Every day new facts about fibro emerge through research and treatment studies. Here are our top 13 facts about fibro.

1. Fibro blogs build community

Even knowing that there are others out in the world who are going through similar trials can help you feel less alone. Many fibromyalgia sufferers, even those with loved ones who try to understand, feel isolated by this “invisible” illness. Cultivating an online community filled with people who “get it” can be an important part of a treatment plan.

2. Chronic pain in childhood is linked to adult diagnosis of fibromyalgia

The body’s “pain memory” may have been laid out in childhood, making the complexity of fibromyalgia even more complicated. It doesn’t matter if the childhood chronic pain was as a result of injury or illness.

3. Men and women are not treated equally for pain

Gender disparity in pain management leaves women suffering more but receiving less treatment. There may be a societal bias at work in this, or it may be that men report higher levels of pain when they do seek treatment.

4. Diagnosis of fibromyalgia is most often a process of elimination, but one scale can help

Tender points indicate the likelihood of fibromyalgia in the body, with the Symptom Intensity Scale being the best measure of those. This scale identifies nine spots on the body (mirrored on each side, so 18 total) and then has the patient rate the level of fibro pain.

5. New research on fibromyalgia is getting closer to figuring out what may cause it

The answer may literally lie in the palm of your hand. Patients with fibromyalgia may have more sensitive nerve fibers in their palms, offering one potential clue to identifying who might be more likely to develop fibromyalgia in the future.

6. If your brain can’t communicate with your body, you may not feel pain

Researchers have found a way to sever the line of communication from body to brain and may be able to apply their findings to fibromyalgia treatments. While shutting off pain signals in a healthy person is not wise, for fibromyalgia sufferers, this could result in breakthrough treatment options.

7. TMJ and fibromyalgia are connected

Pain that causes a tightly clenched jaw can lead to temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), a common condition arising as a result of fibromyalgia. Fibro pain can cause tension in other areas of the body that aren’t part of the tender points, and TMJ is a prime example.

8. “Fibro fog” is real, and it’s serious

Whether caused by lack of sleep and fatigue or as a side effect of medications taken for fibromyalgia, fibro fog is a real phenomenon that can make it difficult to function effectively. Fibro fog is a complete and utter lack of energy, even after a full night of sleep, that causes an inability to focus or concentrate. This exhaustion makes it difficult to exert mental or physical energy for anything. People who utilize caffeine to get themselves through the day often find it difficult to sleep well at night or suffer from a high energy/low energy roller coaster. Fibro fog is a real cognitive impairment that makes simple tasks, such as remembering names or following directions, difficult if not impossible.

9. Headache and fibromyalgia go hand-in hand

Everyone suffers from headache at some point in their lives, but for those with fibromyalgia, the pain can be especially cruel. Headaches tend to amplify other symptoms of fibromyalgia, making the pain more difficult to bear. Patients who suffer from chronic migraine along with fibromyalgia report more incidence of depression and higher levels of pain.

10. Fibromyalgia patients have a higher risk (and incidence) of mental health issues

The chronic pain of fibromyalgia is often linked to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Just over 62% of fibromyalgia patients will experience depression in their lifetime (three times the general rate of depression), and 56% will experience anxiety. The existence of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression make coping with the pain of fibromyalgia even more difficult.

11. Don’t make your latte a venti

Data presented at the American Pain Society annual meeting showed that four or more cups of coffee a day contributed to exacerbated fibromyalgia symptoms. Too much caffeine can trigger tremors, anxiety, and depression, all of which can make fibro pain worse. Best to consume modest amounts of caffeine, early in the day.

12. Spoons may determine how much energy a fibromyalgia patient has to navigate the day

Developed by Christine Miserandino, the spoon theory is one way to look at how a fibromyalgia patient might go about planning and prioritizing around their symptoms. If each spoon represents the energy required to complete one task, the day might change based on the number of spoons a patient can envision when they wake up in the morning. It is one way to make concrete the abstract idea of fibromyalgia for those who do not understand.

13. Opioids and fibromyalgia – no simple answer

For a person who has been suffering excruciating, daily pain, it is difficult to tell them that they should not take prescription opioids to manage their pain. In some cases, opioids can bring about nearly immediate pain relief. But the risk of dependence is high, as is the risk on increasing tolerance. This hard question doesn’t have an easy answer.

What facts would you add to our list?

Image by liz west via Flickr


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