The Nuts And Bolts Of Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia affects between 2-5% of the American population which means about 6 million Americans have fibromyalgia. It is, however, a worldwide condition, not exclusive to the USA. Though fibro commonly sets in between the ages of 35-60 and affects women more than any other group, men and children are certainly not immune to this unforgiving condition.

People usually assume fibro is a ‘new’ condition (meaning something that has shown up in the last 25-30 years), but nothing could be further from the truth. 1,200 years ago Hippocrates described the then unnamed condition. Reports of illnesses with strikingly similar symptoms can even be found as far back as around 1500 BC.  For hundreds of years it was simply referred to as muscular rheumatism. In 1892 Sir Walter Osler described it as neurasthenia. A few years later in 1904 the term fibrositis was first used.

Doctors used  the 1990 diagnostic guidelines (after ruling out other potential illnesses) to diagnose fibromyalgia for many years.

     The biggest, as most fibro patients know, is pain in 11 of 18 tender point sites on digital palpation. Also fatigue, unresolved by rest, for longer than three to six months (usually if your fibro has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome as a companion such as in my case).  In May 2010 The American College of Rheumatology published new provisional criteria, not to replace the old ones but to address certain limitations in the 1990 criteria. The goal is to provide a more practical approach that allows doctors to better monitor symptoms and disease severity. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Fatigue
  • Waking unrefreshed
  • Cognitive symptoms
  • Somatic (physical) symptoms in general (such as headache, weakness, bowel problems, nausea, dizziness, numbness/tingling, hair loss)

I am ecstatic to see them finally recognize the cognitive (brain fog) and bowel problems (IBS). In talking to many people over the years with fibro, one thing I have learned is nothing is sacred with this condition. While the above criteria is the most ‘common’ symptoms, I have heard so many different things, it would take me an hour (and the memory of an elephant, minus my *brain fog*!) to list everything. As I sit here typing this at 5:30 AM, my hands and feet are tingling. I hope to get another hour and a half of sleep. I may…. I may not. I won’t share my gut issues I have going on right now as that is way too much information! The pain levels have been high lately, but then they usually are when I push myself too hard. That right there is the key. Recognizing that we, with fibro, have limitations. I have it bad, so my limitations are very tight. When I try to do too much, it always turns out bad.  So my advice: listen to your body. If it is saying, “Slow down”… do so!

Next posting will be on once you are diagnosed what treatment options are available, and I will give my opinion…. and please remember that, it is just my opinion, please, please do what you healthcare professionals advice you to. Until next time, K.

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