Treating the 8 types of fibromyalgia pain

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Fibromyalgia or fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is a chronic disorder that causes pain in the skin, muscles, and joints. The exact cause of FMS is unknown, but scientists feel that people with FMS have a heightened sensitivity to pain, so they feel pain when others do not.   

There appears to be a problem with how the central nervous system processes pain messages and carries them around the body. The abnormal increase in levels of certain chemicals in the brain makes it misinterpret and amplify normal nerve responses. This causes people with fibromyalgia to experience pain or other symptoms, although there is nothing that seems to trigger them.  

Therefore, people with fibromyalgia often become hypersensitive to stimuli that normally are not painful. Patients feel pain at lower levels of physical stimulation compared to healthy individuals.  

Fibromyalgia affects about 2% of the adult population in the USA. FMS is more common in women than men. Currently, there is no cure for fibromyalgia, but doctors can help manage and treat the symptoms. Treatment typically involves a combination of physical therapy exercises, psychological and behavioral therapy, medications, and lifestyle changes.  

Fibromyalgia Symptoms   

Fibromyalgia affects people differently, and the symptoms may vary from person to person. In addition to throbbing pain, the following are the common symptoms of fibromyalgia:  

  • Sleep problems  
  • Fatigue and tiredness  
  • Depression and anxiety  
  • Brain fog  
  • Problems with memory and concentration   
  • Headaches including migraines   
  • Numbness and tingling in hands or feet  
  • Face or jaw pain  
  • Abdominal pain  
  • Digestive problems, including diarrhea or constipation   

8 Types of Fibromyalgia Pain  

Fibromyalgia is a complex affliction affecting many parts of your body. It is difficult to diagnose fibromyalgia as the pain mimics pain related to other conditions. Researchers have associated certain distinct types of pain with fibromyalgia. Following are the eight common types of fibromyalgia pain patients experience and some tips on managing them.  

1. Hyperalgesia   

Hyperalgesia is a medical term that is used to denote an increased sense of pain one feels due to fibromyalgia. One may find even the slightest touch painful. Though the reason is unknown, scientists feel that the brain of individuals with fibromyalgia is more sensitive to pain signals. The normal pain signals sent by the nervous system are usually amplified to make the individual experience more pain in a particular part of the body.  

Therefore, people with fibromyalgia often experience greater pain from aching joints, nerves, and muscles than others. As a result, the patients rely more on daily mobility exercises, physical treatment, and other custom training activities to manage pain.  

2. Neuropathic pain   

Many people with fibromyalgia often experience neuropathic pain, which is characterized by the feeling of crawling, tingling, numbness, burning, or itching in the arms and legs. In severe cases, these sensations can be painful; however, patients still have typical strength and reflexes.  

Prescription fibromyalgia treatments and some over-the-counter analgesic creams can help alleviate the pain. Some studies suggest taking vitamin B1, B6, and B12 supplements might help ease neuropathic pain.  

3. Widespread muscle pain  

People with fibromyalgia often feel widespread muscle pain. In addition to it, people may also experience -  

  • Low back pain, which may radiate into the buttocks and legs  
  • Pain and tightness in the neck that spreads across the back of the shoulders  
  • Pain felt between the shoulder blades  
  • Pain in the breastbone and rib cage that often feels like a heart attack  

The FDA has recommended certain drugs to relieve pain. In addition to medication, doctors also prescribe physical therapy and massage to help ease the pain. Exercises such as yoga, walking, or swimming can also help loosen the muscles and joints and maintain flexibility.   

4. Headaches   

Fibromyalgia can cause severe headaches. Headaches may be caused by neck and upper back pain, tight neck muscles, and tender points across the back, neck, and head. These can become debilitating and can greatly interfere with day-to-day living.   

Researchers feel that anxiety and poor sleep often contribute to fibromyalgia headaches. A study found that over one-third of people with tension headaches and almost a quarter of people with migraines also have fibromyalgia.  

Antidepressants, acupuncture, exercise, dietary changes, avoiding headache triggers, and getting enough sleep are some of the ways to manage these severe headaches.  

5. Temporomandibular joints (TMJ) Pain  

One of the common joint problems in people with fibromyalgia is a pain in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). TMJ connects the jaw to the skull on either side of the face. TMJ pain is often dull and persistent ache affecting the ear, temple, eyes, lower jaw, or neck.  

Taking anti-inflammatory drugs such as naproxen and ibuprofen can help relieve TMJ pain. If pain persists, muscle relaxants or FDA-approved FMS pain drugs can help.  

6. Allodynia   

Allodynia is a health condition where one feels extremely sensitive to touch; even the slightest touch can cause pain. Some things, such as clothing pressure from a waistband or bra strap that would not normally cause pain, can be painful for those with allodynia.   

It is believed that central sensitization causes allodynia which means the central nervous system (brain, nerves, and spinal cord) overreacts to sensation. In other words, when nerves become overly sensitive to stimuli, the brain perceives the normal sensations as pain.  

Certain prescription drugs can help treat allodynia.  

7. Abdominal pain  

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common phenomenon in people with fibromyalgia. IBS is a digestive disorder that causes stomach pain, cramping, constipation, diarrhea, and nausea. Another digestive disorder commonly linked to fibromyalgia is acid reflux, where stomach acid flows back up the tube connecting the stomach and mouth.  

Certain types of food may cause problems for people with fibromyalgia. Therefore, eating a balanced diet and avoiding foods that trigger fibromyalgia symptoms may help.  

8. Pelvic pain  

Besides abdominal pain, fibromyalgia can also cause pelvic pain. The most common condition caused by pelvic pain is hypertonia, characterized by tightness in the pelvic muscles, creating tension in other organs supporting the pelvic floor. This can lead to further complications such as bladder pain, as well as difficulties in bowel movement.   

Patients can get relief from trigger point injections and physical therapy sessions targeting pelvic floor muscles.  


Fibromyalgia Treatment   

Fibromyalgia treatment includes medications, physical therapy, alternative remedies, and lifestyle habits that may help manage fibromyalgia symptoms and improve quality of life.  

1. Medications   

Your doctor may prescribe the following medications to relieve pain and improve sleep:  

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)  
  • Antidepressants  
  • Anti-seizure drugs  

2. Physical Therapy   

  • Hydrotherapy: Hydrotherapy involves the use of water to relieve aching muscles. Soaking in a tub full of warm water can help improve sleep. You may add essential oils or Epsom salts to help relieve pain.   
  • TENS Machine: Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) can be used to help ease muscle pain and spasms. TENS therapy helps stop the pain signals from reaching the brain and releases endorphins that naturally relieve pain.  
  • Massage therapy: A deep tissue massage helps lessen muscle tension and decrease spasms.  
  • Heat therapy: Heat therapy is an excellent way to help relax muscles and improve blood circulation to areas that are particularly painful. Simply hold the hot pack or hot towel against the affected area until you feel relief.  
  • Ultrasound therapy: The ultrasound therapy machine uses sound waves to produce heat which helps improve blood flow to deep muscle tissue. It can be used to relieve fibromyalgia pain, stiffness, spasms, and inflammation.  

Apart from the above therapies, low-impact aerobic exercises and strength and flexibility exercises help strengthen muscles and relieve pain.  

3. Alternative Remedies for Fibromyalgia Pain

Alongside medication programs and physical therapy, alternative remedies may help people manage fibromyalgia symptoms, including:  

  • Acupuncture  
  • Chiropractic treatment   
  • Meditation   
  • Yoga  
  • Tai chi  
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)  
  • Eating a balanced and nutrient-rich diet  

Since there is no cure for fibromyalgia, identifying fibromyalgia tender points and limiting or avoiding the triggers is important. In addition to the treatment plan, one should try to improve sleep, eat a healthy diet, do regular exercises, learn stress management techniques, and join support groups to manage their condition in the long term. 


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