Fibromyalgia is a clinical syndrome that presents as widespread body pain. If left untreated, fibromyalgia is a potentially debilitating condition.
Middle age women are especially vulnerable to fibromyalgia, and early diagnosis is key so that treatments can begin. Treatment is likely to be more effective if introduced early, according to a 2017 study in the journal Australian Prescriber.
The Mayo Clinic says doctors attempting to diagnose pain used to check 18 specific points on the body to determine if pain was linked to fibromyalgia. However, newer guidelines from the American College of Rheumatology no longer require a tender point exam for diagnosis. Instead, the condition is considered present when widespread pain throughout the body lasts for at least three months.
Newly diagnosed fibromyalgia patients may have many questions about the illness and their treatment options. Fibromyalgia symptoms wax and wane, so Johns Hopkins Medicine says treatment strategies continually need to evolve and are tailored specifically to each patient’s needs. However, treatment strategies tend to fall into four broad categories: education; symptom management; cognitive behavior therapy; and complementary approaches.
Symptom management tends to include a variety of medications. The Mayo Clinic Says doctors will recommend pain relievers such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen sodium, which are available over-the-counter. Opioid pain relievers usually are not recommended because of side effects and risk for dependence.
Antidepressants are the most frequently used and best studies for the treatment of fibromyalgia, indicates Johns Hopkins. They are effective in treating pain, sleep disturbances, fatigue, and depression. Anti-seizure drugs often are useful to reduce certain types of pain.
In addition to medications, complementary approaches include physical therapy, acupressure, massage, acupuncture, hypnosis, osteopathic manipulation, and other techniques. Cognitive behavior therapy also may help those with fibromyalgia manage their condition by applying relaxation therapy and cognitive pain management, among other techniques.
Speaking with a mental health counselor also can give individuals additional tools for dealing with painful and stressful situations that arise due to fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia affects many people, notably women. There is no cure, but various treatments can relieve pain and assist with other symptoms.