Living With Fibromyalgia: The Basics
February 14, 2013

Living With Fibromyalgia: The Basics

People with fibromyalgia can have a multitude of symptoms. These symptoms can range from the most common complaint of random, shooting pains in various parts of the body to chronic fatigue type ailments (including feeling tired all the time, not being able to sleep), even eating problems. The fact is, fibromyalgia isn’t just one or two things; it’s a conglomeration of complaints that all add up to this frustratingly hard to diagnose illness.

The Fibromyalgia Network lists the top 10 symptoms as:

  • Pain all over
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Brain fog
  • Morning stiffness
  • Muscle knots, cramping, weakness
  • Digestive disorders
  • Headaches/migraines
  • Balance problems
  • Itchy/burning skin

Not everyone experiences all of these symptoms, just as not everyone has them to the same degree. Personally, I’ve never experienced the balance or skin problems. And while I may occasionally have muscle spasms, I am much more likely to have fatigue, sleep problems and pain. On the other hand, I spoke with a friend this morning who has been living with this for over 15 years and her worst symptoms are pain and brain fog, with her pain being much worse than mine, and in different parts of her body. That is one of the reasons this disease is so hard to diagnose; it affects everyone differently and to varying extents.

Finally, getting a diagnosis is no picnic. There are so many other ailments with symptoms that mimic fibromyalgia. According to the American College of Rheumatology, some of these are:

  • Depression or anxiety
  • Migraine or tension headaches
  • Digestive problems: irritable bowel syndrome (commonly called IBS) or gastroesophageal reflux disease (often referred to as GERD)
  • Irritable or overactive bladder
  • Pelvic pain
  • Temporomandibular disorder — often called TMJ (a set of symptoms including face or jaw pain, jaw clicking and ringing in the ears)

You can experience any or all of these illnesses, or none of them, with fibromyalgia. The one thing that all the sites I checked have to say is that stress can cause all of these to be worse, or it can be the trigger that sets off the fibromyalgia in the first place.

Getting diagnosed can take quite a bit of time, and you may go through several diagnoses and months of testing before you are finally diagnosed. But all of those tests are necessary to rule out other ailments, which may or may not be treated differently than fibromyalgia. Not to mention the fact that each illness comes with its own set of worries and concerns. No sense worrying about something if you don’t have to! As frustrating as it may be, let your doctor run their tests, so they can get to the heart of the matter. In the end, you will be happy that you finally know exactly what is going on with your body and that it is being treated correctly.

Getting the right diagnosis is crucial to getting the right treatment.

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