It's not unusual to have tenderness in your joints from time to time, but sufferers of fibromyalgia have widespread pain throughout their bodies. The most common symptoms of fibromyalgia include fatigue, sleep disturbance, and joint stiffness. However, there are many other symptoms which are frequently reported by those afflicted with fibromyalgia (also sometimes called FM, or FMS).
FMS is more common in women than in men by seven to nine times, and usually presents itself between the ages of 20 and 50.
Many doctors see fibromyalgia as a controversial disease, because there is currently no objective test to diagnose it. Instead, a doctor will assess a patient based on their symptoms, and determine if the specific symptoms meet the criteria to qualify the patient as having FMS. Not only is there no objective test, but there is not even a commonly-accepted model that describes the mechanism through which the disease works! Additionally, many of the symptoms of fibromyalgia correspond to other chronic diseases like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, so many doctors believe that those diagnosed with fibromyalgia are actually suffering with a combination of other conditions, and treating someone for FMS will do nothing to remedy their symptoms.
Chronic Pain: The primary symptom of FMS is chronic widespread pain. There are 18 points on the body which correspond to a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, but many sufferers feel pain in other areas as well.
Fatigue: Another primary symptom of FMS is fatigue. Many sufferers report a debilitating exhaustion, as if they had a flu. Coupled with chronic pain, these two symptoms make it extremely difficult for fibromyalgia sufferers to lead normal lives.
Cognitive Dysfunction: An inability to concentrate, frequently called "fibro fog" is also a commonly-reported symptom. Many FMS sufferers report increased forgetfulness, decreased alertness, and an inability to stay focused.
Bowel Disturbances: Another common symptom of FMS is problems with the bowels. In many ways, the bowel component of fibromyalgia is very similar to Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and can cause people to have abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, and constipation, diarrhea, or the alternation of both.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: One of the most successful treatments for fibromyalgia is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or CBT. It is most effective when combined with exercise.
Antidepressants: Many of those afflicted with FMS become depressed because of their chronic pain and fatigue. Taking antidepressants has been shown to improve sleep disturbances, and even pain in patients with FMS.
Anti-Seizure: A few anti-seizure drugs, including pregabalin and gabapentin, have also been shown to improve the symptoms of a minority of FMS sufferers. Approximately 30% of patients show an improvement with anti-seizure medications.
Opioids: For people suffering from chronic pain, a painkiller is usually the first thing prescribed. Because FMS is a chronic condition, those taking opioids must be careful not to develop a dependency.