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What is fibromyalgia?
by TeenHelp April 4th 2017, 12:50 PM

What is fibromyalgia?
By Cassie (Cassado)

Fibromyalgia (FM) is a musculoskeletal disorder most commonly known for the intense pain it causes. Fibromyalgia is incurable, but sufferers may go into remission from time to time. Though the disorder is usually lifelong, people can learn to cope and lead healthy lives despite their discomfort.

Females are more likely to have fibromyalgia, but men can develop it as well. It is thought that only people over forty can struggle with it; however, people can get it before then. Many people in their teens and twenties also have fibromyalgia.

There are no official causes for fibromyalgia, but there are some influential factors. For instance, people who have battled a bad illness or have sustained injuries from a car accident may be at an increased risk. There is also a mind-body connection and it is thought that mental health or traumatic experiences can cause fibromyalgia; it is as if the body is taking its pain out on itself.

Symptoms and Diagnosis
While fibromyalgia is most known for the pain it causes, there are other symptoms. Sufferers may experience headaches or migraines, altered sleep patterns, chronic exhaustion, or memory loss; also known as “fibro fog.” Some people may also experience sensitivity to temperatures and bowel problems. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and fibromyalgia frequently occur together.

If you think you or someone you know could have fibromyalgia, talk to your doctor. Bear in mind that not all doctors believe in fibromyalgia and some could be unwilling to help you. As invalidating as this is, remember that your pain and your experiences are real; no one can take that away from you. Look around until you find a doctor you are comfortable with.

Prior to diagnosing, your doctor will ask about you and your family’s medical history and examine your body. You will likely be asked about mood disorders as they commonly occur with fibromyalgia. Your doctor may send you for blood tests to rule out any other possible problems. The criteria for a diagnosis includes being in pain for at least three months and struggling with at least eleven of the eighteen pressure points. Fibromyalgia’s pressure points are pictured below.

Treatment
There are no specific treatments for fibromyalgia, but there are a few common practices that are thought to benefit people struggling with it.

Some doctors believe that fibromyalgia is caused by a sleep issue and they might prescribe you muscle relaxers as a result. Muscle relaxers work to calm your muscles so you can get into REM sleep.

Physical therapy, specifically swimming, is recommended as well. The duration of the physical therapy depends on the individual. Physical therapy isn’t as common because it is expensive and very tiring for people with fibromyalgia.

Acupuncture can help some people struggling with fibromyalgia. Acupuncture is a kind of therapy or medicine that involves stimulating certain points of the body for healing. Once people learn the acupuncture points, they can treat themselves using acupressure. Acupressure is applying pressure to points of the body with fingers. Though acupuncture may improve quality of life, some people with fibromyalgia are triggered when their skin is punctured with the needle.

Talk therapy is widely recommended for people struggling with fibromyalgia. This is because it is thought that mental health or past experiences contribute to the disorder. Additionally, mental health issues can be caused by fibromyalgia and it is important for people to talk about how they feel.

Self-help tips
Self-help techniques can be done with or without treatment prescribed by your doctor. The following lists a few tips regarding self-help.

Know what helps you. Everyone with fibromyalgia is different. Some people find relief in heat, while others find their pain comforted with the cold. You can use hot or cold compresses or body wraps that can be heated in the microwave and chilled in the freezer. You can take a warm bath with bath salts and body wash for pain, or you can take a cold dip in the pool. While heated blankets can be costly, they are worth the investment for some people. Some people also benefit from yoga, or arthritis braces or compression clothing such as socks or shirts.

Know what triggers you. Though there is no known cause for fibromyalgia, you may have an idea of what has caused yours and you can use this as an indicator to predict when you may have a flare up. For example, if you think an injury caused your fibromyalgia, tripping in the parking lot could be an indicator; if you believe yours is caused by a past experience, an emotionally draining day could be a trigger for you. Knowing what triggers you as a whole and on a day to day basis can allow you to use your favorite self-help techniques before the pain arrives and becomes too intense.

Push yourself, but know your limits. Fibromyalgia is often painful and exhausting. When you are struggling it is normal to not want to go out or leave your bed. While you need to take care of yourself it is important to push yourself when you feel able. For example, if you’re having trouble getting out of bed one day, perhaps you could try to get yourself out of bed so you can walk around your room once or twice. Bear in mind it is important to know your limits as pushing too hard can increase the duration and intensity of your flare-up.
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