Is your chronic pain fibromyalgia?

The Doctors | 4/6/2013, 8 p.m.


Fibromyalgia is one of the most common chronic pain conditions, yet it's tough to identify -- in part because there are no lab tests or X-rays to detect it. Plus, its symptoms are far from unique. In fact, a recent study from the Mayo Clinic suggests that many people with fibromyalgia -- particularly men -- often go undiagnosed.

There's no cure for the condition, but symptoms can be treated with a combination of medicines, lifestyle changes and other therapies. To help you and your doctor determine whether you have fibromyalgia, consider these symptoms:

Widespread pain. That means you feel it on both sides of your body and above and below your waist. It could feel like a stabbing or shooting pain, or a deep muscular aching. It's also chronic, and it often hurts more in the morning or worse when you press down on specific areas of your body, called tender points. To be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, you must have a history of widespread pain lasting more than three months (as well as other symptoms), and your doctor has to rule out other health problems that could be causing it.

Fatigue. Not like "I had a busy day" tired, but more along the lines of an all-encompassing, no-energy, morning-to-night exhaustion that interferes with your work and personal life.

Trouble sleeping. Many people who have fibromyalgia have sleep apnea, restless-leg syndrome or other disorders that keep them from getting a deep, restful sleep. Even if you clock more bedtime hours than normal, you still wake up feeling unrefreshed.

Memory problems. That's one of the more common possible additional symptoms. Others include depression or anxiety; migraine or tension headaches; digestive conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome; overactive bladder or pelvic pain; or skin sensitivities and rashes.

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