Fibromyalgia is one of the most common chronic pain conditions, but what is fibromyalgia anyway?
The disorder affects an estimated 10 million people in the U.S. and about 3-6% of the world population. While it is most prevalent in women (75-90 percent of people who have fibromyalgia are women), it also occurs in men and children of all ethnic groups. Many sufferers remain undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. “Algia” is from the Greek meaning pain and “myo” meaning muscle. “Fibro” means connective tissue of tendons and ligaments.
In its early history the term “fibrositis” was used to describe both trigger points and fibromyalgia. Although similar, they are two completely different pathologies. In 1977 Smythe and Moldofsky identified a condition of generalized pain with multiple tender points, but differing from trigger points. The term fibrositis became redefined as fibromyalgia. The diagnosis “fibrositis” is out-dated, but the terms trigger points and fibromyalgia remain.
In 1990 rheumatologist F. Wolfe established some diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia. In short, he wanted to spell out accurate answers to the looming question, “what is fibromyalgia?”
In 1987 the American Medical Association recognized fibromyalgia as a true illness and a cause of disability. There is no such thing as fibromyalgia trigger points. Trigger points are a part of myofascial pain that anyone can and does experience at some point.
The term “tender points”, which are specific to fibromyalgia, is a legitimate description. These predictable tender points begin to identify “what is fibromyalgia” and what is not. Fibromyalgia patients seem to be susceptible to trigger points, with the myofascial dysfunction, but treatment of trigger points and tender points are two different things.
For example, if you are getting physical therapy, or are in an exercise program to improve your fibromyalgia symptoms, a trigger point causes weak muscles. So, getting rid of the muscle weakness caused by the trigger point would be important. Tender points by themselves do not cause muscle weakness like trigger points do.
One study found that 72% of fibromyalgia patents suffered from trigger points, as well as tender points. Some patients have widespread chronic myofascial trigger points, but do not have fibromyalgia. A clear diagnosis is needed in order to identify what is fibromyalgia and what is not.
It is now firmly believed that fibromyalgia is a dysfunction of the central nervous system which causes the pain and sensitivity typical of fibromyalgia. With this condition there seems to be a disturbance in how the body processes pain.
Ordinary, non-painful sensations are experienced as pain by someone with fibromyalgia. Further, their pain sensations are intensified and amplified. Fibromyalgia suffers can be very sensitive to lights, sounds and odors.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition which is not life-threatening. Effective treatments, specifically massage therapy, can alleviate many symptoms of fibromyalgia. For more information about fibromyalgia symptoms click here.
The answer to the question, “What is fibromyalgia?” is becoming clearer. What causes fibromyalgia is not fully known. One theory is that the concentration and activities of neurotransmitters in the brain are changed.
Massage therapy for fibromyalgia has proven to be a very effective treatment measure. In fact, massage therapy has been found to be one of the best overall treatments of the pain and dysfunction of fibromyalgia.
That topic is covered for you on the Fibromyalgia and Massage Therapy page.
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