Fibromyalgia is a physical condition that causes widespread pain. A person feels pain in their muscles and bones, not in their nerves.
The condition is chronic, meaning it lasts for a long period of time. There is no cure for it, though anyone can manage their symptoms.
Doctors are still learning more about fibromyalgia. It is difficult to understand because its symptoms are similar to those of many other medical conditions. Many risk factors and causes contribute to it, yet some people may experience the condition without an apparent cause.
Is Fibromyalgia an Autoimmune Disease?
An autoimmune disease occurs when a person's immune system attacks their own body. It releases autoantibodies, which are proteins that can kill healthy and unhealthy cells alike. Examples of autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, which damages the joints.
Fibromyalgia is not classified as an autoimmune disorder. Most people with the condition do not have high levels of autoantibodies. They also do not show signs of inflammation, which would suggest that their tissues are under attack.
Is Fibromyalgia a Disability in Canada?
The Canada Pension Plan provides benefits for Canadians living with disabilities. In order to receive a benefit, a person must have a disability that prevents them from doing substantial work on a regular basis. Their disability must be long-term, though it does not have to be fatal or incurable.
Fibromyalgia can qualify as a disability. But it must impede a person's work routines. Their pain may make them unable to move, or they may become drowsy and have to take frequent breaks.
A diagnosis of the condition is not enough to receive a benefit. An individual must fill out an application and provide relevant medical documents that back their case up.
Fibromyalgia can come from a few different causes. It can also occur after certain medical conditions. Anyone can suffer from one or more causes at once, so knowing all of them can help someone get help right away.
Infections and fibromyalgia have close links to each other. Some people report experiencing symptoms after they have suffered from the flu or pneumonia. Infections of the Epstein-Barr virus can also trigger the condition, though not all cases do.
Scientists are not entirely sure why infections and fibromyalgia are linked. They may trigger the immune system and cause it to attack healthy tissues.
A virus may send a signal to the brain that causes it to produce chemicals linked to pain. After the virus dies, the chemicals can remain inside the brain and cause pain throughout the body. Pain receptors can become sensitive after a viral infection, resulting in pain after any kind of stimuli.
Mild infections like colds are not tied with fibromyalgia. A person should not be worried that they will develop chronic pain every time they get sick.
A significant act of physical trauma can trigger the condition. Getting into a car accident or being shot can damage bones, muscles, and arteries. Someone may develop fibromyalgia because pain signals are being sent to their brain over a long period of time.
Breaking the arm or leg does not cause fibromyalgia. Someone must experience trauma throughout their body or a significant amount of trauma to their spine and head.
One event may be enough to trigger symptoms. But cumulative events are more likely to lead to a chronic case. Someone who goes through multiple surgeries in a period of time can eventually develop fibromyalgia.
The mind and the body are closely linked. Stress symptoms can include a stomachache, muscle weakness, and acute pain.
Experiencing extreme stress can trigger fibromyalgia. People who go through traumatic events and develop PTSD are at high risk for the condition. Young children who endure trauma are also at high risk.
A 2019 study determined that up to 50% of a person's risk for fibromyalgia is attributable to their genes. Doctors have found several genes that seem to be tied to cases. These genes affect how a person responds to stress and pain, and they can make someone feel pain more often.
Is Fibromyalgia Hereditary?
Someone whose parents had fibromyalgia is at high risk for developing it. They should undergo genetic tests so they understand what genes they do have. They should then avoid the other causes of fibromyalgia so they avoid developing the condition.
Causes vary, but symptoms do not. Most cases of fibromyalgia involve several symptoms that a person feels for months on end.
Many people feel a dull ache in their muscles that lasts throughout the day. The pain occurs in all parts of the body, on both sides and above and below the waistline.
The pain can get worse if someone exerts themselves. But it is there regardless of how much work a person performs. A person may mistake their pain for muscle strains or weakness at first.
Fibromyalgia can co-exist with other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome that can cause pain. Fibromyalgia can make the pain that these conditions cause worse.
The cognitive difficulties of fibromyalgia are sometimes called "fibro fog." They create a brain fog that impairs a person's ability to pay attention to things. They may find that their mind wanders or that they cannot concentrate for a long period.
Mental tasks like counting or doing math equations can become extremely difficult. An individual proficient in these tasks may lose their skills once the condition sets in.
Someone with fibromyalgia may feel tired throughout the day. After they wake up, they feel like they have not slept at all.
Some people wake up in the middle of the night due to pain, which can make their fatigue feel worse. But other people do not find sleep relieving, regardless of how much uninterrupted sleep they have.
Caffeinated beverages and rest do not help a person's fatigue. They may fall asleep in the middle of activities or events. Their fatigue may compound their cognitive difficulties, preventing them from working.
What Are Usually the First Signs of Fibromyalgia?
Symptoms can appear without warning or gradually over time. Someone may feel pain, cognitive difficulties, or fatigue first. Symptoms may appear together or they may appear independently from each other.
Types of Fibromyalgia Pain
It is possible for a person to experience several kinds of pain. In addition to a dull ache, a person can experience:
widespread muscle pain
abdominal and pelvic pain
How to Diagnose Fibromyalgia
Doctors will examine a few things when testing someone for fibromyalgia. Genetic testing and family history are two important factors toward a diagnosis. Yet it is not enough to diagnose someone just because the disorder runs through their family.
What Are the Risk Factors of Fibromyalgia?
Sex is a prominent risk factor in fibromyalgia. Women are twice as likely to receive a diagnosis as men. Doctors are not sure why this is the case, though it may be due to hormonal differences.
Yet sex is not the only risk factor. Illnesses are an extremely prominent one, especially viral infections. A family history of the condition and genes related to fibromyalgia is important.
Stressful events that cause full-body pain or psychological trauma are risk factors for many conditions, including fibromyalgia. Repetitive injuries create a higher risk than one-time injuries. Stress on a particular joint can eventually trigger full-body pain.
People who are obese are at higher risk of developing the disorder. Their body fat may be putting stress on their muscles and joints, causing problems akin to repetitive injuries.
What Are the Diagnostic Techniques for Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is tricky to diagnose due to its many causes and generic symptoms. There is no one virus or tell-tale symptom that doctors can look for.
The easiest way for doctors to diagnose the disorder is by eliminating other potential problems. They will conduct a series of blood tests to look for infections and organ disorders. They may run X-rays to see if bones are broken or muscles are deformed.
Once the process of elimination is complete, the doctor can give a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. Yet they may want to check with the person again to see if they are right. They may also send the person to a specialist to get a thorough physical examination.
Though fibromyalgia is not curable, it is treatable for a long period of time. A person should create a holistic treatment regimen, pursuing multiple avenues for symptom relief.
A few different medications can help a person manage their symptoms. Pain-relieving drugs include ibuprofen, Tylenol, and naproxen sodium. Over-the-counter medications can work as well as stronger drugs.
Doctors used to prescribe opioids to people with fibromyalgia. They no longer do this due to the addictive qualities of opioids.
Antidepressants can relieve the mental distress that fibromyalgia causes. They can also ease the fatigue that the condition creates, letting a person focus on their work. Common prescriptions for fibromyalgia patients include Duloxetine and Milnacipran.
Some anti-seizure drugs may relieve symptoms. They may reduce pain signals in the brain and prevent parts of the brain from producing painful chemicals. Neurontin is a popular prescription.
No one should take any medication without their doctor's prescription. They should adhere to their prescription schedule and not adjust their dosages without approval.
Many types of therapy are available to fibromyalgia patients. Physical therapy can build muscle strength without stressing the nerves too much.
Massage therapy can target muscles that cause pain and weakness. A therapist manipulates the soft tissues using light pressure until they become more flexible and less stiff. Someone may feel relief after their first session.
Someone who needs help with their flexibility can pursue occupational therapy (OT). A therapist will help the person regain their strength and control over their limbs. OT is designed to be individualized, with each person receiving different services.
Traditional therapy can relieve someone's anxiety and make them more able to cope with pain. A person does not have to have a diagnosed psychological disorder to benefit.
A face-to-face session can help someone build trust with their psychiatrist. But they can also pursue online therapy in Canada, talking to a professional while they stay at home. This is a good option if someone's pain makes travel difficult.
Do Provincial Health Care Plans Cover Fibromyalgia Treatment?
It can be difficult to get health insurance coverage for fibromyalgia treatment. Someone who is looking for their health care plan to cover it needs a formal diagnosis for it. They should be clear on what the costs of their treatments are and explain how their treatments help them.
Health care plans do cover the costs of prescriptions and therapies. Plans can be comprehensive for someone who has a disability that the federal government recognizes. Complementary medicine like tai chi is not covered, though out-of-pocket costs are cheap.
Getting Help for Your Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia pain can feel like a dull ache. Diagnoses come after a process of elimination shows that other diseases are not present.
Yet a person can receive treatment that reduces their symptoms. Medications are a useful tool. Physical, occupational, and talk therapies can restore mobility and mitigate pain.
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