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Fibrositis or Fibromyalgia?

The two terms, Fibrositis and Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS), are one and the same and can be used interchangeably, according to Drs. Fan and Blanton in their article "Clinical Features and Diagnosis of Fibromyalgia" from The Journal of Musculoskeletal Medicine, April 1992.

It is a disease that causes extreme pain to over six million Americans, 90 percent of whom are women in the prime of their lives. In recent years the medical community has come to recognize the suffering endured by these individuals, previously dismissed as chronic complainers or malingerers whose pain was imagined.

Studies show there isn't a single cause of fibromyalgia; rather, a number of factors may contribute. These may include injury, infection, chemical changes in the brain, sleep disturbances, or abnormalities of the sympathetic nervous system.

Misdiagnosed as a form of arthritis, FMS is a medical condition causing widespread pain and tenderness at specific body sites. "Tender points" refers to tenderness that occurs in precise, localized areas, particularly in the neck, spine, shoulders, and hips. Muscular stiffness, morning stiffness, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, fatigue and sleep disturbances also are common. To exacerbate the problem, up to 70 percent of patients diagnosed with FMS also have signs and symptoms matching a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS), including extreme, even disabling fatigue, muscular pains, flu-like symptoms and mood changes.

Fortunately, although these conditions are not curable, nor are they progressive and do not lead to other serious diseases. However, the symptoms for both FMS and CFIDS do tend to be chronic, often lasting for years, and living with the pain of Fibrositis can be difficult. Research suggests that aerobic exercise, such as swimming and walking, improves muscle fitness and reduces muscle pain and tenderness. Studies demonstrated the benefits of graded exercise therapy (minimum of six months). Exercises included treadmill walking and bicycling up to 25 minutes, twice a day, at a pace that the patient could talk but would still "sweat slightly." (Source: The Pain Clinic October/November 2002)

There is some evidence that people with FMS have a more stressful response to daily conflict than those without the disorder. Relaxation and stress-reduction techniques have proven to be helpful in reducing the pain associated with this condition. Heat may also give short-term relief.

Regardless of how FMS sufferers choose to relieve their symptoms, it is important for them to understand that their condition can be managed and that with the proper care they can still live full and productive lives.

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