What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia presents a unique medical conundrum: Its symptoms are so common, it’s both underdiagnosed and misdiagnosed for similar problems. “Fibromyalgia is a disorder of the central nervous system that causes widespread pain,” says Seth Lederman, MD, a physician, scientist and co-founder and CEO of Tonix, a pharmaceuticals company. “Most often people with this long-term illness are fatigued, have sleep problems, and are plagued with tenderness throughout the body, especially in the neck, shoulders, arms, back, hips, and legs.” While the cause of fibromyalgia is unclear, doctors believe the condition may run in families. It’s also roughly seven times more common in women than men. Fibromyalgia goes undiagnosed in as many as three out of four sufferers. Because there are no blood tests or scans to easily diagnose it, many physicians have trouble detecting the disorder. Here are some common conditions your doctor may consider before diagnosing you with FM. It’s more prevalent than you think, too—here’s how common the condition is.
Although both conditions are indicative of widespread pain and constant fatigue, the two have their differences. “Many people tend to think that fibromyalgia is an actual form of arthritis, but that is not the case,” says Michael H. Lowenstein, PhD, medical director at the Waismann Method Opioid Treatment Center in southern California. “While it is characterized by pain, FM does not cause tissue inflammation nor does it physically damage the body’s muscles and joints like arthritis is known to do.” In the early stages of arthritis, this physical damage has not taken its course yet, so a patient only experiences the painful sensations, muscle stiffness, and exhaustion that are more in line with FM. Only later when arthritic symptoms have further developed can a physician rule out fibromyalgia by taking an X-ray. Here are doctor-recommended home remedies for arthritis.