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Have you or someone you know been recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia? If you know little about fibromyalgia and what the treatment options are, keep reading to learn about the disease and five ways to treat it.
What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a condition where the affected person will experience widespread pain throughout the bones and muscles. Many people consider it a disease of the nervous system due to the pain manifesting from improper working nerves. This, in turn, will cause abnormal pain perception processing.
Fibromyalgia shares many of the symptoms of arthritis and is commonly diagnosed as such. Some of the common symptoms are pain and stiffness, fatigue, sleep issues, depression, anxiety, headaches, and cognitive issues. A smaller group of people experience tingling or numbing sensations in the hands and feet, digestive issues, or pain in the jaw or face area.
Who is at Risk?
· Middle-Age to Older Adults: While it is not uncommon for people of any age to develop fibromyalgia (including children), the risk of developing this disease increases significantly as you age.
· People with Lupus or Arthritis: These three conditions have very similar symptoms and are frequently misdiagnosed for each other. However, it is also common for people to suffer from more then one of these illnesses at the same time. Therefore if you have already been diagnosed with one of these illnesses, you are at a greater risk of developing fibromyalgia.
· People with Viral Infections: There is enough evidence to suggest that symptoms of fibromyalgia have a possibility of developing directly after an infection. It is important to note that the research does not suggest this as a cause, but rather a correlation.
· Family History: There is also a small amount of research that suggests that genetics could play a part in a person’s risk of developing fibromyalgia. This research focuses on the presence of the illness in family lines, more research is needed to determine which genes cause the condition.
· Stress or Trauma: There are people that will develop this disease after a sudden traumatic or stressful event. People have been known to show symptoms of fibromyalgia following car accidents or severe injury.
What Happens After the Diagnosis?
After you or your loved one has been diagnosed (usually through patient history, examination, or blood work), you’re going to want to hear about fibromyalgia treatment options. While there is no treatment that will cure it completely, here are five great options to effectively treat and manage any pain or distress caused by the disease.
1. Medication: Standard prescription and over-the-counter drugs are a regular fixture in the treatment plans for most patients. Prescription medications are typically best used in combination with some of the other treatment options available. Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen sodium can be helpful with pain relief. Because patients will use these medications for daily pain management, opioids are not recommended. Over time the side effects from these drugs can worsen the person's symptoms. Antidepressants are another common medication for fibromyalgia patients to be on. They are used to help relieve the fatigue and mood changes associated with the disease. Doctors have also been known to prescribe muscle relaxants to help with sleep issues. Anti-seizure drugs can also be used to help reduce certain types of pain.
2. Therapy: Physical therapy is a great way to help alleviate the symptoms of fibromyalgia. A physical therapist that specializes in this area will be able to help improve strength, flexibility, and stamina. Water aerobics can be a comfortable and helpful way for some patients to relieve symptoms. Other types of physical techniques such as meditation, yoga and massage therapy are also great for managing the physical and mental symptoms of this disease. Even simple exercise like walking, stretching, or swimming can be beneficial. Cognitive behavioral therapy can also be necessary for those who suffer with mood disorders relating to fibromyalgia. It can be helpful to speak with a counselor to better your ability to deal with stress and mood swings.
3. Self-Care: Taking care of your overall wellbeing is important for anyone, but especially for those who suffer from fibromyalgia. While stress management is best learned from a counselor, there are a variety of ways to limit your daily stress. You should come up with a plan on how to avoid or limit emotional and physical stress in your home. If you have a partner or someone living with you, it can be helpful to work out ways for them to help alleviate any potential stressors. Make sure you are taking time to allow yourself to relax. Ensuring that you are consistently getting a quality night's sleep is also incredibly important. It helps to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. As previously discussed, sleep issues are often helped by medications as well so if this becomes an issue make sure to talk to your doctor. Make sure that you are maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle for best results. Avoiding things like processed foods, chemicals or foods high in sugar is best. Caffeine and alcohol are not typically recommended for people with fibromyalgia.
4. Natural Remedies: Some people find it helpful to supplement their treatment with things like antioxidants or probiotics. When these are taken regularly, they help promote gastrointestinal health and fight inflammation. Your gut health plays an important role in your overall health, so it is important in fighting symptoms of fibromyalgia. Magnesium supplements can also be beneficial in keeping your nerves healthy.
5. Take a Self-Management Education Class: Living with a chronic condition can be daunting. At times you may feel like you have no one who can relate to what you’re going through. There are great resources for people suffering from fibromyalgia like classes that help patients learn how to gain confidence in controlling and understanding their symptoms. These classes often function like an educational support group. It can be comforting to be in an environment where people understand and support your diagnosis.
With the right combination of treatment, fibromyalgia patients have a great opportunity to enjoy a high quality of life. Talk with your doctor about what treatment options will work best for you so you can reclaim your life!