If you’re consistently feeling pain throughout your body along with fatigue, you may be suffering from fibromyalgia. According to Mayo Clinic, this common and chronic disorder is characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain and tenderness, as well as tiredness, sleep, memory and mood problems.1 The term “fibromyalgia” actually comes from a combination of the Greek words myosor “muscle” and algos or “pain,” and the New Latin word fibro, which means “fibrous tissue.”2
As many as 4 million adults in the U.S. — 2 percent of the adult population — suffer from fibromyalgia, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).3 It’s more common among women; 80 to 90 percent of all fibromyalgia sufferers are female between 30 and 50 years old.4
However, men and children are still at risk of this ailment. The specific cause is still not determined, yet experts believe it manifests after certain events, such as physical trauma, surgery, infection or significant psychological stress.5 The primary telltale sign of fibromyalgia is pain in the form of stiffness, numbness or even burning pain. This can be felt all over the body, although in some individuals, the pain begins in one area before spreading to others.6 The exact pain locations are known as tender points.7
Sometimes, the ache “radiates” or spreads to other areas and may change in intensity, increasing or decreasing. Fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals. Many people describe the pain caused by fibromyalgia as “exhausting,” which is why fatigue is the second most common identifying factor of this condition. The pain can also lead to cognitive issues, which is called “fibro fog.”8
Fibromyalgia is not an autoimmune disease, as its exact cause is still unknown. In fact, experts hypothesize that it is NOT a disease — rather, it’s a chronic pain condition that is triggered by an abnormal response to stress.9 However, it does occur in patients who suffer from autoimmune diseases.
The tricky aspect about fibromyalgia is that it is difficult to diagnose, mainly because the pain and other symptoms it causes are attributed to other illnesses. It can take as long as five years for an average person with this condition to get a clear diagnosis, and as many as 3 out of 4 people remain undiagnosed.10
Fibromyalgia is often diagnosed during middle age, and while it can occur by itself, people with certain diseases, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and other types of arthritis, may be at high risk of getting it.11 Not only is fibromyalgia a painful disorder, but it’s also an expensive one. The CDC estimates that the average annual cost of fibromyalgia amounts to almost $6,000.12
In the U.S., people who suffer from this illness can apply for disability, but proper medical diagnosis is required. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will evaluate your fibromyalgia disability application. Federal regulations will require you to prove that your impairment is severe and that it limits your work abilities, whether physical or mental.13
Fibromyalgia may not have any apparent physical signs, but this doesn’t mean it should be taken lightly. In fact, fibromyalgia can be very debilitating and frustrating. Patients often feel isolated and helpless, as it can interfere with their ability to function at home or in the workplace. This is why controlling this illness through natural modalities is absolutely necessary.