This is one of the “mystery” diseases or disorders. Those that have it report exhaustion and a constant dull ache but, no matter how many tests are performed, your doctor says there’s nothing wrong with you. The tests come back “normal”. This is frustrating and annoying because the traditional view is then to class you as a psych case. Like that’s a constructive response. So let’s start with what we know. No-one knows what triggers it. People say it comes on after both physical injuries and emotional traumas. Some researchers speculate that people can be genetically predisposed to develop it. Others believe it is a viral disease. No matter what its cause, the result is greatly increased sensitivity to pain. It’s as if the brain is overreacting to pain signals.
Once it appears, it’s a chronic condition with long-lasting pain in the muscles, ligaments and tendons. It particularly affects the back of the head, the neck, shoulders and upper chest, and the major joints in the arms, hips and legs. Your body is also likely to develop tender spots where even the slightest of touches causes pain. You lose stamina, feeling exhausted after any form of activity, no matter how trivial. Sleep is disrupted and people wake not feeling properly rested, There seems to be a gender difference with women more likely than men to develop the disorder. Estimates of the number of people who have this set of symptoms varies but the best guess is that it affects about 2% of the adult population in the US.
Because this disorder is associated with depressive conditions, it’s quite common for doctors to prescribe antidepressants. Not only does this sometimes improve the mental attitude to the continuing pain, it can also help people to get more sleep. But the main medication strategies resolve around the use of painkillers and anti-seizure drugs. Depending on the level of pain you experience, the doctor will either start you off with a relatively low-powered NSAID or pick an opioid. With a reduction in the sensitivity to pain, sleep is improved and, as side effect, this relieves the general exhaustion and improves the mood. One or two of the anti-seizure drugs initially approved and used for epilepsy have now been granted FDA approval for use in the treatment of fibromyalgia.
The best hope, however, lies in a combination of physical therapy, counseling and skelaxin. This drug is most useful because it both relaxes the musculature and acts as a sedative. This both relieves the symptoms of ache in the major muscle groups and supports better sleep. But the use of a drug on its own is not enough. A physical therapist should teach basic sets of exercises to stretch the muscles and restore tone. More importantly, a cognitive behavioral therapist should teach you coping strategies. You must learn how to get the most out of your life within the new physical limits. Positive thinking is required to strengthen the belief in your ability to improve and to avoid situations in which there might be stress. Overall, the aim should be to exercise regularly, pace yourself through the day, get enough sleep and reduce the sources of stress in your life. This combination of skelaxin and counseling is now the preferred treatment regime.