The American Academy of Family Physicians noted that 6 million people in the United States have fibromyalgia, a pain syndrome. Patients with fibromyalgia experience pain all over their bodies, which can range from mild to severe. The prevalence of fibromyalgia in women is higher than in men: 3.4 percent of women have fibromyalgia compared to 0.5 percent of men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
To receive a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, the two criteria must be met. The first is widespread pain, which has been affecting the patient for at least three months. The second criterion is that the patient has 11 out of 18 tender points — areas of the body where the patient has additional pain when pressure is applied.
The MayoClinic.com noted that these two diagnostic criteria, which were set in 1990 by the American College of Rheumatology, are still used by researchers, though less stringent guidelines are used in general practice. The less stringent guidelines use the criterion of no other underlying condition causing the pain instead of the 11 out of 18 tender points.
Treatments for fibromyalgia work to relieve the patient’s symptoms. MedlinePlus stated that the first treatment used may include physical therapy, relaxation techniques and an exercise program. Patients who do not respond to these treatments may take a medication.
Examples include milnacipran, duloxetine and pregabalin; these medications are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for fibromyalgia treatment. Doctors may prescribe other medications off-label to treat fibromyalgia. These include pain relievers, anti-seizure drugs, sleeping aids and muscle relaxants.
Therapy is another treatment option for fibromyalgia. One type of therapy, called cognitive behavioral therapy, can help patients develop strategies for coping with the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
For example, cognitive behavioral therapy can help patients work through negative thoughts they are having and figure out what makes their symptoms worse. Therapy can also help patients set limits and find activities that are enjoyable.
Lifestyle changes can also help with the symptoms of fibromyalgia. MedlinePlus noted that avoiding caffeine and eating a well-balanced diet can help patients.
Getting enough sleep at night is also important. Patients should practice good sleep habits, which include limiting how much napping they do during the day, going to bed at the same time every day, and getting up in the morning at the same time every day.
Complementary and alternative therapies may help some patients with fibromyalgia. Examples include acupuncture, yoga, tai chi and massage therapy.
MayoClinic.com. Fibromyalgia. Web. 26 October 2011
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Arthritis — Fibromyalgia. Web. 26 October 2011
MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Fibromyalgia. Web. 26 October 2011
American Academy of Family Physicians. Fibromyalgia. Web. 26 October 2011
Reviewed October 26, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith