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Understanding Fibromyalgia

Understanding Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia (FM) is a complex, often misunderstood illness. Its symptoms are chronic pain, sleep problems, and fatigue.

There is no known cure for the condition, but symptoms can be eased through lifestyle changes and possibly medication.

The puzzle

FM is difficult to diagnose because there are no specific tests for it. Instead, doctors rely on symptoms and a physical examination. One of the main symptoms is widespread, aching pain. A person with FM also has very tender spots in at least 11 of 18 areas of the body.

Most people with FM also experience some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Ongoing tiredness that interferes with daily activities

  • Sleep problems that prevent restful sleep

  • Increased awareness of odors, noises, bright lights, and touch

Other symptoms may include irritable bowel syndrome, numbness and tingling, headaches, restless legs syndrome, memory problems, anxiety, and depression.

Ideas for self-care

Some people with the condition gain relief by taking pain relievers, sleep medication, or drugs used for anxiety or depression. Many patients, however, find a combination of the following steps can prevent their symptoms from acting up and provide relief when they do:

  • Get enough sleep. This helps avoid the fatigue that is often a prominent part of fibromyalgia.

  • Manage stress. Although stress doesn’t cause fibromyalgia, it can make symptoms much worse. Stress-management techniques, such as deep-breathing exercises or meditation, may help.

  • Exercise regularly. Many people with fibromyalgia find that gentle exercise and stretching help maintain muscle tone and reduce pain.

  • Try complementary therapies. Consider massage, acupuncture, heat or cold, yoga, cognitive therapy, and biofeedback.

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