What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia, a long-lasting and ongoing painful disorder that affects about 2% of the adult population in the United States, causes pain throughout the body, as well as other uncomfortable symptoms. While it primarily affects adult women, men and children can also develop it, too.
Family nurse practitioner Victorious Nelson spoke on what fibromyalgia is, how it’s treated and ways you can manage your symptoms at home.
What is fibromyalgia?
“Fibromyalgia is a disorder that mostly affects women around age 40-50 and involves chronic musculoskeletal pain,” said Nelson. “Most of the pain caused by this disorder occurs around the waistline, which may be more pronounced when pressed. Most people will also have severe fatigue and trouble sleeping.”
According to the CDC, other symptoms of fibromyalgia can include:
- Increased sensitivity to pain
- Muscle stiffness
- Irritable bowel syndrome, which can cause stomach pain and bloating
- “Fibro-fog” or mental symptoms including trouble processing information, difficulty concentrating, problems with memory, or feelings of frustration or depression
What causes fibromyalgia?
“Unfortunately, we don’t yet fully understand what causes fibromyalgia to develop in some women,” said Nelson.
Research as to the root cause is still ongoing, but infections or stressful physical or emotional events do appear to trigger an onset of symptoms. The disorder also tends to run in families, suggesting that there might be a genetic component that makes some women more likely to develop the disorder than others.
How is fibromyalgia treated?
“With fibromyalgia, there is no current known cure, so we focus on treating the symptoms to improve your quality of life,” said Nelson. “Tricyclic drugs like amitriptyline can help the patient have better sleep patterns, while Gabapentin and Lyrica are two medications used for pain management.”
People struggling with fibromyalgia can also take NSAID pain medications, which includes medications like ibuprofen, naproxen and more, for pain.
How can you manage fibromyalgia symptoms at home? Can diet help?
“Besides medication, ongoing symptoms can be managed by performing regular aerobic exercises and participating in cognitive behavioral therapy to address the physical and emotional triggers that might worsen symptoms,” said Nelson.
She also recommended limiting overall stress as much as you can and choosing to eat anti-inflammatory and antioxidant foods. The Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables along with fish and nuts for a primary protein source, is a great healthy option that consists of easy suggestions and delicious recipes that won’t feel restrictive or limiting.
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