What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia (FM) is an increasingly recognized chronic pain illness which is characterized by widespread musculoskeletal aches, pain and stiffness, soft tissue tenderness, general fatigue and sleep disturbances. The most common sites of pain include the neck, back, shoulders, pelvic girdle and hands, but any body part can be involved. Fibromyalgia patients experience a range of symptoms of varying intensities that wax and wane over time.
It is estimated that approximately 3-6% of the U.S. population has FM. Although a higher percentage of women are affected, it does strike men, women and children of all ages and races. Because of its debilitating nature, Fibromyalgia has a serious impact on patients' family, friends, and employers, as well as society at large.
What are the symptoms of Fibromyalgia?
FM is characterized by the presence of multiple tender points and a constellation of symptoms.
The pain of FM is profound, widespread and chronic. It knows no boundaries, migrating to all parts of the body and varying in intensity. FM pain has been described as deep muscular aching, throbbing, twitching, stabbing and shooting pain that defines the very existence of the Fibromyalgia patient.
Neurological complaints such as numbness, tingling and burning are often present and add to the discomfort of the patient. The severity of the pain and stiffness is often worse in the morning. Aggravating factors which affect pain include cold/humid weather, non-restorative sleep, physical and mental fatigue, excessive physical activity, physical inactivity, anxiety and stress.
In today's world many people complain of fatigue; however, the fatigue of FM is much more than being tired. It is an all-encompassing exhaustion that interferes with even the simplest daily activities. It feels like every drop of energy has been drained from the body, which at times can leave the patient with a limited ability to function both mentally and physically.
Many Fibromyalgia patients have an associated sleep disorder which prevents them from getting deep, restful, restorative sleep. Medical researchers have documented specific and distinctive abnormalities in the stage 4 deep sleep of FM patients. During sleep, individuals with FM are constantly interrupted by bursts of awake-like brain activity, limiting the amount of time they spend in deep sleep.
Additional symptoms may include: irritable bowel and bladder, headaches and migraines, restless legs syndrome (periodic limb movement disorder), impaired memory and concentration, skin sensitivities and rashes, dry eyes and mouth, anxiety, depression, ringing in the ears, dizziness, vision problems, Raynaud's Syndrome, neurological symptoms and impaired coordination.
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