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What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain disorder that affects the muscles and connective tissue — the joints, ligaments and tendons. It can cause widespread pain throughout the body and skin sensitivity.

“With fibromyalgia, we know there is an imbalance in the neurotransmitters that mediate pain,” says Aloice Aluoch, M.D., a rheumatologist at Piedmont. “The balance between the brain’s feel-bad and feel-good chemicals is way off. So even a normal sensation that should not be painful can be very painful for someone living with fibromyalgia.”

People suffering from fibromyalgia can also have the following symptoms:

While stress or injury may trigger the initial onset of fibromyalgia, it is not an autoimmune disease.

“Fibromyalgia does not damage your organs, joints or tissues,” says Dr. Aluoch. “It is not a deforming disease, but it does make life a bit unpleasant because it can cause a significant degree of pain.”

According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), 5 million adults in the United States have fibromyalgia and more than 80 percent of those are women.  

How is fibromyalgia treated?

There is no cure for fibromyalgia, but lifestyle changes can help manage the condition, says Dr. Aluoch.

“We suggest activities that help alleviate stress and one of the most effective treatments is exercise,” he says.

This can include:

Dr. Aluoch also suggests cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Cognitive behavioral therapy can change a person’s perception and allow them to better deal with stress,” says Dr. Aluoch.

Doctors may also prescribe medication to help manage the condition.

“The first thing we give our patients are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen or aspirin,” Dr. Aluoch explains. “We may prescribe antidepressant medication to help as well.”

To schedule an appointment with a physician near you, check out our Find a Doc page.  

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