the brain or abnormality in the dorsal root ganglionTrusted Source affecting central pain (brain) sensitization. Fibromyalgia can also affect your emotions and energy level.
Fibromyalgia trigger points
In the past, people were diagnosed with fibromyalgia if they had widespread pain and tenderness in at least 11 out of 18 specific trigger points around their body. Healthcare providers would check to see how many of these points were painful by pressing firmly on them. Common trigger points included the back of the head, tops of the shoulders, upper chest, hips, knees, and outer elbows. For the most part, trigger points are no longer a part of the diagnostic process.
Pain is the hallmark fibromyalgia symptom. You will feel it in various muscles and other soft tissues around your body.
The pain can range from a mild achiness to an intense and almost unbearable discomfort. Its severity could dictate how well you cope day to day. Fibromyalgia appears to stem from an abnormal nervous system response. Your body overreacts to things that shouldn’t normally be painful. And you may feel the pain in more than one area of your body. However, available research still doesn’t pinpoint an exact cause for fibromyalgia. Research continues to evolve in better understanding this condition and its origin.
Causes of Fibromyalgia
Healthcare providers and researchers don’t know what causes fibromyalgia. According to the latest research, the cause appears to be a multiple-hit theory that involves genetic disposition (hereditary characteristics) complemented by a trigger, or a set of triggers, such as infection, trauma, and stress.
A past illness could trigger fibromyalgia or make its symptoms worse. Flu and pneumonia virus all have possible links to fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia often runs in families. If you have a family member with this condition, you’re at higher risk for developing it. Researchers think certain gene mutations may play a role. They have identified a few possible genes that affect the transmission of chemical pain signals between nerve cells.
People who go through a severe physical or emotional trauma may develop fibromyalgia. The condition has been linked to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Like trauma, stress can leave long-lasting effects on your body. Stress has been linked to hormonal changes that could contribute to fibromyalgia. Healthcare providers don’t fully understand what causes the chronic widespread nature of fibromyalgia pain. One theory is that the brain lowers the pain threshold. Sensations that weren’t painful before become very painful over time. Another theory is that the nerves overreact to pain signals.
Fibromyalgia risk factors
Fibromyalgia flare-ups can be the result of stress, injury and illness such as the flu.
An imbalance in brain chemicals may cause the brain and nervous system to misinterpret or overreact to normal pain signals.
Other factors that increase your risk of developing fibromyalgia include:
Gender: Most fibromyalgia cases are currently diagnosed in women, although the reason for this gender disparity isn’t clear.
Age: You are most likely to be diagnosed in middle age, and your risk increases as you get older. However, children can develop fibromyalgia also.
Family history: If you have close family members with fibromyalgia, you may be at greater risk for developing it.
Disease: Although fibromyalgia isn’t a form of arthritis, having lupus or RA may increase your risk of also having fibromyalgia.
Your healthcare provider may diagnose you with fibromyalgia if you’ve had widespread pain for 3 months or longer. “Widespread” means the pain is on both sides of your body, and you feel it above and below your waist.
After a thorough examination, your healthcare provider must conclude that no other condition is causing your pain. No lab test or imaging scan can detect fibromyalgia. Your healthcare provider may use these tests to help rule out other possible causes of your chronic pain. Fibromyalgia can be hard for healthcare providers to distinguish from autoimmune diseases because the symptoms often overlap.
Currently, there isn’t a cure for fibromyalgia. Instead, treatment focuses on reducing symptoms and improving quality of life with medications, self-care strategies, and lifestyle changes.
Medications can relieve pain and help you sleep better. Physical and occupational therapy improve your strength and reduce stress on your body. Exercise and stress reduction techniques can help you feel better, both mentally and physically.