Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain disease which is commonly associated with stiffness, fatigue, and pain throughout the body. We know a lot more about fibromyalgia than we used too, thanks in part to the last decade of research. For instance, we now know it’s a neurosensory disorder, which means it makes people much more sensitive to painful stimuli. The most common symptom for anyone with fibromyalgia is widespread and chronic pain. In fact, it’s so common that researchers have identified 19 specific areas of the body which are most heavily affected by the disease. This pain can range from aching, to shooting, to burning, and it can even be so bad it limits motion. Another common symptom is chronic fatigue, even with adequate amounts of sleep. Making matters worse, restful sleep is one of the most important things people with fibromyalgia can do to mitigate their symptoms. Other common symptoms include trouble thinking and remembering things, often called “fibrofog,” as well as anxiety and depression, especially with severe or untreated cases.
While we still don’t know exactly what causes it, we do know it affects ten times more women than men. The severity of symptoms is so persistent, if left untreated, it can often cause severe physical and emotional distress on patients. Doctors haven’t isolated the cause or causes, but they do have some leads. Family history seems to be a significant risk factor, as are bacterial and viral infections, such as Lyme disease or Hep C. Another possible risk factor is physical and emotional stress or injury. Even high levels of pain sensitivity chemicals in the brain and spinal cord are shown to correlate with fibromyalgia. Statistics show that approximately 10 million Americans suffer from fibromyalgia, with global numbers putting it somewhere between 3% and 6% of the population. It can be difficult for doctors to diagnose, which leads to many cases going untreated. So if you’re worried you or a loved one may have fibromyalgia, be sure to talk with your doctor. But it can be especially hard to move forward if you don’t understand what your treatment options are. So let’s take a look at what the research says.