What is fibromyalgia? FM is a chronic pain illness. Widespread musculoskeletal aches, pain, stiffness, soft tissue tenderness, general fatigue and sleep disturbance are hallmarks of the disease.

Who can be affected by fibromyalgia? FM can affect men, women and children of all races and ages; however, more women than men are affected.

Fibromyalgia Symptoms

What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia? Symptoms tend to come and go and vary in intensity over time. Fibromyalgia can be debilitating at times, but it is not life-threatening. Pain is the most common symptom.

Pain sites are common at the neck, back, shoulders, pelvis and hands. Pain can be described as aching, throbbing, twitching, stabbing and shooting. Numbness, tingling or burning are also experienced. Any part of the body can be affected.

Aggravating factors include cold, humidity, physical and or mental fatigue, non-restorative sleep, physical inactivity or over-activity, and stress.

Fibromyalgia Diagnosis

How is it diagnosed? There is no lab test or blood work that tests for fibromyalgia. Diagnosis is made based on detailed patient history, a physical examination and response to pressing of "tender points" in at least 11 of the possible 18 sites, and the patient's report of their symptoms. It is estimated that it takes five years for the typical FM patient to receive an accurate diagnosis.

Fibromyalgia Treatment

How is FM treated? Finding a physician who will listen and work with you as a patient is a crucial element in treatment. Nutrition, relaxation techniques, exercise and alternative therapy may be part of your treatment. Pain can be managed with over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. A non-narcotic pain reliever may also be prescribed. A low-dose antidepressant may be precribed to help with sleeping difficulties. Lidocaine injections at pain sites may also be tried.

What is the long term prognosis? People with FM are enjoying life more now than ever before. Learning to adjust to a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle and medical regime and positive attitude are key.

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