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People with constant aches and pains know how pain can disrupt their lives. For some, their illness is an often-misunderstood one. Diagnosed largely by ruling out other conditions, fibromyalgia affects 2 to 3 percent of the U.S. population. Ahmed Elsehety, M.D., a neurologist on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center - Plano, answers a few questions about fibromyalgia.
Q: What are the most common symptoms of fibromyalgia?
A: The primary symptom is pain. It can be an aching, throbbing, shooting or burning pain or stiffness, Dr. Elsehety says. The pain is most often felt in the hips, knees, neck, low back and shoulders. He adds that this pain is usually combined with fatigue, sleep disturbances, headaches, numbness in the hands and feet, and even with depression.
Q: What is happening in the body to cause that pain?
A: “Fibromyalgia could be a manifestation of other medical problems,” Dr. Elsehety says. These might include arthritis, lupus, neuropathy, multiple sclerosis (MS), cancer, lyme disease or emotional distress.
With fibromyalgia, the body is subject to an increased sensitivity to pain. The nerve endings may fire with greater intensity, Dr. Elsehety explains, or they may have lost their ability to adapt to pain.
Q: How is it diagnosed?
A: There is no test for fibromyalgia. A doctor will first determine if another disease might be causing your symptoms. To receive a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, Dr. Elsehety says, a person must have experienced widespread pain for at least three months. And during a physical exam, a doctor will test 18 points on the body known as tender points. At least 11 those of those must cause pain to be diagnosed as fibromyalgia.
Q: What are the treatment options?
A: Treatment programs vary by person. Pain management may include medications, exercise programs or therapies including acupuncture. Dr. Elsehety frequently recommends nonstrenuous activities such as walking, swimming, biking and simple stretching.
“Exercise gets the blood circulating, and the release of epinephrine and norepinephrine gives you energy,” he says. “Activity often makes [people with fibromyalgia] feel better.”
Not sure what’s causing your pain? Click here to learn more about Baylor Scott & White - Plano’s pain management team. To find a doctor on the Baylor Scott & White - Plano medical staff who can help, click here.
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