Fibromyalgia is a bit of a medical mystery. It is characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, but most experts think it originates in the nervous system. The current theory is that this condition amplifies painful sensations by changing the way the brain processes the signals.
Doctors don't have a clear understanding of fibromyalgia. It tends to present itself after trauma, infection, surgery, or some form of extreme stress. Women seem to get it more than men. It could boil down to a number of factors working together, such as:
People with fibromyalgia often have other medical problems, like:
The combination of factors creates a perfect storm for fibromyalgia that involves repetitive nerve stimulation. That repetition may affect the brain and how it manages pain signals, causing an abnormal increase in certain neurotransmitters. Many researchers also believe the brain develops a memory of the pain, which enhances the body's sensitivity to it. That's why something like stress or anxiety can trigger an episode.
Typically, when a patient has widespread musculoskeletal pain for more than three months that can not be explained any other way, the likely diagnosis is fibromyalgia.
When diagnosing fibromyalgia, Dr. Estime first rules out any other reason for the pain. This involves doing a number of blood tests, such as:
These tests help him rule out conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis, as the cause. He will also take a full medical history and discuss the pain with you.
The treatment plan normally involves medication, lifestyle changes, and self-care. Dr. Estimé will start by trying to manage the pain with various types of pain relievers. He may suggest over-the-counter pain products at first, or he may prescribe something stronger to help. In some cases, antidepressants or anti-seizure medications are effective in helping you manage your symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Self-care and lifestyle practices will include physical therapy, stress counseling, and even massage therapy to help relieve tension. There is no cure for fibromyalgia, but Dr. Estime will work with you to control the episodes.
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