What Is Fibromyalgia (FM)?
Fibromyalgia (FM), also known as Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) is a condition with symptoms that include widespread, pervasive and chronic pain and tenderness in the body, and muscle stiffness, often accompanied by fatigue (hence a relationship with ME/CFS), cognitive disturbance/difficulties and emotional distress. Like ME/CFS, symptoms of FM can vary from mild to severe.
FM affects between 2 and 10% of the population, and like ME/CFS, is mostly women although men and adolescents do acquire it. It tends to develop during middle adulthood.
Symptoms of FM
As well as the chronic pain, including skeletal pain, and tenderness, some or all of the following symptoms might be present:
Neurological: dysfunctions of muscles, ligaments and joints – numbness, tingling; abnormal muscle twitch response, muscle cramps, muscle weakness; headaches, generalised weakness, dizziness, and sensory overload.
Neurocognitive: These are usually present and include: impaired concentration and short-term memory problems, impaired speed of performance, inability to multi-task, one is easily distracted, and/or cognitive overload.
Sleep disturbances: Like ME/CFS sufferers, most people with FM experience nonrefreshing sleep. This is usually accompanied by insomnia, frequent nocturnal awakenings, nocturnal muscle twitching, and/or restless leg syndrome.
Autonomic and/or neuroendocrine: These include but are not limited to: cardiac arrhythmias, neuraly medicated hypotension, vertigo, temperature instability, hot/cold intolerance (intolerance to very hot or very cold weather), respiratory disturbances, irritable bowel or bladder dysfunction, dysmenorrhea, loss of adaptability and tolerance for stress, reactive depression.
Stiffness: Generalized or even regional stiffness that is most severe upon awakening and typically lasts for hours. Stiffness can return during periods of inactivity during the day.
As with ME/CFS, symptoms can vary over time with the waxing and waning over periods of hours, days, weeks, months and so on. An increase in stress can cause a worsening of symptoms.
How Is FM Diagnosed?
A doctor will suspect FM based on your symptoms. As with ME/CFS there are no diagnostic tests (such as X-rays or blood tests) for this illness (neither are MS, ALS, Parkinson’s andAlzheimer’s Disease diagnosed by bio-marker). Yet, you may need tests to rule out another health problem that can be confused with FM.
A physical exam will be required to detect tenderness and to exclude other causes of muscle pain.
Signs that suggest a diagnosis of FM are:
Widespread pain for three months or longer;
Abnormal tenderness at particular points around the neck, shoulder, chest, hip, knee and elbow;
You may have one or more of the additional symptoms listed above.
Fibromyalgia can be very clearly seen with a thermal imaging camera !!