WHAT IS FIBROMYALGIA (FM)?
Fibromyalgia (pronounced fie-bro-my-AL-ja) is a complex chronic pain illness that challenges patients and healthcare providers alike. FM experts estimate that 10 million Americans suffer with FM. The population of Michigan is roughly the same size. While it is most common in women, FM also strikes men and children of all ages and ethnic backgrounds worldwide. For those with severe symptoms, FM can be extremely debilitating and interfere with routine daily activities.
Symptoms include pain, fatigue, sleep issues and problems with cognitive functioning, memory and concentration. Other common complaints include irritable bowel, headaches and migraines, chemical or environmental sensitivities, restless legs, and neurological symptoms such as dizziness, vision problems, numbness, tingling or impaired coordination.
People with FM tend to look healthy and conventional tests are typically normal. A physician knowledgeable about the disorder is necessary to make a diagnosis.
Recent research provides evidence that FM is a problem resulting from disordered sensory processing in the central nervous system. Due to chemical and hormonal abnormalities, the individual experiences central sensitization which leads to pain amplification. So if someone tells you it's all in your head - they are partially right. Researchers can see differences in the brain during a specialized MRI. Please note, MRIs are used for research but not fibromyalgia diagnosis.
Triggering events such as an acute illness or injury play a role in the development of FM. Emerging evidence suggests genetics also plays a role.
Fibromyalgia is confusing. People with fibromyalgia often ask, "How can I feel so awful but look Ok?” The drug commercials on TV help to raise awareness but we often hear from people with fibromyalgia that it makes people around them believe all they need to do is pop a pill and they will be better.
Treating fibromyalgia is way more complicated than taking a pill. People must employ self-management strategies on a daily basis to live well with the illness, and sometimes that is not enough (especially during onset and flares). It takes time and patience to learn what strategies and treatments work best for people as treatments vary based on the individual. People with fibromyalgia need the support of their family, friends and healthcare team to be successful. Becoming educated is the best tool to reclaiming your life from fibromyalgia. We can help!