FAQs on Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is the medical term for a set of symptoms (syndrome) that causes pain all over the body. With this syndrome, the patient has “tender points,” which are painful when pressure is applied to them. These points are located on the back of the head, neck, shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees.

According to statistics, fibromyalgia affects around 1 percent of the adult female population, and 0.6% of the male population. This condition is more common among people aged 35 to 60 years, but it can occur younger and older people.

What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?

Scientific research has proved that fibromyalgia is a real condition that causes pain. The common symptoms of fibromyalgia include:

  • Increased sensitivity to pain
  • Painful tender points on the body
  • A burning pain that worsens with stress, weather changes, and activity
  • Muscle spasms and stiffness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Numbness and tingling of the hands, arms, legs, and feet
  • Chronic fatigue

What conditions are associated with fibromyalgia?

There are several conditions and symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. These include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Migraine headaches
  • Vertigo
  • Dysmenorrhea (painful menses)

Does fibromyalgia cause permanent damage?

The symptoms of fibromyalgia are troublesome and persistent, but this condition does not cause permanent damage of any kind, and it is not life-threatening. The muscles, ligaments, tendons, bones, and organs do not sustain any long-term complications related to fibromyalgia.

What causes fibromyalgia?

The exact cause of fibromyalgia is not known at this time. Scientists believe that it is associated with genetics, infections, physical injury, and/or emotional trauma. Mayo Clinic researchers report that problems with the neuroendocrine and autonomic nervous systems could possibly cause fibromyalgia.

How is fibromyalgia diagnosed?

The diagnosis of fibromyalgia is made based on a history of present illness and symptoms, as well as past medical history. The doctor will conduct a physical examination, but there are few findings relevant to this diagnosis.

There is no laboratory or diagnostic test used to confirm the diagnosis of fibromyalgia. However, most medical professionals will runs some tests to rule out serious conditions that cause similar symptoms. Your family doctor may consult a rheumatologist, who specializes in pain of the soft tissues and joints.

What are my treatment options?

The treatment of fibromyalgia is directed at alleviating the symptoms. Various treatment options include:

  • Medications – The FDA has approved several drugs for fibromyalgia, which include Savella, Cymbalta, Flexiril, Lyrica, Elavil, and Effexor. For some patients, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) help symptoms.
  • Acupuncture – Also called dry needling, this traditional Chinese therapy reduces pain by causing the brain to release chemicals that combat painful sensations. This low-risk procedure can be used alone or in combination with other treatment options.
  • Trigger point injections (TPIs) – People with fibromyalgia have an increased pain sensitivity, so the doctor may inject the tender areas with an anesthetic. When the needle is inserted into the trigger point, the area is inactivated and pain resolves. In a recent clinical study, researchers found lidocaine injections into the muscles and fat of the buttocks and shoulders reduced pain sensitivity in people with fibromyalgia. Several studies show that TPIs are 98% effective, with over half of participants reporting complete pain relief.
  • Botox – A new approach to treating the pain associated with fibromyalgia is the injection of botulinum toxin (Botox) into painful muscle areas. This substance is used to paralyze the muscle, reducing tension and alleviating pain. In a controlled research trial, participants who received Botox for fibromyalgia reported improvement in functional ability without increase in pain.