Fibromyalgia is real. If you suffer from 4 or more of these symptoms, you may have this debilitating disease:
✓ Chronically Painful/Tender Body Areas
✓ Feeling Depressed
✓ Mental/Brain Fog
✓ Trouble Concentrating
✓ Poor Sleep
✓ Frequent Headaches
✓ Leg Cramps
✓ Areas of Numbness or Tingling
✓ Restless Legs When You Sleep
✓ Joint Aches
Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes widespread pain, fatigue, sleep problems and distress, according to the CDC. Even celebrities are not spared from this painful condition. For example, Lady Gaga reportedly had to cancel concerts on her tour due to pain from fibromyalgia.
Though the cause of the disorder is not clear, it appears that people with fibromyalgia may be more sensitive to pain than other people. The CDC calls this abnormal pain processing.
Interestingly, patients with fibromyalgia may be somewhat protected from the worst of Covid-19. Research has shown that fibromyalgia patients have unique deficiencies of
specific immune system cytokine proteins. These same proteins may be
at the root of the “cytokine storms” experienced by severely ill Covid-19 patients.
Fibromyalgia affects around 20% of the world’s population. A recent literature review showed the frequency of fibromyalgia in the general population was between 0.2 and 6.6 %. It’s often reported as higher in women, at a ratio of three to one.
The American College of Rheumatology devised a widely accepted test which looks for 11 points from 18 potential tender points of pain from areas across the body using what’s called the widespread pain index. However, the latest version of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) says for someone to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, there needs to be pain in “at least 4 of 5 body regions and it needs to be associated with significant emotional distress”.
The drugs pregabalin (Lyrica) and duloxetine (Cymbalta) work by altering neurotransmitters in the brain and are effective for many people. There are other options including medication specifically for pain (analgesics), muscle relaxants (benzodiazepines), or treatments that address nerve or spinal pain (neuropathic treatments). Many of these medications can have side effects, including constipation, or allergic reactions like digestive upset or inflammation. They can also be addictive. Always be honest with your doctor about what painkillers you are taking so they can help you safely manage your pain.
Another common treatment is using a TENS unit (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation). This involves applying pads to the skin around the area of pain to stimulate the nerves that might be sending the pain messages and to interfere with these messages using small electrical pulses. This effective treatment is thought to increase levels of endorphins (pain-killing chemicals) produced by the brain and spinal cord to provide pain relief, but the effects may weaken with ongoing use.
Fibromyalgia can also be effectively treated with physical interventions such as aerobic exercise, heat therapy, massage and vibration therapy. Acupuncture and treatment from a psychologist are other options.
Though fibromyalgia is a mysterious and misunderstood illness, researchers may have uncovered at least one key to the disease’s origin: insulin resistance. This recent research compared a small group of people with fibromyalgia to two groups of healthy people and noted that a long-term measure of blood sugar levels was higher in the people with fibromyalgia. Insulin resistance develops when the body starts to struggle with breaking down sugar.
To see if treating those higher blood sugar levels might help, the researchers gave people who had blood sugar levels in the pre-diabetic range or higher a diabetes medication called Metformin. People taking Metformin reported significantly lower pain scores, according to the study which was conducted at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.
The FM/a® Test is the only objective, university medical center-developed, accurate blood test for diagnosing fibromyalgia. It is the first definitive blood test for fibromyalgia and is covered by most PPOs, Medicare & other insurance plans. It was developed by researchers at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, and the testing can be done in the safety and comfort of your home. We offer this lab test in our office.