Even if you don’t listen to her music, chances are you’ve heard of the artist who calls herself Lady Gaga. And recently, you might also have heard of her struggle with fibromyalgia.
People with fibromyalgia experience pain, stiffness and tenderness throughout the body, as well as numb hands and feet. Fatigue and cognitive difficulties, sometimes called “fibro fog” also can occur.
Although no one really knows how long people have suffered from this condition, fibromyalgia was first recognized by the American Medical Association as a defined disease in 1987. Since, then, researchers have been working to find the cause and cure for this still quite mysterious but serious problem that affects millions of Americans.
Adult women account for nearly all of those suffering from fibromyalgia. Only 10 to 20 percent of those diagnosed are men. Besides being a woman, other factors that may increase a person’s risk of getting fibromyalgia include a family history of the disorder, infections that can sometimes trigger or aggravate the condition, or a physical or emotional trauma. According to information on the Mayo Clinic website, an incident such as a car accident or some sort of psychological stress can trigger the condition.
People with conditions such as arthritis or lupus also may be more likely to develop fibromyalgia.
There’s no definitive test to confirm that a person has fibromyalgia, but doctors have developed a protocol for determining whether the condition is to blame for a person’s symptoms and discomfort. Mayo Clinic reports that a patient who has had unexplained pain in all four quadrants of the body for more than three months may be diagnosed with fibromyalgia.
As mentioned before, there is no cure. But there are treatments available. Those treatments range from pain medication to talk therapy, and no one treatment works on its own.
Exercises to improve strength, flexibility and stamina, especially water exercises, have shown to help some, while others find relief in alternative treatments such as tai chi, acupuncture and massage.
Meditation, music and simply keeping busy also have worked to relieve the fibromyalgia pain in some patients.
Finding what works can take time and patience. The Fibro Patient Education and Support Organization is dedicated to helping those with fibromyalgia find ways to cope. Their list of 49 things to do to relieve fibromyalgia symptoms includes long baths and a healthy diet.