Fibromyalgia is a chronic medical condition characterized by diffuse musculoskeletal pain. The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, and unfortunately the chronic pain of fibromyalgia is often difficult to treat.
The effective treatment of fibromyalgia requires a multi-directional approach. However, an accurate diagnosis of fibromyalgia is essential prior to initiating any therapies. Individuals may experience fibromyalgia-like muscle aches and pains due to a rheumatological condition such as systemic lupus erythematosus, an adverse reaction to medications, hyper- or hypothyroidism, and more.
Once other medical conditions have been excluded, the diagnosis of fibromyalgia is a clinical one. The clinical diagnosis of fibromyalgia is based on the following:
-An individual with true fibromyalgia will have had chronic diffuse pain for at least three months.
-People with fibromyalgia will have significant tenderness to palpation of at least 11 of 18 known fibromyalgia-specific tender spots.
-For comparison, the physician will also press on non-fibromyalgia spots. These areas should be significantly less tender.
Once the diagnosis of fibromyalgia is confirmed, patients often end up on multiple medications. The most popular medications for fibromyalgia are medications that appear to be effective in relieving neuropathic pain, such as Pregabalin (Lyrica) or Gabapentin (Neurontin). Antidepressants that may have pain relieving properties, such as Amitryptiline (Elavil) and Duloxetine (Cymbalta) are also often tried.
Some fibromyalgia patients rely on opiate pain relieving agents, such as Vicodin or Oxycodone, in order to control their pain. Others turn to nutritional supplements such as D-ribose. In addition, many fibromyalgia patients utilize trigger point injections to improve their pain.
Medication therapy alone is rarely enough to manage the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Lifestyle modification is another important treatment focus in fibromyalgia patients. High quality “restorative” sleep is essential in fibromyalgia, though unfortunately many people find this difficult to achieve.
Physical activity is a second important area of lifestyle modification. Many people with fibromyalgia initially work with specially trained physical therapists in order to learn the physical activities most beneficial to them as an individual.
Another area of focus on the lifestyle of individuals with fibromyalgia is nutrition. A healthy diet, for example a Mediterranean diet, a sugar-free heart healthy diet, a well-balanced vegetarian diet, may be appropriate depending on the individual.
A particular diet has not been definitively shown to directly affect fibromyalgia symptoms. However, nutrition is crucial in the prevention of several medical conditions that will make fibromyalgia significantly harder to deal with, for example obesity, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers.
An additional, and incredibly important, aspect of fibromyalgia treatment is psychological health. Many studies have revealed the connection between fibromyalgia and depression, anxiety, chronic stress, worrying and more. Fortunately, additional research is uncovering the efficacy of certain psychotherapeutic approaches to the treatment of fibromyalgia.
The effective treatment of fibromyalgia requires a multi-directional focus. Medications and supplements may be appropriate for individuals who fail to manage their symptoms with lifestyle changes. A focus on sleep, physical activity, mental health, and nutrition is at the core of effective treatment of fibromyalgia.