Fibromyalgia or Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FS, FMS) is a debilitating collection of symptoms and problems. Its foremost symptom is pain. It seems to be closely related to chronic fatigue syndrome, but with pain as its stand-out symptom instead of fatigue. It often occurs with Chronic Myofascial Pain (CMP, CMPS) , but not always.
Fibromyalgia symptoms are similar enough to Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, Neuropathy, and other disorders that most physicians want to run a battery of tests to rule out the other conditions before a diagnosis of FMS is given.
Usually, it is the lack of positive testing for other conditions plus the patient’s history that yields a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. The cause of fibromyalgia has not been determined by the medical community. Researchers performing tests on patients have found common deficiencies and physical problems and proposed some theories.
Celiac sprue, leaky gut syndrome, estrogen dominance, genetic predisposition to move electrolytes inefficiently, thyroid problems, allergies, trauma, viral infection, exposure to toxins, relaxin hormone deficiency, and stress have all been suggested as possible causes.
There is also no known cure for fibromyalgia. Yet, some people recover from fibromyalgia and CMP, so there is a possibility of recovery, and some therapies banish symptoms to the point that sufferers can lead normal lives. FMS and CMPS are not progressive. That is, they are not a death sentence. But the symptoms can become progressively worse over time.
Victims must aggressively take charge of their lives with the help of family and medical experts in order to reclaim their health. The things I have done to help myself recover represent changes in hormone balancing, lifestyle, and eating habits that are myriad and take commitment. But it’s worth it. Be comforted by the fact that your old habits were not just unhealthy for you, but are unhealthy for anyone. Unhealthy lifestyles are always harmful in some way or another, and there is always a payment – in health, in attitude, in money – to be made.
Fibromyalgia symptoms are many, and no one suffers from all of them. Some symptoms may be more pronounced in your case than others. Pain was my most bothersome symptom, while my friend’s was irritable bowel syndrome, yet we both suffered from fibromyalgia. All victims have tender points that are very painful to the touch. The tender points feel severely bruised and may send pain radiating to other parts of the body.
Eighteen of those points have been mapped and are used to diagnose fibromyalgia. Most doctors expect a newly-diagnosed patient to have suffered pain for at least three months, and to be very sensitive in 11 of the eighteen sites. These 18 sites are really 9 pairs, with matching sites on both sides of the body. This is laughable for many sufferers, for they have pain sites everywhere. Some even suffer skin pain, where even a light touch to the skin is unbearable. Still, some patients may have fewer pain sites.
The sites are located in the following areas: 1) behind the ears at the base of the skull; 2) on the trapezius muscles half-way between the spine and the shoulders; 3) on the shoulder-blades; 4) in the front just above the collarbone; 5) about 2 inches below the collarbone on both sides of the breastbone; 6) on the forearms along the line of the thumbs just below the crease of the elbows; 7) above the buttocks on the outer sides; 8) on the upper thighs, on the outside just behind the hip thrusts; 9) on the insides of the knees. My most profound pain sites (to pressure or touch) were along my outer thighs from hips to knees and at the Achilles tendons.
A LIST OF FIBROMYALGIA SYMPTOMS 2
“Growing pains” in children and youth
Chronic cold symptoms, such as sore throat, stuffiness, nasal drip, swollen glands
Drooling in sleep
Aching jaws, especially when chewing gum
Dizziness when field of view moves
Inability to enter deep sleep; unrefreshing sleep
Shortness of breath; sucking air during exercise
Painful weak grip that may let go
Menstrual problems and/or pelvic pain
PMS (Pre-menstrual Syndrome)
Loss of libido (Loss of sex drive)
Low back pain
Nail ridges and/or nails that curve under
Difficulty speaking known words
Visual perception problems
Tearing/reddening of eye, drooping of eyelid
Loss of ability to distinguish some shades of colors
Short-term memory impairment
Weight gain or loss
Sensitivity to odors
Mitral valve prolapse
Visual and audio effects/falling sensations before sleep (called “sleep starts”) Earaches/ringing/itch
Unexplained toothaches; shooting pains in gums and teeth
Rapid/fluttery/irregular heartbeat/heart attack-like pain Bloating/nausea/abdominal cramps
Sensitivity to cold/heat/humidity/pressure changes/light/wind
Abdominal cramps, colic
Thumb pain and tingling numbness
Tendency to cry easily
Night driving difficulty
Lax, pendulous abdomen
Upper/lower leg cramps
Tight Achilles tendons
Irritable bowel syndrome
Stress incontinence, anal/genital/perineal pain
Muscle twitching (even in large muscles or muscle groups)
Numbness and tingling
Hypersensitive nipples/breast pain
Problems climbing stairs
Problems going down stairs
Shin splint-type pain
Sore spot on top of head
Problems holding arms up (as when folding sheets)
“Fugue”-type states (staring into space before brain can function)
Carpal tunnel-like pain in wrist (watchband area)
Balance problems/staggering gait
Restless leg syndrome
Myoclonus (muscle movements and jerks at night)
Feeling continued movement in car after stopping
Feeling tilted when cornering in car
First steps in the morning feel as if walking on nails
Pressure of eyeglasses or headbands is painful
Some stripes and checks cause dizziness
Bruxism (teeth grinding)
Inability to recognize familiar surroundings
Delayed reactions to “overdoing it”
Family clustering (other members of the family have FMS)
Tissue overgrowth (fibroids, ingrown hairs, heavy and splitting cuticles, adhesions)
Reading this list is both distressing and comforting for the newly-diagnosed sufferer – you realize you really are sick, but it’s comforting to know that there’s a reason for all these maladies, and showing the list to family members helps them to understand how complex and encompassing the syndrome is.
I would add the following: when lying down to rest and relax at night, saved-up pain accumulated during the day begins to fire off, resulting in a “torture-chamber” experience of assorted types of pain – burning, shooting, electrical, pressure, pummeling, biting. Muscles roil during the night, and prevent deep, relaxing sleep, as well as the production of growth hormone and serotonin. One wakes up feeling like he/she has been run over by a Mack truck and left for dead.
Depression is common to virtually all fibro sufferers. This depression, however, might not be symptomatic, but might the kind of depression suffered by anyone who is in constant pain or who is disabled. Irritable bowel syndrome can be characterized by constipation and/or diarrhea (sometimes alternating), frequent abdominal pain, gas, and nausea.
40% to 70% of fibromyalgia sufferers experience IBS. About half of patients suffer from migraines or tension headaches. Muscles or tendons in the face can tighten and affect the jaw (TMJ). Half of fibro sufferers are very sensitive to odors, bright lights, noise, medications and/or foods. Memory can be impaired. “Fibro-fog” is the slang for foggy thinking.
Most fibromyalgia sufferers are women (9 to 1). Many fibromyalgia sufferers have hypoglycemia. Fibromyalgia symptoms ebb and flow in an unpredictable cycle. When symptoms are severe, the sufferer is in a “flare.” Stress, stormy weather, diet, hormone fluctuation, or over-exertion can bring on a flare. It is more than coincidence that many of the symptoms listed are also seen in “estrogen dominance” or insulin or thyroid resistance. I will discuss these later.
2 Devin Starlanyl: ( www.sover.net ) is both a sufferer and an expert in dealing with fibromyalgia. Her book, Fibromyalgia and Chronic Myofascial Pain: A Survival Manual is a must-read for any sufferer (edition 2, Starlanyl and Copeland, 2001).