Understanding Fibromyalgia - PIH Health - Whittier, CA

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Published on June 06, 2019

Understanding Fibromyalgia

Graphic showing FibromyalgiaGraphic showing FibromyalgiaFibromyalgia is a disorder that causes widespread musculoskeletal pain. It is not a form of arthritis (joint disease). It does not cause inflammation or damage to joints, muscles, or other tissues. Fibromyalgia is not an autoimmune or inflammatory illness, but research suggests that the nervous system is involved.

Symptoms of pain may be accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. People with fibromyalgia may be more sensitive to pain. A physical trauma, surgery, infection or significant psychological stress can sometimes trigger the onset of fibromyalgia.

Most people are diagnosed with fibromyalgia during middle age and the probability increases as you get older. And, women are more likely to develop fibromyalgia than men. If you have been diagnosed with lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, chances are high that you’ll develop fibromyalgia.

Approximately 4 million adults, which translates to about 2% of the adult population in the United States, suffer from fibromyalgia.

“Doctors diagnose fibromyalgia based on a patient’s clinical symptoms and physical exam. Diagnostic testing such as labs and x-rays can be helpful to detect and rule out other diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, which can sometimes mimic symptoms of fibromyalgia,” said Roodabeh Michelle Koolaee DO, a rheumatologist at PIH Health Wells Medical Office Building.

There is no cure for fibromyalgia and doctors don’t know what causes it but it can be managed with medications and lifestyle changes, which may include:

  • Medications, both prescription and over-the-counter pain relievers.
  • Muscle strengthening exercises.
  • Stress management through meditation, yoga and massage.
  • Improving quality of sleep by learning good sleep habits.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), to modify the way people act or think, to treat underlying depression.

It’s important to get fibromyalgia symptoms under control to prevent pain, disability, depression and improve quality of life. Dr. Koolaee adds, “Accurate diagnosis and treatment plans developed by your healthcare team are vital to helping improve patients’ lives.”

Because fibromyalgia can cause chronic pain and fatigue similar to arthritis, some people may advise you to see a rheumatologist. As a result, often a rheumatologist will detect this disease (and will rule out rheumatic diseases). For long-term care, this condition is best managed with primary care physician, physical therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and pain management.

If you believe you may have symptoms of fibromyalgia, call your primary care physician to schedule an appointment to discuss. To find a PIH Health primary care physician, visit PIHHealth.org/Find-a-Doctor.

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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