Fibromyalgia is a disease that was only recently identified, and is still controversial and confusing to many physicians as well as patients. Because of this, it is often underdiagnosed and undertreated. It can be a challenge to differentiate fibromyalgia and other chronic pain and fatigue disorders. If you have been experiencing aching pain and exhaustion, do not ignore the situation. Do not allow a doctor to dismiss your symptoms; find a medical expert who understands the disease.
For most people, here are nine common signs of fibromyalgia:
1. Muscle Aches
The first sign of fibromyalgia is often a deep burning or aching sensation in the muscles. The pain may occur intermittently, but it cannot be massaged away.
Fifty percent of fibromyalgia patients experience chronic headaches or migraines. Researchers believe a chemical imbalance in the brain may be the cause. These headaches usually appear suddenly.
3. Tender Points
Experts say there are 18 specific tender points specific to fibromyalgia. These are located at the back of the head, between the shoulders, front of the neck, top of the chest, elbows, tops of the hips, and inside of the knees.
Fibromyalgia sufferers often experience chronic, daily fatigue. Sleep can be difficult because of the pain and stiffness, and the disease often coexists with restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea.
5. Sleep Disturbances
Common side effects of fibromyalgia are insomnia, trouble falling asleep and frequent waking. Inadequate sleep contributes to the fatigue and exacerbates the pain.
6. “Brain Fog”
Physical pain often contributes to confusion and difficulty thinking clearly.
7. Symmetrical Pain
The pain of fibromyalgia is generally bilaterally, and occurs on both the upper and lower parts of the body.
8. Protracted Pain for Three Months or More
Muscle pain can have many causes, but if your pain continues beyond three months, and cannot be directly attributed to another condition, the problem may be fibromyalgia.
Be aware that fibromyalgia may co-occur with another illness, which can made diagnosis difficult. Tests are now more sophisticated that they were a few years ago, but there is still no concrete way to determine for sure you have fibromyalgia.
If you have these eight signs, raise your concerns with your doctor. Your family doctor may not be familiar with the latest studies on fibromyalgia, so it is useful to ask for a referral to a rheumatologist or neurologist with more experience in this area.