Fibromyalgia Definition, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatments

Fibromyalgia: Definition, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain-based illness of unknown origin and cure. It effects approximately 3-6% of the world’s population. It is said to effect far more women than men, but there are definitely men who suffer with it too. It appears in-discriminatory in race, education level and socioeconomic demographics.

I have struggled with this illness for most of my life. I have also put a lot of work into my wellness journey. In 2017 I was the most well I had been since I was 17 years old.

Fibromyalgia Definition, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatments

For the concise, all in one place story of my journey and all that I do see my book Melissa vs Fibromyalgia: My Journey Fighting Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue and Insomnia. Please note that this is an affiliate link, if you make a purchase I will make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

For a brief run down of what Fibromyalgia is, the symptoms and some treatments see below.

What is Fibromyalgia?

On the University of Maryland Medical Center website, Fibromyalgia is explained in this way: “Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by pain in the muscles, ligaments, and tendons; fatigue; and multiple tender points on the body.”

And on the same page, they list the signs and symptoms of Fibromyalgia:

  • Widespread pain and stiffness
  • Fatigue [and]/or trouble
    sleeping
  • Paresthesia (tingling)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Skin sensitivity
  • Heightened sensitivity to noises, bright lights, smells
  • Depression
    Headaches
  • Pain after exertion
  • Memory lapses/difficulty
    concentrating
  • Restless leg syndrome (RLS)
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Hemorrhoids

However, the trouble is that Fibromyalgia seems to be very unique to each person: how it comes on, what symptoms are present, what helps said symptoms.

There is also a debate as to whether trigger points are present in Fibromyalgia or part of a separate issue called Myofascial Pain Syndrome. A lot of the above symptoms overlap with a lot of different conditions.

Some Associated Physiological Abnormalities

Research has found alterations in neurotransmitter regulation, immune system function, sleep physiology and hormone level control. A lot of research suggests that Fibromyalgia is the result of central nervous system dysfunction – specifically an overactive nervous system, stressing and exhausting the brain (Dennis W. Dobritt, Fibromyalgia – A Brief Overview).

Getting Diagnosed with Fibromyalgia

This great article from Fibro Daze explains why it takes so long to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, the process and the Widespread Pain Index and Symptom Severity Scale.

Long story short, it takes a long time to be diagnosed – years on average and multiple doctors – because it is a tricky illness with no widely accepted test and because a multitude of other illnesses must be ruled out. This is particularly difficult because Fibromyalgia tends to co-exist with a multitude of other conditions. It is a disease of mimicking and misdiagnosis.

Fibromyalgia: Definition, symptoms, diagnosis and treatments.

Treating Fibromyalgia

There are a multitude of treatment options on offer. Some of them help a little, some help a lot, some help one person a lot and another person a little – therein lies the difficulty.

I have been sharing my journey for the past several years because I want to help you cut down the time it takes you to find what helps you. I have carefully researched, trialed and written about all of the treatment options I have tried.

There are few certainties in treating Fibromyalgia but here are some from a seasoned Fibromyalgia fighter:

  • Treatment will require multiple options
  • One option can help me incredibly and you not at all and vice versa
  • Sleep is king. Tackle sleep first. With medication if you must. This is a widely agreed finding from key doctors who treat Fibromyalgia including Dr Liptan, Dr Teitelbaum and Dr Vallings.
  • You can impact your quality of life. 

Treating Fibromyalgia: Manuals

I wrote about My Top Five Books for Fighting Fibromyalgia in this post. Start with Dr Teitelbaum and Dr Liptan – both of these doctors have Fibromyalgia themselves and treat people with Fibromyalgia.

What Works for Me

My Top Three Treatments to Fight Fibromyalgia
What Works for me: 9 Things to Fight Fibromyalgia
My Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) for Fibromyalgia One Year Experiment

Treating Fibromyalgia Naturally

Why I’m Treating the Fibromyalgia as Naturally as Possible – Natural Remedies for Fibromyalgia
Natural Pain Relief: Supplements for Fibromyalgia Energy
Essential Oils for Pain Relief and a Pain Cream I am Loving
Natural Pain Relief: Supplements for Fibromyalgia Pain
Natural Pain Relief: Herbs for Infusion or Tea for Fibromyalgia
Giant Meditation Post
Yoga for Fibromyalgia with Handy Links

Pregnancy with Fibromyalgia

See my resources page here with all of my articles and products to help you have the best pregnant possible despite Fibromyalgia.

All My Articles on Fibromyalgia

What I Offer – this page lists all of my articles and products that I have created to help you fight Fibromyalgia.

My Journey: 2018

As of 2018, I am struggling with my third pregnancy and severe Pelvic Girdle Pain (my pelvis separated too far causing severe pain). Despite this I am still coping better with this pregnancy than my first two. This is wholly due to Low Dose Naltrexone making such a difference and helping me sleep.

I am hopeful and I am excited as to what the future brings as I finish the time of my life where I am up at all hours of the night with babies.

My hope for you is that you keep fighting for yourself. Don’t wait for a doctor to do it for you. But do work with your doctor, find another if they won’t.


For more information

Try my free micro course You vs Fibromyalgia: Arm Yourself with Knowledge

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how to manage brain fog and fibromyalgia. what brain fog is, how it manifests and how we can fight it

How to Manage Brain Fog and Fibromyalgia

There’s a pernicious symptom of living with Fibromyalgia that can fall into the background of the twin peaks of pain and fatigue. Something that affects our everyday lives and we may not even realise it is a thing.

how to manage brain fog and fibromyalgia. what brain fog is, how it manifests and how we can fight it

Brain fog, fibro fog, or cognitive dysfunction (a very unattractive term, but there it is.)

It can strike during any conversation, any task, any time.

I can’t do confrontations because the stress causes me to forget how to stand up for myself. All the words or well-articulated statements I’d have written down become buried in fog when I try to access them in the moment. Even subjects I’m well researched on become minefields when reaching through my memory for the information. Which is part of why I write everything down.

There’s been a thousand conversations where I’m reaching for simple words that blew away a moment before I want them. There have been even more times when I say one thing when I mean another.  Sometimes I know I’ve done it, but often I don’t. Occasionally I’ll realise later.

As someone who loves words and writing it’s more than a little upsetting.

Brain fog was thought to be another thing that is all in our heads, however, “a 2015 study in Arthritis Care and Research found that fibro fog is a real issue. In a study of 60 individuals – 30 with fibromyalgia and 30 without fibromyalgia – researchers found various impairments of attention and memory in fibromyalgia patients when compared with healthy controls. What remains unclear is what is causing the cognitive challenges.” Reference: Fibro Fog: Sleep, brain dysfunction likely culprits for cognitive difficulties associated with fibromyalgia on Arthritis Foundation accessed here

It is thought as many as 50% of Fibromyalgia patients struggle with it, perhaps more.

Brain fog has been theorized to be caused by poor sleep, the nervous system being off-kilter, stress and anxiety, and pain severity. Though, they really don’t know the cause yet.

Here’s the ways fibro fog can manifest:

  • Clumsiness/loss of spatial awareness
  • Losing words
  • Mixing up words
  • Forgetting things
  • Confusion (I’ve never experienced this but see how it could occur)
  • Overwhelm (too many competing sensory inputs)
  • Becoming easily distracted

Here’s some things that help minimise fibro fog:

  • Get the best sleep you can get (something I have found and is supported by the literature – sleep really is king to managing Fibromyalgia symptoms)
  • Pace activity and rest
  • Manage pain
  • Give yourself time and understanding

These are not small things for us to do. I spend a lot of time working on good sleep and managing pain. However it’s far better to what it was when I was at my worst. I go through all of these things in my course You vs Fibromyalgia and help you make plans to manage pain, sleep and pacing, so do come and join us now (the early bird offer disappears on 18th August 2018) if you would like help in these areas.

Here’s some ways to combat fibro fog and the effects:

  • Lists, write it all down – even before I was diagnosed or had any idea of why life was so much harder for me, I planned religiously and had lists upon lists.
  • Routines, automatic pilot can be useful
  • Explain it to those around you often – I often tell my family that there is nothing more dear to me than a person who mercifully adds the right word in their own head for or me or gives it to me gently.
  • Check your medicines are not the culprits – sometimes our medicines cause as many issues as they solve, it’s good to be aware of what their side effects are so we can mitigate them.

Brain fog is just one of those things that come with chronic sleep deprivation, pain and fatigue, but there are many things we can do to compensate for it.


You vs Fibromyalgia, my research and your plans.

This is an excerpt from my eCourse You vs Fibromyalgia: Helping you Fight Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue and Insomnia – do come along and join us to if you want to learn to fight.

 

My Daily Log, Why I Track Fibromyalgia Symptoms

Keeping an eye on our health and maximising the many choices we make each day can have tremendous impact on our quality of life. I firmly believe that we have the power to impact our life, dramatically, with each little choice.

How Keeping a Daily Log Helps me Manage the Fibromyalgia

Even though I’m not actively logging my Low Dose Naltrexone experiment any longer (please see my Etsy store for my How to Choose a Treatment Option with template for experiments), I keep track of a few key details.

Namely: Sleep hours and quality, three key symptoms (neck, back and fatigue), medicine/supplements, exercise and self-care.

By jotting down quick notes each day, I can see patterns arise and continue the good ones and work on the bad ones.

I believe self-efficacy is vital in managing pervasive symptoms like pain and fatigue. I also believe we are our own best advocate. And with brain fog as a likely issue, we need to write things down.

You can scribble notes in a journal, make a bullet journal or try a template.

My Daily Log

I have one in my Etsy shop, it’s exactly what I use myself. There’s three options: apricot two to a page, blue and grey two to a page or apricot full page with additional symptoms and a notes section. You can print them out and put them in a pretty binder or punch a hole and tie ribbon. Or the apricot ones will fit in an existing A5 planner.

However you choose to do it, I would encourage you to keep track of your key symptoms in order to help you manage this beast.

My daily log pink green two to page on clipboard

More about fighting Fibromyalgia:

Why I’m Treating the Fibromyalgia as Naturally as Possible
Free Printables from Melissa vs Fibromyalgia Book
Spoonie Gifts – Birthday, Christmas, Anniversary? What to get a Friend with Fibromyalgia
My Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) for Fibromyalgia One Year Experiment

My Video: How Tracking Symptoms Helps me Fight Fibromyalgia

I’d love to hear if you track your health and how it works for you.


If you’d like more information:

Come and join my free You vs Fibromyalgia micro course.

Come and join the conversation in the Melissa (you) vs Fibromyalgia Facebook group. Here I share my research, articles of interest I find and my content.