Fibromyalgia affects about 5.8 million Americans. It is a disease that causes generalized pain throughout the body. The pain is both above and below the waist, on right and left sides of the body and present for at least 3 months. Individuals with fibromyalgia have a wide variety of symptoms including:

  • Pain throughout the body, aching in the joints and muscles
  • Trouble sleeping – they may feel tired all of time and sleep for a long time, but wake up feeling unrefreshed. They may also have difficulty falling asleep
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Temperature sensitivity
  • Sensitivity to loud noises, bright lights, or smells.
  • Morning stiffness – this symptom can make many physicians think that someone has arthritis, but testing for arthritis will be normal.
  • Headaches
  • Painful menstrual periods
  • Tingling or numbness in hands and feet – people with these symptoms may end up with expensive tests such as MRIs, nerve studies, or even injections.
  • Problems with thinking and memory (sometimes called "fibro fog")

What causes Fibromyalgia?

We do not really know…

Sometimes it can be triggered by a traumatic event or surgery, but usually starts on its own. It is believed to be a disorder of the central nervous system (meaning the brain and spinal cord). It affects women more often than men and occurs usually between the ages of 20-60 years.

What do we know about fibromyalgia?

There have been studies called functional MRIs where a person’s brain is scanned with a special type of machine while they perform a task or are asked questions. Some researchers applied pressure with their fingers on normal people and those with fibromyalgia. The normal people just felt pressure and the part of their brains that was active was normal for pressure sensation. The people with fibromyalgia felt pain and the part of their brains that was active was the part that processes pain.

People with fibromyalgia will often come to our office and tell us that they hurt and others think it’s in their head. Our providers understand that these individuals are in pain, but it is in their heads… Not in the way that has been implied, but there is actually a problem with their brain and how they process information both from their bodies and from the world around them. They have a wiring problem.

A recent study on fibromyalgia patients also conducted with one of those special head scans (a functional MRI) showed that patients with fibromyalgia had less active processing portions of their brains when shown a picture than normal people. Their brain activity was increased in the portion that deals with pain, though.

They are consumed with internal complaints all of the time coming from their brains, so no wonder they are tired, distracted, have trouble with their memory, and have headaches.

There is hope, though. There are treatments for fibromyalgia.

To understand treatment, you must truly understand that this condition can affect all body systems since it is coming from the brain. This means that treatment just for headaches, or just for abdominal pain, or just for muscle pain are not going to be successful. These individuals truly need a multidisciplinary approach to pain management. As board certified physicians specializing in diseases of the muscles, bones, and nerves, we are uniquely qualified to treat fibromyalgia. If we may be of assistance to you, please do not hesitate to call.