There are almost 10 million Americans who struggle with the chronic and widespread pain of fibromyalgia. This common health condition that is four times more likely to afflict women has many symptoms including widespread pain that may travel to other areas of the body; tenderness; sleep apnea; fatigue; muscle or joint stiffness; and cognitive dysfunction.
It is generally believed that fibromyalgia is the result of an overly sensitive nervous system. Because many fibromyalgia patients suffer from tenderness of joints, many researchers extrapolate that they are feeling minor injuries to the tendons, muscles and ligaments at those points. The widespread nature of fibromyalgia symptoms also suggests that this is a condition of the central nervous system rather than peripheral pain receptors.
- Vigorous Exercise: Although there is no cure for fibromyalgia, there are treatments that may offer long-term pain relief. Among the most important pain management techniques is a vigorous exercise program. Studies have shown that many fibromyalgia patients are in poor physical condition and that aerobic exercise can provide lasting pain mitigation. The exercises most likely to produce health benefits include stretching, walking, swimming or weight training. Before engaging in a new exercise regimen discuss it with your doctor.
- Physical Therapy: Another pain management strategy to consider is physical therapy which may include exercises, massage, or electrical nerve stimulation. Although your physical therapist will provide a variety of physical treatments, their real value is in sharing insights into how to manage pain symptoms.
- Stress Management: A key to managing fibromyalgia symptoms is reducing stress. Many patients often have a flare-up of fibromyalgia pain when they encounter stressful situations. You may need to modify your lifestyle so that you minimize stress in your daily routine. Many patients benefit from yoga or meditation. If you continue to feel undue stress in your life, you may want to try cognitive behavioral therapy which can help you develop a more positive response to stress triggers.
- Medications: There are many medications which can help manage fibromyalgia symptoms. One of the most commonly prescribed medications for fibromyalgia is pregabalin which is marketed under the name Lyrica. Pregabalin is actually an anticonvulsant but the FDA has approved it for treatment of fibromyalgia. It is believed to reduce the number of nerve transmissions and, thereby, reduce the intensity of pain symptoms. Other drugs like Elavil, Savella and Cymbalta are antidepressants but have proven effective in pain management as well as mitigation of fatigue and anxiety. Low doses of another antidepressant amitriptyline may also be prescribed if your fibromyalgia symptoms include unrestful sleep. If you experience intense muscle pain, your doctor may also recommend a muscle relaxant. While many over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen do not directly act on your underlying health condition, they may help with pain management. If these pain relievers prove ineffective, then your physician may prescribe more potent pain medications like medicinal marijuana or opioids. Although many physicians treat fibromyalgia with opioid medications, more are limiting this practice in an effort to reduce the risk of addiction.
For more information or to see how Colorado Pain Care can help manage your fibromyalgia pain, contact us for an appointment.
Article written by Dr Robert Moghim – CEO/Founder Colorado Pain Care
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