Fibromyalgia is a complex disorder causing muscle aches and pains all over your body. Though the cause of fibromyalgia is not clear, researchers believe the disorder is linked to abnormalities and hypersensitivities in your brain’s pain receptors. It affects three to six percent of the world’s population.
Women account for 70 to 90 percent of fibromyalgia cases. “The condition is more common in people with a family history of the condition and in people with irritable bowel syndrome or other rheumatic disorders,” says Fooroogh Ostavari, MD, a family medicine physician with Adventist HealthCare Adventist Medical Group. “Fibromyalgia can also be triggered by physical or emotional trauma stemming from PTSD, anxiety or depression.”
People with fibromyalgia are twice as likely to be hospitalized for their symptoms and – if left unmanaged – may experience a lower quality of life. According to Dr. Ostavari, here are five telltale symptoms that may indicate you have fibromyalgia:
- Pain and Tenderness: If you have fibromyalgia, there are usually certain areas on your body that are painful to the touch. These tender points may be on your neck, shoulders or limbs.
- Fatigue: Even after getting enough hours of sleep, you feel tired after you wake up. Your sleep is often disrupted by pain and discomfort. You may also have restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea.
- Memory Fog: You have a limited ability to focus, pay attention and concentrate on your daily tasks.
- Tingling and Numbness: You have tingling and numbness that comes and goes in different parts of your body. In most cases, the numbness and tingling occur in your hands and feet.
- Muscle Stiffness: Your muscles feel most stiff after you wake up in the morning.
There is no single test to diagnose fibromyalgia. “If you suspect you have the condition, your doctor will ask you questions about your pain, fatigue or memory problems and the amount of time you’ve experienced your symptoms,” says Dr. Ostavari. “Usually, pain in all four quadrants of your body lasting for more than three months can help them make an accurate diagnosis.”
Treating Your Symptoms
Self-care and consistently practicing good lifestyle habits are key to managing fibromyalgia. Dr. Ostavari recommends these tips to reduce your symptoms:
- Reduce your emotional stress – Meditating or doing deep breathing exercises to stay calm can reduce your likelihood of experiencing uncomfortable symptoms.
- Do cardio exercises regularly – Consistent cardio exercise can decrease the severity of your symptoms. Too much exercise can trigger pain in the beginning, so remember to pace yourself and build your endurance gradually.
- Get enough hours of sleep – Try winding down and falling asleep at the same time every night.
- Eat a healthy diet – Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and remember to eat at the same times every day.
- Seek emotional help – If you are feeling depressed or anxious, talk to a therapist who can help you come up with healthy coping strategies.