Winning the Fibromyalgia Battle

Fibromyalgia (FMS) has been a mystery to doctors, researchers and sufferers alike. As medical researchers look for the cause of this syndrome, suffers experiencing the chronic pain and fatigue are seeking out relief from the symptoms.

Fibromyalgia symptoms include:

  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Lack of energy
  • Tenderness and stiffness in fibrous tissues
  • Multiple tender points that are extremely sensitive to the touch

Even light pressure on a tender point can cause pain throughout a larger area. The areas most tender are usually the neck, abdomen, lower back, thighs and shoulders but the pain can be more widespread.

Commonly, people with FMS may also suffer from depression, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome or other sleeping disorders, mood changes, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, headaches and migraines, and/or endometriosis. However, with the mystery still surrounding fibromyalgia, it can be difficult to determine if these ailments are part of the cause, a symptom or a co-existing condition.

Researchers have found that fibromyalgia sufferers have abnormal levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, specifically serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. These chemicals affect pain signals, sleeping, memory, mental focus, appetite, sex drive, moods and body temperature. It is believed that changes in the levels of these chemical are due to repetitive nerve stimulation and can be triggered or aggravated by stress, overuse of muscle or strains, infections, and/or physical or emotional trauma (i.e. Post-traumatic stress disorder). As well, the pain receptors in the brain appear to become more sensitive causing them to exaggerate pain signals when they are received.

Do I have Fibromyalgia?

FMS affects approximately 2% of the U.S. population. Although men, children, the elderly, and postmenopausal women can have FMS, women in their childbearing years are at the greatest risk making up approximately 80% of the sufferers. As well, it is believed that FMS has some genetic link as the syndrome has been found to run in families. Diagnosing fibromyalgia is difficult as there is no medical test at this time. A patient showing many of the symptoms will undergo a physical exam, including a tender point exam. The doctor will check the tenderness of 18 specific points of the body, points known to be sensitive in FMS sufferers. If at least 11 (in children, 5) of the points are tender and the patient has experienced overall pain for a minimum of 3 months, the patient is usually diagnosed with FMS.

Fibromyalgia Treatments

Due to the lack of understanding of FMS, there is neither a cure nor way of preventing the syndrome. Managing the symptoms with proper medications, passive therapies and healthy life changes is the only option at this time.


A deep, restorative sleep is vital to controlling fibromyalgia symptoms. Ironically, difficulty sleeping is a major symptom of FMS. Tricyclic antidepressants, usually used to treat depression, have been found effective for achieving a much needed good night sleep. When taken in smaller doses before bed, Tricyclic antidepressants reduce fatigue, promote restorative sleep, and reduce muscle pain and spasm. If antidepressants are found ineffective, pain killers, sleep aids and muscle relaxants may be prescribed. As patients react differently to certain medications, it is important to speak to a doctor about which ones will give the best results with the fewest side effects for you.

Helpful Therapies

There are a variety of therapeutic options for controlling joint pain and muscle tension and spasm in FMS patients. Some of these therapies include deep heat therapy, cold therapy, therapeutic ultrasound, TENS (Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), hydrotherapy, and acupuncture.

Home Treatments

FMS patients can treat their symptoms and/or supplement physical therapy treatments in the comfort and convenience of their own homes with Blood Flow Stimulation therapeutic devices and cold compression wraps.

For reducing chronic pain from fibromyalgia one of the most preferred methods is deep heat therapy. Deep heat therapy increases the flow of blood to the affected area transporting vital oxygen and nutrients to the site and removing waste. Using a versatile Back/Hip Inferno Wrap™ with Blood Flow Stimulation Therapy can provide soothing relief to achy joints and muscles throughout your body.

At times when inflammation is increased, cold therapy can slow circulation easing pain and reducing swelling. A Back/Hip Freezie Wrap™ can provide comfortable cold compression therapy to tender points and other sore areas in fibromyalgia patients.

With access to a whirlpool bath or hot tub, FMS patients may be able to relieve pain and relax muscles with daily hydrotherapy treatments. If no therapeutic bath is available at home, hot tubs are usually accessible at the local pool or YMCA.

Clinical Treatments

Therapists can also provide some relief from FMS symptoms with therapies including, but not limited to, deep tissue massage, TENS, and acupuncture.

Therapists will often combine heat and cold therapies to treat muscle and joint pain and may introduce a deep tissue massage to compliment these therapies. Although a massage may sound painful to someone with fibromyalgia, at times when pain is reduced it can relieve deep muscle tension and spasms. This can promote efficient use of muscles and increase the range of motion with less pain.

Some physical therapists recommend the use of a TENS machine for fibromyalgia treatment. TENS machines produce electrical stimulation to key areas of the nerve system. By doing so, muscles spasms are controlled and it is believed a release of endorphins (a natural pain killer) is triggered.

Acupuncture is also found to have a positive effect on fibromyalgia symptoms. Researchers are still uncertain as to why it works but it is believed to raise the pain threshold that is usually low in FMS patients. In theory, by stimulating the nerves, signals are sent to the brain to release pain killing hormones.

Although there is no cure for FMS, sufferers are finding that with healthy choices and the right therapies, symptoms can be reduced. You can win the fibromyalgia battle and live your life with less pain.

Healthy Life Changes

Fibromyalgia symptoms can be minimized with a controlled diet, stress management, and regular exercise. Doctors recommend good nutrition and reducing the intake of corn, wheat, dairy and citrus foods to improve symptoms of headaches, depression, pain and poor digestion. As stress is considered a trigger of FMS symptoms, avoiding stress and practicing relaxation techniques can lower the occurrence of flare-ups.

Once some pain relief has been achieved, exercising is usually recommended. An individualized exercise regimen is an important part of any FMS treatment plan. Strengthening and stretching muscles throughout the body can improve range of motion and provide necessary support to perform daily activities with less pain. However, in FMS patients, too much exercise can overwork muscles and worsen symptoms and too little exercise may not be enough to see any benefits. Trial and error may be necessary to find a balance for you and a physical therapist or doctor can help along the way. Aquatic exercises can allow for low stress aerobic conditioning and strength development. To read more about the benefits of aquatic exercise Although there is no cure for FMS, sufferers are finding that with healthy choices and the right therapies, symptoms can be reduced. You can win the fibromyalgia battle and live your life with less pain.

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