How does fibromyalgia affect the body? (Signs and Symptoms)

How does fibromyalgia affect the body? (Signs and Symptoms)

How does fibromyalgia affect the body?

Signs and symptoms

Pain trigger points may not always be used as a basis for a fibromyalgia diagnosis, but they are a way to narrow down a list of possible causes together with necessary testing. Theories relating to pain are linked to the thinking that the brain and nerves of the body are either misinterpreting the sensation of pain or overreacting to it due to chemical imbalances.

Pain is the primary symptom associated with this disorder and is commonly described as a ‘dull ache all over the body’. A warning sign for medical professionals is when a person mentions that pain has been felt consistently for at least the last 3 months. Another is that the pain is ‘widespread’. This means that pain is felt on both sides of the body, as well as on either side of a person’s waist.

Associated symptoms that are commonly noted in sufferers are:

  • Sleeping problems (such as sleeping for long periods, but not feeling rested and rejuvenated)
  • Sleep disturbance (awakening during the night and not feeling well rested during waking hours)
  • The development of sleep disorders, such as sleep apnoea and restless legs syndrome
  • Tiredness and fatigue (a lingering feeling of exhaustion which may worsen during the course of the day)
  • Mood disruptions and emotional problems (often linked to depression and anxiety)
  • Headaches
  • Difficulties with concentration and the ability to focus (also known as ‘fibro fog’)
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Morning stiffness 
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands and feet
  • Painful menstrual periods (women)

Symptoms of fibromyalgia also appear to co-exist with other painful health conditions, which can sometimes make the disorder difficult to diagnose correctly. Overall symptoms can also come and go over a period of time, making diagnosis tricky. Other common illnesses, ailments and conditions can include:

  • Headaches, including migraine
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Frequent or painful urination
  • Jaw pain
  • Temporomandibular joint disorders (injured or damaged joints causing localised pain)
  • Interstitial cystitis (pronounced - in-tur-STISH-ul sis-TIE-tis – a chronic, painful bladder condition)

Is there a link between sleep disturbances and fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia sleep disturbances

Many who have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia have complained about sleep disturbances as well as typical symptoms of the disorder. In that sense, there is a link that appears to be fairly common for those suffering the chronic effects of the disorder.

A person may not necessarily have problems falling asleep, but it has been noted that many are light sleepers and can be easily woken once asleep. One reason this may happen is that a person may be repetitively interrupted by bursts of brain activity (similar to when a person is awake) during sleep. Interruptions have been carefully researched and appear to happen to sufferers, even when in their deepest state of sleep.

Many with fibromyalgia also complain that they awaken feeling unrefreshed and as if they’ve not slept at all. Bursts of brain activity preventing restful sleep is one theory as to why the body is then unable to rest and ultimately feel rejuvenated once awake. As well as from the effects of constant pain, a related symptom, such disturbances to sleep can create a constant state of tiredness or fatigue.

What about depression and fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia related depression

More than half of those diagnosed with this disorder are also being managed for mood disorders such as depression or anxiety. Many medical professionals have deduced that the reason for this comes down to stress. Constant pain and fatigue can place quite a bit of emotional turmoil on a person’s well-being and ultimately result in a person becoming withdrawn and feeling under persistent stress.

Over prolonged periods of time, this can lead to disorders such as depression, as well as changes that impact a person’s ability to concentrate, and their short-term memory.

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