Fibromyalgia — a syndrome that includes a wide range of symptoms — commonly causes pain throughout the body, including in the joints. There’s more at stake, however, than dealing with physical discomfort. That’s especially true for women, who are more likely to develop fibromyalgia and can experience some of its symptoms more acutely than men.
If you leave fibromyalgia untreated, the symptoms can disrupt your ability to work and pursue your hobbies. In addition, untreated fibromyalgia can make it difficult to be there for the people who love and depend on you. However, with treatment, you can manage fibromyalgia flare-ups — and feel more like you.
Who’s at Risk?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition, and researchers are still trying to understand why some people develop it. Genetic changes that run in families may be a cause. Another possibility is that fibromyalgia is related to an autoimmune problem.
Anyone can develop fibromyalgia, but it occurs more often in women than men. Factors that can increase your risk include:
- A family history of fibromyalgia
- Being middle-aged or older
- Mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Severe injury to the brain or spinal cord
Common Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Increased sensitivity to pain is a hallmark of fibromyalgia. The pain may affect many areas of your body. For example, you may feel throbbing discomfort in the legs, or aching and stiffness in your back.
Each person’s symptoms are different. In addition to pain, people with fibromyalgia may experience:
- Depression or anxiety
- Difficulty sleeping
- Face or jaw pain
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
- Struggles with memory and concentration
Women with fibromyalgia may have painful periods. In addition, women are more likely to experience fatigue in the morning, symptoms of IBS and extensive pain.
How Women Can Control Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia doesn’t have a cure, but don’t let that deter you from seeking help. Treatment can allow you to thrive by getting symptoms under control. Your primary care physician or a rheumatologist can help you make a management plan, which may include multiple forms of treatment.
- Behavioral health services can help women cope with the mental and emotional challenges of fibromyalgia. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy, or talk therapy, with a mental health counselor can help you learn how to adapt to living with fibromyalgia.
- Lifestyle changes may reduce symptoms. To counteract sleep problems, get on a consistent sleep schedule and do something that relaxes you before bed, such as reading a book. Relaxation is key because stress can cause fibromyalgia flare-ups. Consequently, it’s important to take time each day to do something you find soothing or enjoyable. This could be exercising, which can also play a role in relieving fibromyalgia symptoms.
- Medications can help you manage pain. Your healthcare provider may recommend medicines that affect pain-related chemicals in the brain or nerves that send pain signals. Ibuprofen, acetaminophen and other over-the-counter pain medications can help relieve non-fibromyalgia pain that may trigger fibromyalgia symptoms.
Talk to a Professional
If you’re dealing with fibromyalgia-like symptoms, schedule a visit with a primary care provider at St. Elizabeth Physicians in Northern Kentucky and Southeastern Indiana.