How to Recognize Fibromyalgia
Approximately five million Americans are affected by fibromyalgia, a chronic condition that’s characterized by pain, fatigue, and localized areas of tenderness. Fibromyalgia can be a difficult condition to diagnose because fibromyalgia symptoms are so frequently associated with other debilitating conditions. After all, it wasn’t until 2015 that the medical community officially made fibromyalgia a real diagnosis.
Fibromyalgia’s primary symptom is pain. Fibromyalgia pain is most commonly associated with nine pairs of pressure points. These points themselves can be sources of extreme pain, and when pressed, they refer pain to other parts of the body.
Two pairs of pressure points are found in the back and front of the neck. On the posterior neck, the pressure points are located where the spine meets the skull; on the ventral side, the pressure points are found on either side of the larynx. There are also trigger points on the upper back at the point where the trapezius muscle connects with the scapula as well as on the lower back, right above the buttocks. The area between the shoulders is also a pain locus.
Individuals with fibromyalgia typically have pain triggers at the points where the gluteus maximus muscle attaches to each femur as well as on either side of the front of the chest, below the scapulae. There are also pain pressure points at the knees and the elbows.
Another one of the signs of fibromyalgia is intense fatigue.
Fibromyalgia pain may make it difficult to sleep, and the resulting fibromyalgia fatigue intensifies the pain in a kind of vicious cycle. Fatigue limits the affected individual’s ability to exercise, and poor muscle tone is often linked with increased levels of fibromyalgic discomfort. A significant percentage of individuals with this syndrome are affected by fibromyalgiasleep apnea, which exacerbates other fatigue symptoms.
Fatigue may also play a significant role in the disorientation and memory loss that’s such a characteristic part of the fibromyalgia experience that it has its own nickname: “fibro fog.”
Other Fibromyalgia Symptoms
Fatigue and pain frequently lead individuals affected by fibromyalgia to feel anxious and/or depressed. Many people with this syndrome suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, leading to bouts of severe abdominal pain and constipation alternating with diarrhea. Others may experience urinary frequency or urgency, which are symptoms associated with an irritable bladder.
Some individuals with fibromyalgia are affected by intermittent numbness and tingling in their limbs and their face. Though these symptoms feel similar to the neuropathies associated with diabetes, peripheral nerve biopsies typically reveal no abnormalities.
Hyper-sensitivity to sensory stimuli such as odors, lights, and sounds is also often associated with fibromyalgia.
Cyclic Exacerbations and Remissions
Another characteristic of fibromyalgia is the cyclic nature of the condition. Symptoms may seem to spontaneously disappear, only to reemerge as strong as ever some months later. This may be another one of the reasons why fibromyalgia eludes medical diagnosis in so many instances. The good news, however, is that once fibromyalgia is diagnosed, there are treatments available that may be able to help patients find relief from their fibromyalgia symptoms.