How does one respond when they hear the term fibromyalgia? A large percent of people will say, "Fibro - what", but for eight to ten percent of the population, it means pain and uncertainty. Fibromyalgia has been around for a centuries. In fact, it has been written that Cleopatra suffered with this condition. The medical profession has only recently begun to understand and diagnose this troublesome condition. Although the American Medical Association now recognizes it as a legitimate syndrome, some doctors still question its existence.

Fibromyalgia refers to a complex syndrome characterized by pain amplification, musculoskeletal discomfort, and systemic symptoms. Six million people meet the criteria for fibromyalgia. On average patients see five to fifty doctors before they are correctly diagnosed, and until that time many are convinced they have a life threatening illness, such as cancer.

The chief complaint with fibromyalgia is pain. The pain may be described as a constant ache, throbbing or burning. Painful locations are found in the muscles of the neck, head, shoulders (especially between the shoulder blades), low back and hips. The pain may begin in one area, but over time it begins to involve more and more regions until it has spread throughout the entire body. Fibromyalgia pain is a wandering pain. One day it may present in the back and the next day in the shoulders.

General fatigue is another major complaint with fibromyalgia. Poor sleep contributes to this problem. It is not unusual for individuals with fibromyalgia to sleep as little as a couple of hours or for much as twelve hours and feel completely exhausted the next day. Instead of waking up refreshed they start their day as if they never slept.

Fibromyalgia occurs in all ages, ethnic groups, and cultures. Its gender distribution is nearly equal in childhood, but in adults it is more prevalent in females. Is fibromyalgia genetic? Even though no fibromyalgia genetic markers have been found, there are studies documenting high prevalence of the syndrome among certain families. There are many theories as to the cause of this syndrome. Trauma, infection and stress are three of the most common etiologies.

Living with Fibromyalgia is a challenge. There is no cure, but there are ways to manage the pain. The first step is to find a physician who is competent and willing to make a diagnosis, as well as invest the time to work with the patient. There is no diagnostic test or xray that can detect the syndrome. However, physicians can substantiate the diagnosis by checking established universal tender point sites throughout the body that are more susceptible to pain from applied pressure than would be experienced by a person without the disease.

The first step in treatment is finding the underlying problem, and working together with the physician to correct this first. It is not uncommon for these patients to present with thyroid abnormalities, sleep disorders, and nutritional abnormalities that have a direct effect on muscle endurance. Many triggers can ultimately lead to fibromyalgia, but in order to be successful in fibromyalgia treatment, one must treat the trigger first. The next step is educating the patient. Fibromyalgia patients need to know how to prevent, manage and survive a flare up. Medication, which is frequently requested by patients and over-utilized by physicians, is not the answer to controlling the disease. It may be necessary to establish regular sleeping patterns

Regular exercise, stress management and alternative therapies such as reflexology, meditation, acupuncture and biofeedback can be helpful. However, it is important to realize that a person's lifestyle up to the point that they develop fibromyalgia has helped to setup the problem. Individuals on high carbohydrate, low protein, low fat diets and who are devoid of exercise in their lives are at great risk of developing the disorder. Once the trigger is encountered fibromyalgia develops. After an individual is plagued by fibromyalgia, unless that individual makes a commitment to changing his/her former lifestyle, he/she will be subjected to ever worsening exacerbations of the condition.

Author's Bio: 

Dr.Ostalecki has a PhD. in nutrition, and brings her personal insights of living with Fibromyalgia into her lecturing and practice. For more articles and info go to