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Fibrositis, commonly known as fibromyalgia, is a chronic, medical condition characterized by persistent, widespread pain that affects the muscles, joints, and other soft tissues of the body. Symptoms associated with this condition may manifest independently or accompany other musculoskeletal disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Treatment for this condition is dependent on several factors, including severity of symptoms, and may involve the use of prescription medications and physical therapy.
Fibromyalgia is a condition for which there is no known, definitive cause. It has been asserted that individuals who have sustained physical or emotional trauma may become symptomatic due to a disruption in the brain's ability to properly transmit and interpret the body's response to pain. Other theories suggest that sleep disturbances or metabolic changes in one’s musculoskeletal system may contribute to the development of fibrositis.
Symptomatic individuals may experience a variety of generalized signs that can include morning stiffness, persistent fatigue, and emotional changes, including anxiety and depression. The most common manifestation of this disorder is the development of persistent, widespread pain that presents with specific, tender areas, such as one’s joints. Individuals with fibrositis may experience chronic muscle discomfort, body aches, and numbness and tingling that affects one's feet and hands. Some may develop additional conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), heart palpitations, and migraines. Common areas of concentrated discomfort may include the neck, lower back, and hips.
Individuals with fibromyalgia often develop sleep disturbances that impair their ability to get a restful sleep. Research has suggested that an impaired sleep cycle may keep symptomatic individuals from experiencing the deepest levels of sleep necessary to help rest and restore the body. Those with fibromyalgia who experience sleep disturbances may develop secondary conditions such as sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome (RLS).
Before a diagnosis of fibromyalgia may be confirmed, symptoms are usually tracked for at least three months. For diagnostic purposes, there are 18 designated tender-point areas associated with this condition. Individuals who experience persistent tenderness and discomfort in at least 11 of the predetermined areas may be diagnosed with fibromyalgia; those areas include the arms, shoulders, and neck. Imaging and laboratory tests, such as a complete blood count (CBC), computerized tomography (CT ) scan, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), may be conducted to rule out the presence of other conditions, such as Lyme disease, cancer, and hypothyroidism.
Treatment is wholly dependent on the severity of one’s symptoms. Mild cases of fibromyalgia have demonstrated to be stress-induced and subside shortly after manifesting. Individuals experiencing persistent symptoms that are moderate to severe in intensity may receive treatment that includes the use of drug and physical therapies, counseling, and educational services. Those who experience severe symptoms that impair their ability to function may be referred to a specialist or pain clinic for treatment.
Certain antidepressant and anti-seizure medications have been successfully employed to alleviate symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be recommended to ease the stiffness and discomfort associated with fibrositis symptoms. Lifestyle and dietary changes may also be suggested to aid with symptom management, such as regular, low-impact exercise, consuming a balanced diet, and taking dietary supplements, including fish oil, vitamins, and magnesium.
Considered to be a common condition, fibromyalgia requires a multifaceted treatment approach centered on symptom management. Symptomatic individuals are often encouraged to seek out support groups that may offer educational materials, regular meetings, and amity. There are no known measures that may be taken to reduce one’s risk for developing fibrositis.
I dated a young woman in college who told me she suffered from fibromyalgia, or fibrositis. I had heard of that condition from a TV medical show, but they played it off as a catch-all diagnosis when nothing else fit, like "borderline personality disorder" in psychiatry.
She told me that she had just enough energy to get through her day at work, then she had to go home and collapse. During our dinner date, she said she had to take a 4 hour nap to get the strength to go on the date, and she was probably going to sleep for 10 hours after she got home. Even an ordinary activity like walking was painful and exhausting for her.
My aunt started having symptoms of arthritis ten years ago, but her doctor couldn't find any of the usual signs in her joints. If it were something like osteo arthritis, x-rays or an MRI should have shown some damage. They were all clean.
At the time, many doctors didn't believe in a separate disease called fibromyalgia or fibrositis. They kept saying she had some sort of chronic fatigue syndrome, along with some form of arthritis in her hands. They essentially gave her anti-inflammatory drugs for occasional pain and that was it.
Last year, she saw a different doctor and he diagnosed her with chronic fibrositis. She had the same symptoms as before, but now more doctors recognize fibromyalgia as a legitimate disorder.