Fibromyalgia is in the arthritis family. It is the second most common type of arthritis, second only to osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative arthritis. 70-90% of the people who develop fibromyalgia are women in their childbearing years – women who are 20 to 50 years.
Fibromyalgia symptoms are varied and can range from very mild to very severe. It involves pain in the muscles or joints without any clinical signs of damage or infection. Sometimes it is misdiagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome. Although increased sensitivity to pain is the main symptom there are several others that bear mentioning.
Fatigue in muscles and tendons and pain are the most common fibromyalgia symptoms it has other associated conditions and symptoms and so it called a syndrome instead of a disease. Some of these common complaints are morning stiffness, urinary and pelvic problems, weight gain, muscle twitches and weakness, skin complaints, dizziness, nausea, chronic headaches, sleep disorder, cold symptoms, anxiety and dysmenorrhea.
The primary symptom is widespread musculoskeletal pain, severe fatigue and disturbed sleep. Some patients liken the discomfort to the feeling like they have a fever or the flu. Every muscle aches and is in pain. They have no energy. The pain also has no boundaries. Pain from fibromyalgia can be deep, throbbing, stabbing, shooting or achy. Patients also may report intense burning. These Fibromyalgia symptoms are worse in the morning and may hurt most in muscle groups that are used repetitively.
Fibromyalgia symptom sleep disturbances are called an alpha-EEG anomaly. Researchers found that the majority of sufferers could fall asleep without trouble but their deep level sleep was constantly interrupted by bursts of awake –like brain activity. Other sleep disturbances that are associated with fibromyagia are restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, upper airway resistance syndrome and teeth grinding. Because the sleep disturbances are varied the fatigue can be mild or incapacitating. Sufferers often describe it as brain fatigue and brain fog. Some feel like their arms and legs are tied to bricks.
Patients with fibromyalgia may also experience irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, diarrhea, frequent abdominal pain, gas and nausea. Acid reflux or GERD also occurs – both with a frequency of 40-70% of sufferers. Chronic headaches, including recurring migraines or tension type headaches are seen in about 70% of patients and can pose a major problem in coping.
Temporomadibular Joint Syndrome, sometimes referred to as TMJ or TMD, causes tremendous jaw-related face and head pain in 25% of the sufferers. Typically the problems are related to the muscle and ligaments and not the joint. Other common symptoms that patients experience are premenstrual syndrome and painful periods, chest pain, morning stiffness, cognitive or memory impairment, numbness or tingling, muscle twitching, irritable bladder and feeling of swollen extremities.
There are aggravating conditions that will make the patients condition worse. These are changes in the weather, cold or drafty environments, infections, allergies, hormonal fluctuations, stress, depression and anxiety.
Fibromyalgia symptoms are varied and can range from mild to severe. Sufferers may find it difficult to hold down a job or get through their daily activities but with a multidisciplinary approach there is usually good recovery and return to acitivities.