Fibromyalgia is an oft-unpleasant condition that can cause pain and tenderness throughout the body. While fibromyalgia can affect anyone, the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases notes that between 80 and 90 percent of those diagnosed with fibromyalgia are women.
While there is no consensus among medical professionals as to the cause of fibromyalgia, there are several recognized symptoms. Women who learn to recognize these symptoms may be more quick to seek treatment, which can include a combination of medication and physical therapy and possibly additional treatments depending on the plan designed by a woman's physician.
• Pain: Widespread pain is the most common symptom of fibromyalgia. The pain may begin as a dull ache, but it also may be sharp or throbbing. Pain resulting from fibromyalgia will be felt in muscles, tendons and ligaments around the joints. Pain can be intermittent and affect different parts of the body at different times.
• Tenderness: Tenderness throughout the body is another common symptom of fibromyalgia. Tender points may be found on the back of the head, the area between the shoulders, the front of the neck, the top of the chest, the tops and sides of the hips, the inside areas of the knees, and the outside areas of the elbows. When these areas hurt upon being touched, that may be indicative of fibromyalgia.
• Headaches: A study in the medical journal Clinical Rheumatology found that roughly half of people with fibromyalgia experience headaches. These headaches may stem from pain or tender points that develop in the upper back and neck. But because headaches can be linked to so many conditions, women experiencing chronic headaches, including migraines, should discuss those headaches with their physicians.
• Difficulty sleeping: The painful nature of fibromyalgia can make it difficult for some women to fall asleep. Women who do manage to fall asleep may find that their sleep is no longer restorative or as restful as it once was. The NFA notes that researchers found individuals with fibromyalgia experience specific and distinctive abnormalities during stage 4 sleep, which is when individuals enjoy their deepest periods of sleep. Researchers found that fibromyalgia sufferers were frequently interrupted by bursts of awake-like brain activity during their deepest stages of sleep, limiting the amount of time they spend in deep sleep and thereby affecting their energy levels.
• Irritable bowel syndrome: Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, can cause bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. The link between IBS and fibromyalgia remains a mystery, but women with fibromyalgia are more likely to suffer from IBS than women without fibromyalgia.
More information about fibromyalgia is available at www.fmaware.org.