What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a condition in which the individual experiences generalized musculoskeletal pain that often goes hand-in-hand with sleeping problems. In many cases, the onset of fibromyalgia is triggered by some kind of physical trauma, such as injury, infection or surgery. The condition, which is more common in women than in men, frequently coexists with headaches, digestive problems, depression and anxiety.
The exact mechanics of fibromyalgia are still being researched, but it is believed that the condition is rooted in changes to the chemistry of the brain. Elevated levels of neurotransmitters – the chemicals in the brain that detect pain – may result in the increased sensations of pain in individuals with the condition.
The primary symptoms of fibromyalgia include the following:
- A constant ache all over the body that may last for several weeks at a time. The pain associated with fibromyalgia is felt on both sides of the body, above and below the waist.
- Extreme fatigue in spite of long periods of sleep. Quality of sleep is poor, most likely due to the pain.
- Cognitive impairments that may be related to the sleep difficulties. Individuals with fibromyalgia may suffer from impaired memory and an inability to focus.
- Mental health problems including anxiety and depression.
What causes fibromyalgia?
Although the exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, it is thought that a combination of factors increases the risk.
- People with a family history of fibromyalgia are more likely to develop the condition themselves.
- Fibromyalgia is sometimes triggered by physical stress, such as injuries, surgery or infections.
- Many people with fibromyalgia also have post-traumatic stress disorder, which suggests that emotional trauma can be a trigger.
- The presence of lupus or rheumatoid arthritis may increase the risk of fibromyalgia.