Fibromyalgia and Coexisting Conditions
The Bigger Picture
Some conditions seem to go hand in hand with fibromyalgia. Maybe you've experienced some of them. It's not yet clear whether related problems are truly separate illnesses or just symptoms of fibro. And researchers also aren't sure if fibromyalgia causes these other conditions, or if the conditions cause fibromyalgia, or if the two conditions are completely unrelated. Regardless, to feel your best, you need to manage them and work with your doctor to treat them. Fortunately, there are many options for doing just that.
For folks with fibromyalgia, falling asleep, staying asleep, and sleeping deeply can be a struggle. So much so that quality sleep is more the exception than the rule. And sleep disorders like restless legs syndrome (RLS) and sleep apnea are more common. You've likely experienced sleepless nights yourself and know how much harder it is to cope with fibromyalgia pain and fatigue after a night of bad sleep. Talk with your doctor about improving your sleep. It will make it easier to deal with fibromyalgia symptoms.
If you frequently experience nausea, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, bloating, or gas, it could indicate irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition that commonly coexists with fibromyalgia. Some findings suggest that a fibromyalgia-related overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine may be a culprit in the fibromyalgia-IBS connection. Or certain fibromyalgia medications may cause GI side effects. If you have GI troubles, have a conversation with your doctor about possible causes -- as well as treatments.
Tension headaches and migraines seem to work in tandem with fibromyalgia in many sufferers. It's likely that fibromyalgia pain and tension in the shoulders, upper back, and neck help trigger headache or migraine. And according to some findings, those headaches can be pretty severe and often become chronic. The good news is that you may be able to treat or even prevent migraines by discovering what triggers them, and by working with your doctor to find pain-relief measures that override muscle pain and tenderness.
If you're having trouble concentrating or remembering newly learned information, you're not alone. This cognitive problem, often referred to as "fibro fog," is something that many people with fibromyalgia experience. It's not entirely clear whether fatigue or a lack of sleep is to blame. Or perhaps the distraction of chronic fibromyalgia pain simply makes it hard to focus and remember things. The good news: A study revealed that cognitive-behavioral therapy may help boost cognitive function. Talk with your doctor about this and other fibromyalgia treatment options for keeping your mind sharp and clear.
Depression and Anxiety
It's no surprise that frequent pain and fatigue can mess with your mood. But for some folks, pain-induced mood swings are more than a nuisance. They can lead to clinical depression or anxiety, two common mood disorders for people with fibromyalgia. If you're feeling overwhelmed, intensely sad, numb, hopeless, or fearful, ask your doctor what you can do about it. Sometimes antidepressant medications -- often prescribed in lower doses to treat fibromyalgia pain -- may also help reduce symptoms of anxiety or depression. But there are other options beyond medication available as well.
Jaw and Face Pain
Although less common than other coexisting conditions, temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ) develops in about one-quarter of fibromyalgia patients. It's not entirely clear why, although stress may be a culprit. It causes people to clench and grind their teeth and may lead to spasms in the muscles of the jaw. If you're experiencing pain in the face and jaw area, see your dentist. Reducing stress, applying hot and cold packs, and wearing a mouth guard at night can help alleviate TMJ.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Is chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) the same thing as fibromyalgia? Welcome to the debate. Despite the lack of consensus, both conditions do share many of the same symptoms, including overwhelming fatigue, sleep disturbances, mood disorders, and headaches. But some experts believe they are separate conditions and that the one symptom that may distinguish fibromyalgia from CFS is pain. Even more confusing, some findings suggest that people with fibromyalgia also develop chronic fatigue syndrome. Fortunately, many of the treatments for fibromyalgia fatigue also help reduce fatigue from CFS.