If chronic pain is part of your daily life you’re not alone. About 20% of American adults live with chronic pain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While diseases such as cancer, AIDS, stomach ulcers, and multiple sclerosis can cause chronic pain, about 10 million people in the United States have fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia is a condition characterized by profound, chronic, and widespread pain. The process of diagnosing fibromyalgia can be a challenge because there’s no test for the condition and many of its symptoms resemble those of other diseases.
Here at Vulcan Pain Management, our fibromyalgia specialist Victor Mendoza, MD, provides expert diagnosis and treatment for this condition. If you live in or around Birmingham, Alabama, and have fibromyalgia, Dr. Mendoza creates a personalized treatment plan that can include prescription pain medications, physical therapy, and behavioral therapy to help manage your symptoms and improve your daily life.
We share more about the symptoms of fibromyalgia and whether your chronic pain could indicate that you have this condition.
Who gets fibromyalgia?
While fibromyalgia affects both adults and children, most people get diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 60. Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from the condition. You’re at a higher risk for developing fibromyalgia if you have a rheumatic disease, which is any inflammatory condition that affects your joints, muscles, and bones. Examples of rheumatic diseases include osteoarthritis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis.
Your risk of developing fibromyalgia also increases if you have a family history of the condition, you’re obese, or you’ve had a viral infection. People suffering from fibromyalgia are also more likely to have experienced a traumatic physical or emotional event and have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Having repetitive or overuse injuries, which occur from repetitive stress on a joint, also makes you more susceptible to the condition.
What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?
The primary symptom of fibromyalgia is profound, chronic, and widespread pain. The pain can travel to all parts of your body and vary in intensity. The feeling is often described as a stabbing, shooting sensation or a deep muscular aching and throbbing. If you have fibromyalgia, you’re more likely to experience this pain in the morning.
Fibromyalgia can also cause extreme fatigue. It involves intense exhaustion that interferes with performing everyday activities at work, home, or school, regardless of the amount of sleep you’ve had.
Some other common symptoms of fibromyalgia include:
- Sleep problems
- Headaches and migraines
- Impaired memory and concentration
- Sensitivity to touch, light, and sound
- Skin rashes
- Tingling in your hands and feet
- Painful menstrual periods
- Restless legs syndrome
- Dry eyes and mouth
- Anxiety or depression
How do I know if I have fibromyalgia?
To assess your chronic pain, Dr. Mendoza conducts an extensive physical examination to determine if you’re experiencing fibromyalgia. He considers factors such as your medical history, family history, and your areas of tenderness and pain.
A diagnosis of fibromyalgia requires having widespread chronic pain for a minimum of three months. Widespread pain includes pain on both sides of your body and both above and below your waist.
Since fibromyalgia symptoms are similar to those of other medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, polymyalgia rheumatica, and lupus, you may have to undergo medical tests as part of the diagnostic process. Blood tests can diagnose or rule out these conditions and many others. Common blood tests include a complete blood count, thyroid function tests, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, and vitamin D levels. Other testing, such as X-rays, sleep studies, and neurological exams can also provide valuable information in determining the cause of your symptoms.
If you have chronic pain, we can determine the cause so you can get the right treatment. Schedule an appointment online or call our office to arrange a consultation -- and start your journey toward pain relief.