Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia Pain Specialists

Constant muscle pain and fatigue are not only problematic for the person experiencing them, but also challenging to treat. These are the two main symptoms of fibromyalgia, which is a chronic health condition that creates a complete disruption in a person’s quality of life. While there is no cure for fibromyalgia, and there is no clear reason as to what causes it, there are ways to manage the symptoms with the goal to live as much of an active and pain-free life as possible. The Texas Pain Care team in the Sugar Land, Missouri City and Houston areas can help those living with fibromyalgia finally find relief. Discover specialized care from Fibromyalgia Pain Specialists.

What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a connective tissue disorder that causes musculoskeletal pain and fatigue throughout the body. The disease is often characterized by “trigger points” in the body, of which there are 18 symmetrically-located pairs. Some pairs are located on the sides of the neck, upper back, lower back, etc. 

People who are living with fibromyalgia usually experience pain in periods of flare-ups, where they feel debilitating pain for a period of time before it gradually decreases, then they have a period of remission. Others report feeling a constant aching pain. Either way, the pain is present and can feel overwhelming to have to navigate periods of intense pain and periods of no pain. 

What Causes Fibromyalgia?

Experts aren’t sure exactly what causes fibromyalgia, but central sensitization syndrome (also known as allodynia) is cited as a possible cause and symptom of the disease. Allodynia is a type of neuropathic pain that makes people very sensitive to touch. It is a common complication of chronic pain and develops from both the peripheral nervous system (PNS), which includes nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord, and the central nervous system (CNS), which includes nerves in the brain and the spinal cord. 

When there is injury or inflammation to local tissue surrounding the nerves, there creates an abnormal response in how the nerves send and receive messages. In cases of allodynia, this means that even the lightest touch or sensation can cause extreme pain, such as brushing your hair or a warm breeze. 

Studies have also found that certain conditions, stress, life changes and event genetics can play a role in developing fibromyalgia. A new pain in the muscles, as well as fatigue, is the first sign of fibromyalgia, and is worth reaching out to a medical professional to confirm or deny the condition. 

Who is at Risk for Fibromyalgia?

Anyone can develop fibromyalgia, even children. An estimated 4 million Americans are living with fibromyalgia, and mostly affects those at least 40 years old. 

The most common risk factors for developing fibromyalgia include:

Gender: women are more likely to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

Genetics: people who have a direct relative who has fibromyalgia are more likely to develop the disease. Genetic mutations in the genes responsible for forming the neurotransmitters in the brain that deal with pain signals also might be a cause. 

Bad sleep habits: those who don’t sleep well are at higher risk for developing chronic pain conditions.

Health conditions: being diagnosed with chronic inflammatory or autoimmune disorders are risk factors for developing fibromyalgia. These can include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, osteoarthritis, and more.

Trauma: the occurrence of physical or psychological trauma puts people at a higher risk for developing fibromyalgia.

Stress: too much stress for too long can negatively affect your health.

What Does Fibromyalgia Feel Like?

The two most common pain symptoms of fibromyalgia are pain and fatigue. Most often, the pain is felt in the back of the head, upper back, neck, elbows, hips and knees. This widespread pain can either be constant, or it can present itself in periods of flare-ups followed by periods of remission. 

In addition to pain and fatigue, the most common symptoms include:

Inflammation can also be a symptom of fibromyalgia but is the effect of another symptom of the disease. 

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How Do I Know If I Have Fibromyalgia?

Unfortunately, there is no single test that can diagnose fibromyalgia. Medical providers use diagnostic tools to eliminate the possibility of other conditions or diseases, as there are several conditions that have related symptoms. However, the diagnostic criteria that is widely followed includes: 

Pain that lasts longer than three months

Pain that is widespread (located above and below the waist), as well as symmetrical points on the body

Additional symptoms are present, i.e. fatigue, digestive problems, etc. 

In addition to performing a physical as well as reviewing medical and family history, the provider will also performa series of lab tests to get a more comprehensive and in-depth view of what is happening in the body. These include a blood count, thyroid function tests, Vitamin D levels, and erythrocyte sedimentation rate. 

In the process of determining whether or not the patient has fibromyalgia, the provider will attempt to rule out rheumatic diseases, mental health problems or neurological disorders. 

How to Treat Fibromyalgia

The best way to treat fibromyalgia is a multi-prong approach that targets both the symptoms of the condition, as well as the physical and psychological aspects of the pain. The goal is to reduce the amount of flare-ups and the intensity of the flare-up, in addition to lengthening the periods of pain-free remission. 

The most common treatment options include: 

Lifestyle approaches: light exercise, yoga and meditation help to produce a “feel good” response, as well as reduce stress, and acupuncture has also proven helpful. Also, eating a healthy diet based on inflammation-fighting foods helps to reduce feelings of pain.

Biofeedback: learning how to recognize and control feelings of stress can help to reduce flare-ups.

Medications: over-the-counter and prescriptions medications including NSAIDs, muscle relaxants and sleep aids can help to manage symptoms and provide relief.

Additional treatments that are proving to help patients find relief include Vitamin D supplements, TENS unit therapy, light therapy, medical marijuana, and transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS).  

The goal of all treatments is to help the patient live the highest quality of pain-free life possible. It’s crucial to partner with a pain management specialist who is highly capable of properly diagnosing fibromyalgia and also recommending the best treatment options. The Texas Pain Care team in the Sugar Land, Missouri City and Houston areas can do just that, so please reach out today to make an appointment if you would like more information about fibromyalgia.  

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