Some tips from a clinician on how to live and travel and care for yourself with Fibromyalgia

Some tips from a clinician on how to live and travel and care for yourself with Fibromyalgia

AN OVERVIEW OF FIBROMYALGIA

Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder. This means that it happens in the long-term. A lot of women are affected by this more than men. The major features of this disorder are pains in the bone and muscle, general fatigue, and tenderness. These symptoms are considered subjective, meaning that they cannot be measured or determined by tests. Because fibromyalgia has subjective symptoms, and because the exact cause has not been identified, this condition is often subject to misdiagnosis.

Most doctors do not believe that fibromyalgia is real. This may be due to the lack of objective or reproducible tests for the condition. However, a study by the Mayo Clinic shows that fibromyalgia can increase the risk of depression.

There is a lot of research ongoing on fibromyalgia, so there is a reduction in the stigma surrounding the condition. Initially, healthcare professionals were worried that patients could use the pain as an excuse to seek prescription for analgesics. However, studies have shown that lifestyle modifications may be more effective than medication in the treatment and management of this condition.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF THE CONDITION?

A major characteristic of fibromyalgia is the tenderness in some areas. These areas are also known as tender points or trigger points. These are areas on the body that are very sensitive to pain even with light pressure.

However, these trigger points are rarely used for diagnosis of fibromyalgia. A diagnosis is done possible through a combination of consistent symptoms and some medical tests.

The pain of fibromyalgia is usually dull. It is best described as a dull ache. If you experience this pain for up to three months, then it may be considered a sign of fibromyalgia.

Other symptoms of this disorder include

  • Sleeping problems
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Feeling tired even after sleeping for extended periods
  • Problems with concentration
  • Pains in the lower abdomen

Symptoms may also be caused by misinterpretation or overreaction of the nerves and the brain to pain signals. This may be due to an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain.

WHERE ARE THESE TRIGGER POINTS?

At first, diagnosis of fibromyalgia was made if the patient had tenderness and pain in up to 11 of the 18 well-known trigger points. The doctors would test for pain in these areas by pressing firmly on them.

Some of these trigger points include

  • Upper chest
  • Knees
  • Hips
  • Outer elbows
  • Top of the shoulder
  • Behind the head

Trigger points are no longer used for diagnosis of this condition. Instead, the key to diagnosis is widespread pain lasting more than three months, especially if there is no underlying condition that can explain the pain.

FACTORS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO FIBROMYALGIA

The exact cause of this condition is not known. However, intensive research has revealed some factors that may increase the risk for this condition. They include 1:

  • Genetics
  • Infection
  • Stress
  • Trauma

Traveling and day to day with Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia patients usually find it difficult to participate in activities, and travel. Patients face some physical challenges, which they can overcome  with the proper education and resources. Range of motion, arm circles, squats and theraband exercises are good to try. Joint protection is critical especially in colder climates.

Another issue associated with fibromyalgia is depression. This is understandable, considering the fact that fibromyalgia can be debilitating. Journaling, meditating, and deep breathing exercises are beneficial for depression. Being in the presence of others and in warm climates are helpful with mood. Join a support group online so that one can log in virtually anywhere. Finally,  sure one receives 8-10 hours of sleep in a quiet place.

REFERENCES

  1. Questions and answers about fibromyalgia. (2014, July)
    niams.nih.gov/Health Info/Fibromyalgia/default.asp
  2. What is fibromyalgia? (2014, November)
    niams.nih.gov/health info/fibromyalgia/fibromyalgia_ff.asp
  3. About fibromyalgia (n.d.)
    fmaware.org/about-fibromyalgia/
  4. Fibromyalgia: In depth. (2016, September 1)
    nccam.nih.gov/health/pain/fibromyalgia.htm
  5. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2016, September 8). Fibromyalgia: Alternative medicine
    mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fibromyalgia/basics/alternative-medicine/con-20019243
  6. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2016, September 8). Fibromyalgia: Causes
    mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fibromyalgia/basics/causes/con-20019243
  7. Siegel, Patricia, et al. “Occupational Therapy Interventions for Adults with Fibromyalgia.” The American Journal of Occupational Therapy: Official Publication of the American Occupational Therapy Association, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30157022.

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