For patients suffering from fibromyalgia, obtaining the right treatment is often as difficult as dealing with the chronic pain. Fibromyalgia is a medically recognized disorder that produces "widespread pain, abnormal pain processing, sleep disturbance, fatigue and often psychological distress" according to the Centers for Disease Control. Most often, the condition is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning that all other illnesses and conditions have been ruled out. The process is time consuming and frustrating for the patient.
For many years, patients with fibromyalgia were considered to have a mental illness of some sort, and not a real, physical condition.Treatment was anti-depressants and psychotherapy. For patients, their burden was that "everyone thinks the pain is just in your head."
Medical research has a long way to go when it comes to fibromyalgia. The causes and any cure remain unknown but it has been demonstrated to be a very real physical ailment. Pregabalin, sold under the brand name "Lyrica", is approved for treating the illness.
The CDC reports that fibromyalgia can occur in both sexes and at all ages. However, female patients outnumber male patients by a 7:1 ratio. Onset is generally in middle age.
The Mao Clinic describes fibromyalgia as:
a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues.
One of the unique symptoms of fibromyalgia is a series of painful pressure points at specific spots on the patient's body. At least 11 of the 18 pressure points should be tender for a "fibro" diagnosis. The primary diagnostic criteria is widespread, above average to severe pain, lasting for at least three months.
Treatment is intended to relieve symptoms, and is specific to the patient. A variety of over the counter pain relief medications, or prescription medications, are available and patients will have to work with their physician to determine which work best. Certain antidepressants or anti-seizure medications may also work to aid sleep and reduce pain.
Researchers have discovered some physical abnormalities which are common to may fibromyalgia patients. A Nov. 2013 study found that 41 percent of the "fibro" patients biopsied had a condition called small-fiber polyneuropathy while just three percent of other patients examined did. A May 2013 study found that patients with fibromyalgia has excessive nerve fibers around blood vessels in the hand. Once the origins of the pain are found, treatments can be targeted to those areas rather than the current approach that treats fibromyalgia in the brain.