There is a lot of differing schools of thought and hypothesis as to what fibromyalgia is and what causes it. Please have a read through the following for some good information and feel free to comment at the bottom of the page.
What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia (FM) is widespread pain with over 200+ co-existing conditions and symptoms.
Many of us with ‘fibro’ find that each and every day is a new one in regards to pain changing in some parts of the body.
Flare-ups (where pain and other issues are intensified) are also prevalent. For some people they can last a few days – others can last months and years.
Some of the many issues on top of pain are:
- sensitivity to pain is increased (this is the prerequisite for diagnosis – although many of us find that our pain tolerance is actually very high!)
- fatigue (extreme tiredness)
- muscle stiffness and knotting
- sleep disturbances (unable to get a ‘restful sleep’)
- issues with mental processes (known as “fibro-fog” and ”brain fog”) – such as problems with memory and concentration
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – a digestive condition that causes stomach pain and bloating
Previously the 18 tender point test was what doctors used to diagnose fibromyalgia. These areas when pressed are very sensitive and painful and can also cause referred pain elsewhere.
These days, many medical professionals who work with fibromyalgia do not rely on this as the sole means of diagnosis. Generally speaking, 3 months of chronic pain and other issues that go along with fibromyalgia tend to be the key to determining factor whether the patient most likely has fibromyalgia.
But What is Fibromyalgia Really?
There are a variety of different schools of thought on this one. Many of the studies carried out to date have definitive data as to different aspects of the root issue. So far, it seems as though there is little consensus.
In the past few years, we have come across a variety of different root causes – from fibro being an autoimmune disorder to a larger amount of blood vessels in our hands. From it being a central nervous system disorder (CNS) to it being a sleep disorder (I know of a top rheumy in the UK dealing with fibro and he maintains it is a sleep disorder, albeit I couldn’t find much about it when writing this blog…).
The jury is out! Although the central nervous system disorder is where most are leaning towards, the root cause of what is causing fibromyalgia itself is undetermined.
However…it is believed by most schools of thought that fibromyalgia stems from some sort of trauma – either mental or physical – or both. This can mean a car accident to giving birth, stress, abuse and more.
Who Gets Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is much more prevalent in women than men (around 7:1 women to men). It also is also estimated that a whopping 8% of the population have fibromyalgia. This means millions of people from all over the world are struggling with this complex illness.
Men and children can also get fibro – it doesn’t just strike women between the ages of 30-50!
Tests for Fibromyalgia
Although there has been a blood test to determine fibromyalgia called FM/a which has been successful at diagnosing fibromyalgia. The FM/a test identifies markers produced by immune system blood cells in people with fibromyalgia. A study showed the FM/a test can also help distinguish fibromyalgia from other conditions that can have similar symptoms, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
However. There is a high chance (particularly in the UK on public health services money) that this test won’t be available here – at least through the NHS – and not any time soon. However you can order the test via your doctor, nurse, chiropractor or others approved.
In the United States, this test is helping people get the compensation and welfare needed, through providing evidence from FM/a. Exciting times as there is now substantiating evidence!
Other than this test and the poking and prodding and questioning your doctor(s) do, there’s not much else available at the moment to actually determine fibro. Fibromyalgia won’t show on x-rays, MRI’s etc.
Due to the ever changing nature of this condition and with what can be daily ups and downs and areas of pain that crop up can change as well as the fact that other than the FM/a test, there are no medical tests to pinpoint fibromyalgia, it makes getting things like benefits, legal cases and the proper medical care difficult.
These are several of the reasons that we created the FibroMapp App – in order to help people get a better understand of their bodies and patterns – as well as provide reports to medical
professionals, legal cases and benefit claims.
The Average Wait For Diagnosis…
…is scarily 5 years from the time the patient started the road to finding out what is going on with them. By this time, many people will have gone from pillar to post and doctor to doctor with investigations, being told that it is ‘all in their head’ and many x-rays, MRIs etc. At this stage in the game, many people have had to give up their careers, are struggling financially and are fighting to be seen, heard and diagnosed – not to mention getting financial help from the government for being disabled.
On top of this, people with fibromyalgia (or suspected fibro), are in so much pain, angry, frustrated, have tried a gazillion different medications, supplements, miracle cures, therapy and more by this time.
Treatments for Fibromyalgia
There are a whole host of medications and supplements that are being used to treat fibromyalgia. There are also individual therapies being used to treat pain, IBS, restless leg syndrome (RLS) and much more. Many people find that the way that they have progressed in getting a better quality of life is by taking control back of their health and well-being and working with holistic practitioners and changing their diets (gluten, sugar and dairy seem to be the biggest culprits as well as nightshade vegetables for many).
At Bodymap Apps (creator of FibroMapp App), we believe that it is imperative for patients to understand that they do have more control in their lives – through understanding their bodies, what medications and supplements do and don’t work and being able to pinpoint what the cause of flare-ups are.
We have seen many people gain a better quality of life once they decide that self-management is their best way forward, or are able to find medical professionals who are able to guide their patients in not just medications, but supplements (many people with FM are B12, magnesium, potassium and Vitamin D deficient), as well as diet, exercise and lifestyle changes.
Hopefully this information will assist you in regards to a better understanding of the elusive fibromyalgia question. (And the fact that there really aren’t a lot of answers at this stage!). If you would like further information, support and research info check out this link to our resources page.
Understanding what fibromyalgia is in general as well as the fact that there isn’t conclusive evidence as to what causes fibromyalgia – however know that there are medications and supplements to help reduce symptoms.