Fibromyalgia: Know Your Treatment Options

Fibromyalgia is a common syndrome in which a person has long-term body wide pain and tenderness in the joints, muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues.  Fibromyalgia has also been linked to fatigue, sleep problems, headaches, depression, and anxiety.  Although there are no obvious abnormalities on physical examination, laboratory or radiologic studies, the current pathophysiology focuses on alteration in central nervous system pain processing

Fibromyalgia is most common among women aged 20-50.  It effects 2-4% of the general population, at a 1:9 male to female ratio.  To put things into perspective, it is the second most common disorder that rheumatologists encounter.

Fibromyalgia is marked by widespread chronic pain lasting more than 3 months.  Pain is typically felt diffusely radiating from the axial skeleton over large areas of the body.  Patients can usually remember the onset of the pain as if it was sudden.  The pain tends to have a waxing and waning time line, and flares are typically triggered by a stressor.

Unfortunately, fibromyalgia is a chronic relapsing condition.  Long-term follow-up care of patients with fibromyalgia reportedly averages 10 outpatient visits per year and 1 hospitalization every 3 years.  Additionally, due to the chronic pain and fatigue patients are at an increased risk for metabolic syndrome.

What kind of treatment is available for those suffering from fibromyalgia?

Patients with fibromyalgia generally respond best to a multidisciplinary, individualized treatment program.  This incorporates physician as well as non-physician providers, and includes a team of physical medicine, rehabilitation, and mental health specialists.  That being said, currently no cure exists.

Medical and non-medical treatment are used together. Nonmedical treatment includes cardiovascular exercise, which has been found to have a positive effect on pain, global well-being and physical function.  Cognitive behavior therapy is another kind of treatment option. This is an approach that addresses dysfunctional emotions, behaviors, and cognitions through a goal oriented process. Alternative and complementary therapies include:

·         Tai chi

·         Yoga

·         Acupuncture

There are also new therapies that are always on the rise or in the development process.  For example, there are companies developing a devices that target the pain associated with fibromyalgia.  One such device uses magnetic stimulation of deep brain tissue to cause sustained pain relief.